All writing is thinking. Regardless of the medium, the writer must inform himself completely. Inadequate thinking equates to bad writing. But asking lots and lots and lots of questions will lead to at least some very solid answers. Simply put, great thinking creates great writing. 

But you must also trust in yourself. Often the most difficult thing, especially for the beginning screenwriter, is to trust and to discover that you have stories to tell - lots of them. 

The Triangle

We can all imagine a triangle: three lines, three points, three angles. And the image of a triangle is a great way to think about the writing process. There are always three parts: the writer, the material, and the…


The Three C's

All good screenwriting incorporates the Three C’s whenever possible: CLEAR, CONCISE, and CREATIVE. And it is important to apply the Three C's to all aspects of the screenplay, action, and dialogue.…


100 Percent Rule

It sounds horrible: “Kill your babies!” But please understand that I am not advocating the genocide of newborn infants.
Your babies are your ideas. You gave birth to them. They’re yours. And sometimes it’s extremely difficult to let go of those fun, fresh, and fantastic thoughts.
But if I instructed you to “Kill your ideas!” the point doesn’t hit home quite the same way. So “Kill your babies!” it is.
And you must be vicious. You must be lethal. You must have no mercy. If the pen is truly mightier than the sword, use it to snuff out any idea that you’re keeping around for the wrong reasons or forcing into the script just because you like it.
But how do you know when to kill or not to kill? This is a very difficult question, and the best way I have been able to illustrate is through the just as frustrating 100% RULE.
The rule is simple: you must be 100% confident with your script decisions all the time, every time.
When it comes to screenwriting 99% just doesn’t cut it, because if you’re only almost sure - even 99% confident - that your great, new idea is going to work, than that means some of your audience - even just 1% - won’t believe it.
If you aren’t completely sold yourself, you should never expect your audience to buy what you’re selling.
But don’t be premature with your attacks either. Just because you don’t have complete confidence that one of your babies is going to work, start asking questions to see if you can solve any lingering problems or concerns. Use the CHARACTER and STORY QUESTIONNAIRES. Put your characters in SCENE EXERCISES. See what you discover. But whatever you do, find the answer, because just hoping that your ‘baby’ is going to be self sufficient is simply never enough.
And remember, you can always kill that baby for this script, file it away, and pull it out again for another story for another time. Nothing truly dies.
There comes a time in the creation of your script when you're going to have to cut out some of your favorite ideas. It's a tough job, but one fo the most vital in the process.…



A few years ago, Richard Stayton, the editor in chief of Written By magazine, and I had a screening of A History of Violence for our students at Glendale College, and the screenwriter, Josh Olson, came in for a Q&A after the film. The questions were the standard “Who inspires you?”, “How do you research?”, “Do you write for specific actors?”, and of course the always expected, “How do I get an agent?” Olson’s answers were for the most part standard and forgettable. To be honest, I couldn’t even begin to tell any details of what was discussed, expect for one thing, and maybe the most important lesson learned.…


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