The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Mr Writer

One thing I probably won’t be doing on this blog is giving advice on writing. Two reasons. Firstly, I don’t feel qualified. Ask me again when I’ve got my own series. And secondly, I don’t like reading blogs giving advice on writing.

Let me clarify. There’s lots of useful advice to be read and absorbed about the business, how to lay out scripts and so forth. I’ve no problem with that at all.

No, my problem is with script editors or producers, who have never actually written a script giving advice on things like characterisation or structure. Because - and here’s the point – until you've tried putting it into practice you have no idea how useful your advice is.

If you want to know where stories come from, read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’, William Goldman’s ‘Adventures In The Screen Trade’, Russell T Davies’ ‘The Writer’s Tale’. Read writers’ autobiographies. Don’t read the received wisdom of script editors and producers.

It’s not that knowing about structure and so-on aren’t important, they are, but they’re things to consider when re-writing, fixing a script that doesn’t work. And of course it’s useful to know what producers and script editors are looking out for when reading scripts. But – particularly in comedy – so much of it is simply post hoc theorising by people who have never written a script which is of no practical use in the writing process.

I mean, apparently all good comedy is about people being trapped together – so should the starting point be looking for situations where people are trapped together? No, obviously not. And besides, who’s trapped in The Good Life? Friends? Yes, Minister? The Big Bang Theory?

But if you’re interested in structure and so-on, I recommend you cut out the middle-man... and pick up Robert McKee’s ‘Story’.

1 comment:

  1. Well, in Yes, Minister Jim and Humphrey do compare their relationship to a terrorist and his hostage (albeit disagreeing on which is which)... But you have a point!