How to Write a Screenplay About a Writer

I’ve got to admit, I’ve been fighting writers block lately. We all go through it, some more regularly than others. So this week, I’m writing about how to write about a writer.

Let’s get right to it!

Introduce Us To The Writer Of Your Screenplay

Shakespeare In LoveMiseryCapote, and a host of other movies about writers introduce the author very early, if not immediately, in their screenplays. The movies I listed also tell the stories of authors who write literature in books. I’d like to use the screenplay for Seven Psychopaths as my example for writing a screenplay about a screenplay writer. It’s an interesting motif that I haven’t seen in other screenplays about writers.

Our screenwriting protagonist is Marty. He has the title for his next screenplay but absolutely nothing else. Marty is an LA-based writer who is struggling, frustrated, and has friends who help him come up with ideas for stories that’ll fill the script’s pages. Writer Martin McDonagh paints the picture of Marty as an individual who has a small circle of strange but trusted friends and as a dreamer who fantasizes about finishing this damned script.

Marty is an interesting figure to watch as he and his friends try to figure out ways to achieve their desires. When writing a screenplay about a writer, be sure to give them traits that audiences will be interested in watching drive the plot. Is your writer interesting? Contentious? Are they rightfully indignant? Are they a hermit? How does their temperament make for interesting progression in your screenplay? Answer these questions as you present your writer to the audience.

Place Your Writer in Interesting Situations

We’re going to be reading about your writer for the entirety of the screenplay, so there should be more things going on than them brainstorming ideas. In the movies I mentioned earlier, the writers are all experiencing problems that make for good stories themselves. Just because writers put drama down on paper doesn’t mean they’re immune to it in their own lives. Capote’s title character documents the details following a grisly murder.  Misery shows a writer fight for his life while in the possession of a fan obsessed with his books.

Seven Psychopaths is not short on interesting situations for Marty to take part in. His friends kidnap dogs. They kidnap a mobster’s dog. Violence ensues. Marty and his buddies skip town. But after everything is said and done, Marty finishes, sells, and produces the Seven Psychopaths movie. The screenplay for this movie is full of twists, dark humor, and ridiculously violent and captivating situations that effectively keep audiences tuned in and waiting to see how thing develop. In your screenplay about a screenwriter, write them into situations that they have to figure ways out of, while pursuing their goals of getting good material for their writing endeavors, or surviving long enough to finish their writing.

Surround The Writer With Colorful Characters

The title Seven Psychopaths pretty much primes audiences for the interesting characters they’ll be getting familiar with as they read the screenplay or watch the movie. And that title definitely delivers. The screenplay has Marty, his friends Billy and Hans, assassins, a cancer patient, gangsters, and a serial killer. These people around Marty keep him in real danger but also give him lots of material for the script he struggles to write.

One thing I take note of in the screenplay of Seven Psychopaths is the fluid, natural dialogue that flows between the characters. They all have personality and no one’s lines could convincingly be switched with any other characters lines. Write characters that speak loudly in your mind, or that you’ve met and are very familiar with. You could use characteristics from people in your circle of friends, your family, co workers, bookies you owe money to, or psychopaths that you keep close but not too close. However you decide to go about it, put interesting people around your writer character, making sure that you have them do and say interesting things.

Now go forth and write about a writer, writers!