Writing has to be one of the most difficult things in the world. At least it is for me (granted, I’m my own worst critic). Any little help, tip, or trick I can find is a boon, sometimes triggering a little mini-breakthrough.
Over the years I’ve discovered a number of writing resources that I turn to time and time again. If I’ve missed any here, please share what you use to get the words flowing.
If you haven’t heard of a book called The Hero With A Thousand Faces, you’re at least familiar with the films it has inspired: Star Wars, India Jones, and most anything that hit the sliver screen after 1980. In it, author Joseph Campbell explores the hero figure in stories the world over. What he discovered is a startling commonality: mankind, in every culture, from ancient times till now, all struggle with the same hopes, fears, and questions.
Knowing and understanding the hero’s journey is key to understanding how the story you’re telling fits into the bigger picture of human existence. Joseph Campbell’s book was a little dense, but fortunately Australian screenplay writer Allen Palmer has translated the silted language into something even I can grasp.
Palmer’s “A new character-driven Hero’s Journey” has become my starting point for everything I write now. In it, he takes you through the archetypical life of a story’s hero, complete with examples from contemporary films.
Nothing will put off an audience faster than clichés. And yet, cliché’s are a writer’s secret weapon. Knowing how to play against the audience’s expectations will allow you to write the kind of fresh and surprising material audiences are practically begging for.
I don’t remember how I found TVtropes.com, but it’s an EXTENSIVE database of every trope, stereotype, and cliché found in TV shows, films, books, and comics. Not only are ample examples given, but also suggestions of what expectations one might leverage against the audience.
The Internet Movie Script Database
Every successful writer’s secret is that they are avid readers. If you want to write screenplays, you HAVE to read screenplays. I make a trip to the library every couple of months to see if they have any new scripts I can check out. Inspiration aside, there’s something about taking in another writer’s work that lifts you up and transforms your own writing into something new.
There are tons of places to read screenplays online, but my favorite is The Internet Movie Script Database. It has lots of current scripts, and at the time of this writing, seems to be updated regularly.
There’s no excuse. Start reading today.
We all need encouragement and inspiration. Writers need DAILY encouragement and inspiration. Enter Twitter. This stripped down social media platform is loaded with all sorts of daily inspiration profiles, including some for scriptwriters. Pair this with Twitter’s conversation oriented community and you’ll find yourself in touch with some of the very gurus and writers you look up to.
If you don’t have a Twitter account yet, start one now and start following your heroes. Here’s a couple of our favorites to get you started:
Yep. Books. I love books. I’m not allowed to go into Barns and Nobel anymore because every time I do I walk out with a whole stack of them. Since I take seriously the need to constantly grow and learn in my writing, I’m constantly looking for new books from experienced writers.
Here’s a list of books I’ve found to be helpful, or at least interesting:
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
- The Hero and the Outlaw by Mark & Pearson
- The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
- Story by Robert McKee
- Screenplay by Syd Field
- Four Screenplays by Syd Field
- Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
- The Tools of Screenwriting by Howard and Mabley
- On Writing by Stephen King
That’s all for now. I hope this list has been helpful!
What are your favorite writing resources? Let us know in the comments.