They had also offered me real money in advance, something almost unheard of today. But was that enough for me to devote what would amount to at getting on for two years of my life?
I’d like to share the discussion I had with myself. In the event, I came up with four key areas.
1. Hollywood or not?
Almost every screenwriting book out there focuses on the mainstream Hollywood way of writing. There is no doubt that Hollywood style has produced many great movies and TV programmes. The essentials will be familiar: three-act structure, sympathetic protagonist, strong character journey, powerfully driven scenes, spare dialogue, show don’t tell, etc.
But the results can also be bland. And there are other styles. I wanted to makes sure that while showing how the mainstream style works, I would also draw on other styles, from indie to British, European, Asian and other cultures around the world. I wanted to ensure writers could develop their own individual voice.
I also wanted to ensure the book would be of practical help to all kinds of writers. Even those books which focus on mainstream Hollywood often skate over issues and miss out key techniques used by successful writers.
Such as dealing with obstacles. The great screenwriters use obstacles with enormous guile and sophistication. I wanted to include techniques and exercises I’d developed over the years, such as The Obstacle Chain, to help writers develop essential skills for themselves.
Though every writer needs to get feedback from experienced colleagues and consultants, there’s much you can do to fix your script yourself if you know how. However, reading a screenwriting book can be horribly like a hypochondriac reading a medical dictionary! Your ailing script never looks anything like the pictures of health portrayed by the gurus.
This meant I needed troubleshooting sections, to enable a writer to get a firm idea of any likely problems and what to do about them. Do I have a slow first act or not? Does my second act sag? And what can be done?
4. Breaking the rules
The books are very good at showing you the rules, but less helpful when it comes to breaking them. Suppose you have good reasons to write in seven acts, two acts or no acts at all? Or want to have an unsympathetic central character? Too many books leave you high and dry. Or simply tell you not to.
This is an area I’ve taught and written about for many years and I wanted to make sure that writers were helped if they wanted to create something that didn’t stick slavishly to the norm.
Tell me what you think
THE ONLY PLACE TO TALK ABOUT THE CRAFT OF SCRIPTWRITING.