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Thursday, January 23, 2014

How screenwriting helped me be a better writer

It can help you be a better writer. Really!
by Kitty Griffin


Not too long ago someone asked me what I felt helped me most with writing.

Getting an MFA was good. But ...
     If I were to say what helped me to become a good writer I would say learning to write a screenplay. Had I not taken a screenwriting class I don't think I'd be published.

Why? Because screenwriting teaches two things, a three-act structure and, how to write an electric scene. How to write a scene so that the reader can "see" it. 

The book Arthur is looking at is "Goodnight Gorilla." There are no words. But he gets it. He understands the scenes.

The pictures took him on a journey and he followed it.

That's just what you need to do whether you are writing a picture book or a novel. You want to create scenes that the reader can follow.

When I first started out I heard all the time from editors, "Gee, you're a good writer, but you move so fast I couldn't keep up."

The story was running away from me.

If you ever watched the television series, "Lost" I really think that was a show where the story ran away from the writers. They got lost in their own creativity.

What can you do as a writer? You can take a class at your Community College. You can get books on screenwriting, try Viki King's book, "How to Write a Movie in 21 Days". Also the book, "Save the Cat" by Blake Snyder is a good one.

One of the best conferences I ever attended was the Austin Film Festival. I heard the Cohen Brothers talk about structure. I took a class with Gary Ross, the writer/director of Pleasantville and many more feature films. I stood in line just behind Sandra Bullock (she's tiny!) and I had the absolute time of my life. There were 900 men and maybe 50 women. There was so much testosterone in the air even I felt aggressive. 

It is such a different world from writing for children, but I'm glad I dove in. (I didn't stick with it, although my one screenplay that I wrote took first place in the Moondance Film Festival. )

As I finish up my newest novel, I am going to spend the next few days looking at it from a screenwriter's perspective. What it taught me to do was to look at my scenes carefully, to make sure they help build the story. I want to make sure each chapter has a rise to it. Most of all, I want to make sure that my readers won't get lost.

1 comment:

  1. I read Save the Cat over the summer and yes, I can see why so many writers recommend it. It's not a method that comes easy to me, though. I'm not one to outline, but it sure saves time in the long run.