I write about screenwriters, and at least two of my clients are screenwriters, so it’s a little ironic that I don’t represent screenwriters. However, it’s not much of a stretch to say that the skills demanded of writers who work in the film and television industry transfer well to novel writing. Especially beneficial are a firm grasp of narrative pacing and an understanding of high concept.
The late Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, intended to put out a sequel for romance novelists titled Save the Cat! Falls in Love. On his blog, Snyder posted a list of good books for screenwriters. If only he were still around to give us the benefit of his brilliant insight. Lapidary is the word for it.
Recently, I was contacted by a Breitbart.com blogger and former screenwriter known as Russell Dvonch or, possibly, Henry Halloway. I’ve never been a big fan of pseudonyms, but I’ll put my misgivings aside for a moment. Henrussell’s posts at the politically conservative Breitbart’s Big Hollywood group blog are intended for novice screenwriters. He’s describing step by step how to develop heroic main characters and how to use a moral theme to build a story. Henrussell notes:
I earned my bachelor degree in film production, but I learned nothing useful about writing a screenplay in the four years it took to get my degree. I learned by watching movies and by collaborating on screenplays with my two best friends who taught me everything about screenwriting in those early years.
In truth, we taught each other—simply by trying to mimic the rhythms and structures of the movies we loved. We certainly discussed technical issues, such as how to introduce a character, or how to set up the next scene. But we seldom had deep-dish discussions about what we were doing—or why.
It was only in my later years that I started to try and figure out why I—and my fellow Hollywood writers—write the way that we do. I’m not going to claim that my insights are terribly original or groundbreaking. In fact, quite the opposite—I’m just writing down the process that thousands of screenwriters go through when they think about their screenplays.
Writers can find some good tips in Russ Dvonch’s posts. Check them out and let me know what you think.