Monday, January 22, 2007

Pattern Finding Machines

We are humans. We look for patterns. It makes it easier for us to break down, explain, and communicate complex ideas. We do it so well that we place patterns in places where they do not exist.

A frequently asked question to a screenwriter is:
How do you come up with new ideas?

This is usually followed by a question asking,
How do YOU write a screenplay?

Well... there are dozens of books on the subject. Go to google or and type in screenwriting and you can buy thousands of dollars worth of information on how to write a screenplay and get ideas. But that never really answers the questions, does it?

What people are really asking is: How do I write great stories?

To that there is no answer.
But that doesn't stop the questions. Nor the demand for tip books on screenwriting. Keep in mind that the majority of authors that write screenwriting books have made more money selling their "How To" book than actually writing screenplays. And most professional screenwriters complain about the flawed methodology that preaches format over content.

The overwhelming stacks of screenwriting books fall into two types:
  1. The ones that examine successful screenplays.
  2. The ones that examine failed screenplays.
They are both attempting to do the same thing. To create a working pattern by examining previous screenplays that have a known end result. Then they hand over this pattern to aspiring writers who do not know how to tell a story... which is fine. We all start somewhere.

The problem is that screenwriting books will NEVER grant the ability to tell a story. Writing will. The more you do it, the better you become. But most people don't want to put in the work. They just want to start out as a genius.

In the words of American Idol, foul-mouthed, whiny, 16 year old, brat, Jason Anderson,

"I wanted to start out famous."

How does someone with no work ethic feel entitled to accomplish something that very few people with talent, skill, and determination are able to?

"You will be, famous. You will be, famous," his mother consoles. Slap her. Please.

Back to screenwriting. Here's a tip... 3 Act Structure, 8 Sequence Structure, The Hero's Journey, they all work. But only when dramatic content is applied... DRAMATICALLY.


Lance Perry said...

Right on, dude. This has been my frustration as a budding screenwriter. Could never find info on how to write dramatically. This changed last year when I discovered the only screenwriting book that focuses on dramatic techniques to create engaging content in between the structural skeleton. It's called WRITING FOR EMOTIONAL IMPACT by Karl Iglesias. Check it out. I highly recommend it.

Emily Blake said...

Technically that kid is already famous. You put him on your blog and everything.

So see? Dreams do come true, even if you don't have any real talent.

James said...

True, true. But he wanted to be a fsmous singer. Even juggling wasn't good enough for him.