Do you want to become a master storyteller? To inspire hundreds, thousands, millions of people with your writing? To transport these people to other places, other times, where they can experience other lives?
No matter what kind of stories you want to write–short stories, novels, even poetry or creative essays–if you want to become a masterful storyteller, you should take a screenwriting course.
Why is screenwriting such an important thing for writers to study? Well, I can think of a few reasons:
1. You don’t really understand “Show, don’t tell” until you write a script. We’ve all heard it a thousand times, but how much do we listen? How often do we get so caught up in the next plot point that we forget to give a vivid description of the place it’s set in?
Writing a script forces you to think about every visual element. In a screenplay you can’t give back story the way you do in a novel. You can’t dive into a character’s head and live there. You have to portray everything through what’s seen, said, and done. So everything becomes an opportunity for back story. You think a lot harder about what a character’s clothing means, what their posture means, what every piece of furniture in their home says about who they are.
Of course, you can get some of this impact by writing a script on your own, but taking a screenwriting course or even a three hour workshop can completely change how you look at storytelling. I’ve recently attended a couple screenwriting workshops and started an online screenwriting course at WritingAcademy.com, and it’s drastically changed how I’m approaching the next draft of my current WIP(Work In Progress).
2. You should always be learning more about writing. I already wrote about why you should take an online writing course in more general terms last year. Long story short, you should always be working to improve your craft and learn more about writing. No matter how many years you’ve put into it, you should remember that there is always something to learn.
Now I think it’s particularly important for writers to learn about screenwriting. Screenwriting 101 might be the most valuable class you ever take. Even if the script you write with the techniques you learned sits on your hard drive for the rest of your life, you’ll gain skills you’ll use for the rest of your life, in every story you write.
3. You might love it. At the very least, a screenwriting course will help you decide if you’re interested in screenwriting. Of course, deciding you’ll be the next blockbuster is stupid, but if you’re in the right place, there are many opportunities. And if the genre you’re writing can be done well on a budget, there are lots of ways to find the money. Crowd funding in particular has become popular.
Breaking out of your comfort zone often turns into expanding your comfort zone. At the very least you’ll learn that you can write a script, and at best you’ll end up working as a screenwriter.
4. You’ll appreciate good movies so much more. After you take a screenwriting course, you watch movies in a different way. This is particularly true if part of the course explains how much it really costs to make a movie. I mean, obviously we all know they usually put millions upon millions of dollars into the biggest blockbusters, but when you realize how much time and energy goes even into a shorter, low budget film it’s shocking.
Beyond that, you’ll start paying more attention to the background. Learning to use every background element of a scene to establish character, you’ll start paying more attention to the little details bringing characters to life in your favourite movies.
Of course, this also means you’ll find yourself picking apart bad movies at the scenes, but a similar thing happens with novels when you start writing them. It’s a good thing. We have to analyze and assess other people’s work to learn what we can get away with in our own. Once we get in the habit of reading or watching analytically instead of for pure enjoyment, it becomes difficult to get out of the habit.
5. Short screenplays can be great character exercises. Struggling to nail down the dialogue between certain characters? Trying to make a specific character sound truly unique?
If you’re struggling to perfect the dialogue in your novel, try writing a short screenplay about your characters–or putting a scene of your WIP in script format. Different details will pop out at you and you’ll be able to see the characters in a different way.
Extra tip: a great editing exercise for fiction is to take your dialogue scenes and remove the body language to see how the dialogue stands on its own. Great dialogue should be able to stand on its own, but the body language should add extra flavour to it.
A good screenwriting course will completely change the way you think about writing and about storytelling in general. It will add another layer to your writing, and that can only be a good thing.
Have you ever considered taking a screenwriting course? Let me know in the comments section below!