Hollywood. The bright lights. The avant-garde costumes. The damsel in distress. The handsome hero. The film industry is rife with clichés. But it’s also produced cinematic wonders like Jurassic Park, Inception, Interstellar, Shawshank Redemption, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Unusual Suspects.
Indeed, Hollywood screenwriters pen the most intriguing, creative and humorous stories in the planet.
Think about it. William Goldman, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan have produced some of the most amazing movies of all time. As writers, we should be willing to learn from the greats of any field – be it film, TV, publishing or journalism.
So what can aspiring authors learn from Hollywood’s finest screenwriters?
We’ve listed a few writing tips from Billy Wilder, Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen, Vince Gilligan and William Goldman:
Billy Wilder – The Apartment, Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment
- The audience is fickle: So it’s important to grab their attention and keep it.
- Know where you’re going: Have a plan for your plot and characters before actually writing.
- Don’t tell the audience everything: Hide your plot. Let them figure out what two plus two is.
Quentin Tarantino – Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, Django Unchanined
- One of the greatest writing tips from Tarantino: Steal but don’t forget to make it better or make it more personal. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but don’t just imitate. Add value to the imitation.
- Write the way people talk: Don’t state what your characters are thinking or feeling. Most people never reveal how they feel or think so don’t state the obvious. Let the audience figure it out.
- Inject humor in your writing: Even the most gruesome and depressing scenes can be infused with a little humor. It makes your writing interesting.
Woody Allen – Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, Manhattan
- Let go: Yes, striving for perfection is a good thing but there a comes a time when you must let go of your work. Sometimes the process of creation is more enjoyable than the end result.
- Work out a general outline of what you’re writing: Finding a good idea, an intriguing plot and the correct setting is important. It should be done before physically writing down a novel, a screenplay or even a blog.
- Sometimes great writing isn’t conscious: Your dreams and your subconscious can often produce brilliant ideas. Use them.
Vince Gilligan – Breaking Bad, The X-Files
- Surprise people: The Breaking Bad writer is known for shocking audiences with unexpected plot twists. One of his most invaluable writing tips includes stunning audiences in order to keep them entertained.
- It’s okay not to know the end: Be flexible with what you’re writing. Have an outline but don’t let it be a do or die situation. Often times, when you’re writing, you might discover a new sub-plot or an alluring character along the way that might work wonders for your finished novel.
William Goldman – The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- The protagonist must have a crisis that he or she must deal with: No one wants to see a happy couple. They want to see star-crossed lovers or a doomed couple or two people who can’t be together because of certain circumstances.
- Don’t use cheap surprises: Your audience won’t appreciate gimmicks or cheap tactics that you’ve employed to keep them interested in your writing.
- Conflict is your best friend: Create conflicts and use them effectively.
- Rewrite, rewrite then rewrite some more: All writing tips online emphasize the significance of editing your work before publishing it. Goldman also believes that good writing involves a lot of rewriting.
So there you have it – writing tips from the best screenwriters of Hollywood. Take inspiration from these geniuses and start writing your great novel, screenplay, blog, e-book or poem today. After all, they all started from scratch, struggled and climbed the ladder to success. So can you!