Gerald Hanks Filmography

Monday, June 8, 2020

Screenwriting Advice: Make Me Care About Your Story

Many aspiring writers, especially screenwriters, have a passionate need to tell their personal stories. 

They feel these stories so intensely because they lived through those events. 

The writer gets so emotionally invested in the story that they feel the need to tell it in the widest forum possible.

They spend months (or even years) writing their script about these deeply personal experiences, only to get nothing but silence in response. 

This lack of connection may make the writer wonder where the problem lies.

The problem doesn't lie in the details. 

Most writers of personal stories are so committed to getting their "true story" out there that they forget that the audience is less interested in the "true" part and much more invested in the "story" part.

The writer will say, "This really happened!" 

The audience will respond, "We don't care!"

The best way to get a wide audience to relate to a personal story is to find what makes that story relatable. 

That statement may sound like circular logic, but it's actually pretty simple.

Audiences relate to characters much more than they do ideas, events, or philosophies. 

The biggest hurdle that writers of personal stories encounter often lies less in their lack of writing skills and more in their lack of giving an audience a way to relate to their deeply personal experiences.

When you give an audience a relatable character undergoing a struggle, that audience will stay glued to the screen to see how that character gets through, over, or around that struggle.

In the telling of a deeply personal story, the writer may be tempted to create an avatar of themselves as the protagonist. 

They want the audience to relate to them (the writer) through the character, rather than relating to the character itself.

For those writers, professional readers will have some very bad news:

It's not about you

It's not about your deep personal trauma. 

It's not about you dealing with your insane family, either for comic or dramatic effect. 

It's not about what you lived through or how you lived through it. 

It's definitely not about your need for sympathy or recognition or a shoulder to cry on.

If you need to work through your personal trials and tribulations, seek professional help from a trained and licensed therapist.

If you need to work through your script to see if the story is relatable to an audience, seek professional help from an experienced screenplay evaluator. (#shamelessplug)

A screenplay is not supposed to be a memoir. A screenwriter is not supposed to be a historian. 

Your job as a screenwriter is not to tell a "true story". Your job is to tell an entertaining story.

The truth in a screenplay doesn't lie in how it relates every tiny incident that happened to the writer.

The truth of a story is based in how it conveys the emotional experience that those true events provoked.

Don't try to deliver precise factual truth. Deliver universal emotional truth.

For writers, emotional truth is the highest truth of all.

If you want professional feedback on your script, Story Into Screenplay can help.

You can get an evaluation from a reader who has been a screenplay contest judge for the American Black Film Festival and a coverage writer for the Austin Film Festival.

Get an evaluation on the first ten pages of your feature screenplay or TV pilot for only $10.

You'll also receive the introductory chapter to the upcoming book "The VOTE Method" FREE with your purchase.

For more details, you can email storyintoscreenplayblog[at]gmail[dot]com, fill out the form on this page, or send a direct message to the Story Into Screenplay Facebook page.

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