Perfection is a Killer

If you seek perfection, you’re in danger of overwriting your script or worse, never finishing it at all.  There are countless ways to tell the same story.  Give a simple plot to ten people, you will get ten wildly different variations.  The story as you wish to tell it simply must be told as well as it can be.

“This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again.” – Oscar Wilde

So often new writers devote days, months, years to checking every comma, but it’s more important that your story has heart, passion, purpose and truth.  Get these right, the rest of it will fall into place and readers will be willing to overlook a misplaced comma here and there.  This is why you often hear of films and TV series getting picked up based on a logline or pieced together off notes on napkins.

I’m by no means suggesting that because you believe so passionately in your incredible idea you can get sloppy with your writing.  No, no, no!  You still have to write your best work, without errors, just don’t fiddle with the little details over the bigger picture.  Story first, commas later.

Be Truthful

Writers often say it’s our responsibility to write the truth, but what does that actually mean?  The story doesn’t have to be true in the sense that it really happened to you or someone else, but it must be true to the characters you created.  The situation they are in must follow the laws of the world you created.  Above all else, it must relate to some truth about the human condition; this is your controlling idea, value, or moral of the story.

Truth isn’t absolute.  Truth is relative to the individual.  Just because you believe something to be true doesn’t mean everyone else will, but that’s good.  You’re showing a unique perspective, provided you can prove it is true.  For example, a serial killer can believe that killing is right as long as he kills murderers as in Dexter.  Many people believe killing is wrong no matter what, but your job as the writer is to show that to Dexter at least, murder can be justified.

Be Passionate

Being passionate about writing isn’t the same as being passionate about your story.  Many writers are passionate writers, but have nothing to say.  Dig deeper than the simple logline.  Your story can be a fluffy romcom or crude comedy, but you must believe this is a story that has to be told.  Ask yourself, why should people pay $14 to see this?

Write with Purpose

“How am I going to give back the knowledge I’ve acquired?” – Goldie Hawn

Passion comes from purpose because it gives you drive to finish when you think you don’t have another revision in you.  It is what sells your story when you go to pitch it.  It lights you up and consumes you at the same time.  It shows through in every line of your script.  What is the purpose you’re fulfilling as a writer?  Why must you tell stories? What is the story you must tell?  If you don’t have one, pick one; it doesn’t have to be your purpose for life, just for now.  You can always change it later.

Write with Heart

I’ve touched on this once before so I won’t get too into this again, but when we say write with heart, some mean write with passion, some mean write with purpose, I choose it to mean write with empathy.  Write to understand, to educate, to share, but always write with the understanding that every person matters and has value, whether you agree with their perspective on life or not.  When you empathize, your characters become richer and full of life because you can see them as whole; you’re no longer judging them on their choices.  Be kind to your characters even if they represent the devil.  No one ever sees themselves as all bad, neither should you.