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10 Screenwriting Resolutions You Can Make This New Year’s (…to Shake Things Up)

By Kathleen Laccinole · December 22, 2021

I hate New Year’s Eve. Let’s face it, it’s a holiday built around disappointment. Another year gone, another year older, and a bunch of flaccid resolutions we didn’t keep. So much for the weight loss, the workouts, the Academy Award-winning script… And now, here we go again.

So, what are you going to do differently this year? Better yet, what can you do to have success? Try these ten out-of-the-box writing resolutions to shake things up. Or at the very least, have a little fun.

Eat Shit Food

At those times when you can’t bear the thought of sitting at your computer because writing is making you feel… well… shitty, balance it out with something good… that’s shitty for you. Be disciplined in your writing, but oh-so-naughty while you’re doing it.

I find that any writing challenge is easier to face while eating Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, or better yet, Milk Duds tossed in buttery, salted popcorn. (Trust me, it’s good). My biggest script sale came from a year of endless cups of Coke and greasy fries. You’re sitting and writing. You deserve a reward.

Leave Your Hidey-Hole

In other words – get dressed! When I realized there’d been way too many times my son had come home from school with friends, only to find his mom still in her pajamas, I knew I had to make a change.

Now, in an attempt to stave away Child Services, I get up every morning, get dressed, and LEAVE THE HOUSE! I sit at various cafés and public spaces, and I write. Then, at the end of the day, I come home and put my pajamas back on. Like a regular person!

Shut Up

Listen – for dialogue and for inspiration. Check out that couple at the next table. Listen to how they speak, their emotions, vernacular, the nuances of their conversation. And if you can hear it, listen to the content of their conversation. Let it inspire an idea, a character, a concept… Then wrap a story around it. But for the love of god, don’t get caught.

Shut Up!

Put the phone down. Yes, I see you. On your phone again. Chit chatting. Checking IG, Facebook, TikTok. Hell, anything to keep from writing. Knock it off! Focus! Write!

Shut Up!!!

You finally got the big meeting and when they give you notes telling you what they need from you to make it work for them, you defend your creative choices. Worse, you argue! SHUT UP!!! Constantly defending your script screams beginner. It screams inexperience. It screams “I am a pain in the neck and you don’t want to work with me.”

Similarly, when you do a table read, shut up and listen to what your friends have to say. My rule of thumb: If one person gives you a note. Meh. No worries. If two people give you the same note, consider it. And if three people tell you the same thing, they’re probably right. Fix it.

Resolve to be less defensive about your work and more open to constructive criticism. That doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) defend your ideas — it just means taking a second to consider other people’s feedback before you immediately disregard it.

Write Backstory You Will Never Use

So many writers introduce their main character on page one, then develop them from that moment on. But this is as if you are birthing a person in the middle of their life. How can we know what our characters are like without knowing what they were like before our story began?

Resolve to write a complete backstory for your protagonists. From birth. (Yes, I said it.) Then throw it out. (Yep. Said that too.) You don’t need to put all this backstory in your script. (For the love of god, don’t put it in your script.) Rather, let their histories imbue your characters with depth and complexity for a richer experience overall.

Give Characters a Life of Their Own, Then Mind Your Own Business

Now that you’ve created a living, breathing person, set them free. Allow this character to push your plot; to tell you where they want to go. Let them drive the narrative with their individual actions, reactions, and motivations. It will bring a whole new layer of authenticity to the material.

Write a Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was an archetype who fell in love with another archetype. But the archetypes couldn’t be together because of another archetype. So, the good archetypes conquered that bad archetype, and they lived happily ever after. You get my drift. Write a fairy tale and see where it leads. Most likely you’ll find that, at the heart of it, there is the spine of a film.

Stop Writing and Read

Books and scripts and fiction and non-fiction and some plays and a poem and, hell, even Bob the Mailman’s first draft. Anything and everything. You can’t know what’s good if you don’t know what’s bad. And if you can learn from the greats – then do it.

Get a Life

I didn’t say write about your life. Because no matter how interesting you and your mom may find it, chances are most people won’t want to sit and watch a movie about you. What I mean is to step away from the computer and live a little so you have something to write about. We don’t live in a vacuum, so don’t write in one.

Think out of the box. Live out of the box. Resolve to try new things. Then write. And make next New Year’s Eve your best one yet.