How My Scriptwriting Course Ruined Me

I’ve always been bad to watch movies with. I’ve always been bad to watch television shows with as well, if the truth be told. I get far to involved. I get emotional and when there are loud noises, I get jumpy. In fact, be it books, movies, television shows, stage shows or poems, taking part in someone else creativity has never been a passive experience for me. I’m in, boots and all. I fall in love with characters. I weep for them.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not sorry about that. You can live an entire lifetime in a particularly good book. So I have no regrets.

Last year, I took a scriptwriting course as part of my Masters Degree. I thought it was a nothing course, just something I’d need to fill up my course credits. Wrong! It changed me! Now I notice things.

Here are the top five ways my scriptwriting course ruined me:

1. No matter how unrealistic a situation is, the writer must commit to it and make it as believable as possible. How did this ruin me? It is now not uncommon for me (or my poor husband) to yell at the TV: “PLOT HOLE!! If that happened, this would have had to have happened before. You can’t just change the rules (of physics/culture/time/etc). You’ve got to stick with it.” What do I mean? If you’ve abandoned gravity, there can’t be gravity anywhere – unless you’ve built a gravity imitating machine for example. The details matter. Make sure they are consistent.

2. What works well on paper might not work well coming out of an actors mouth. Repetition is hardly EVER normal. I’m gonna name and shame here. Bobby Donnell from The Practice is the worst offender here. He repeats everything for ‘impact.’ However, the ‘impact’ is just clunky screen dialogue. Say it once, say it well, trust your viewer to remember the big statement. Writers of any sort, and especially scriptwriters, should be students of the way people speak. These fine details and nuances are important. We don’t often address each-other by name, for example. Repetition hardly ever happens in real-people conversations unless one speaker is being really annoying.

3. Trust your viewer to remember the story. I was watching (Okay I’ll name and shame again) CSI Cyber the other day. Now I’ll give them a bit of grace because they are starting out, but they felt the need to keep on reminding us that “We need to find Zoe’s cyberbully before she does or she’ll do something dangerous.” I got that the first time. I got that when they played Zoe’s transmissions. I certainly didn’t need to get told again, via a different character, every time we returned from the ad break. Thanks, but we viewers aren’t dills.

4. Stereotypes are baaaad. I won’t name and shame here, but this is a big pet peeve of mine. Not all smart women are Asbergers sufferers, or emotionally defunct. Not all powerful women are tough, emotionless and cruel. Not all men are jerks. Not all women are complicated. Men can be extremely complicated. Don’t get me started on race, religion and gender.

5. Don’t polish it too much! The most interesting thing about humanity is its imperfection. This imperfection motivates and fascinates. If you perfect your characters too much and plunge from one perfect scenario to another, even in the action sequences when all is lost until *Shazaam* some perfect ‘save the day’ device appears, its boring. So boring.

Thats my top five. Its ranty I know. Look, I’d be happy to try and do a better job of these things myself (even if The Practice hasn’t been on television since I was a tweenager! I know that can’t be helped!)

I just felt the world should know! The world being the few hundred people who read this blog. Ha!

Have a fab day people. Over and out.

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