Ahead of his Screenwriting Essentials course at Filmbase, Stephen Walsh gives us 10 tips he wishes he had got starting out.
1. It’s not about explaining. It’s about proving.
You’re writing a story, not a stock inventory or an application for planning permission!
2. If all you’ve got is a plot, then you’re in trouble.
No combination of events is interesting unless it’s happening to somebody we give a damn about.
3. Planning doesn’t kill spontaneity.
A story is a puzzle, with its own logic and its own rules. You can set any rules you like. But then you have to play by them.
4. Just because it really happened doesn’t make it interesting.
Be prepared for blank looks when readers get to the part of your script that features a lightly fictionalised version of that hilarious thing your uncle Pat did with the frozen turkey at Mick’s funeral.
5. When in doubt, get closer to the people.
Storytelling originated because we’re nosy and we want to know the things we shouldn’t know about people who’d prefer we didn’t know them!
6. Every story is about desire.
Who wants what… and what’s stopping them getting it?
7. It takes a while.
Your epic, two-part trilogy may need more than an afternoon’s work to get it into shape. (This can often be a deal-breaker for beginning writers!)
8. Write for the eye.
About 75% of beginning writers accidentally write radio plays the first time they tackle a script.
9. Clever is easy. Good is hard.
We’re aiming for a simple expression of complicated ideas. Never forget that script-writing is an exercise in communication. And for the person we’re trying to communicate with it’s always Monday morning, the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet and they don’t care that we got a thesaurus for Christmas.
10. It won’t write itself.
The scariest thing of all. The world is full of “writers” who expend all their creativity avoiding a commitment to the process of writing. Somehow, the Labours of Hercules were a doddle compared to the super-human effort it takes to remove the cap from a pen and scribble a few words on a bit of paper. People have climbed mountains and/or done the washing-up to avoid it; dogs have been taken for epic walks in frankly unsuitable weather and subjected to rants about how the world will definitely get its bum kicked when we get home and really launch into the script/book/dirty limerick that we’ve been working on (“In me head, like”) for twenty-seven years… ever since uncle Pat did that hilarious thing with the frozen turkey at Mick’s funeral.
Stephen Walsh wrote the feature film How Harry Became A Tree, directed by Goran Paskaljevic, starring Colm Meaney, Kerry Condon and Cillian Murphy, and co-wrote Where the Sea Used to Be with the director Paul Farren. He scripted the documentary features Patrick Kavanagh – No Man’s Fool and John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man, both directed by Sé Merry Doyle. He has taught screenwriting and conducted script workshops at Trinity College, Griffith College and Filmbase.
Screenwriting Essentials takes place 20th June – 25th July 2017 at Filmbase. The course comprises six evening sessions devoted to exploring the ins and outs of scriptwriting, for screenwriters who are just starting out and want to develop their craft.
More info here