Some people have been asking me about my use of screenplays and teleplays in my new Revenge of the Smart Page-Turner class at Boston’s Grub Street. Why am I using so many materials not written in prose for a prose-writing class? There are a few reasons.
* A fresh set of eyes. When you’re a prose writer taking apart stuff written for another medium, it forces you to look at the techniques being used from another, fresh perspective. There’s a bit of intimidation when you’re trying to pinch techniques from writers like Cheever. When you look at how a screenwriter can take the themes Cheever explored and keep them intact in another format, you can glean some awesome new strategies that you can apply to your crafting of fiction.
* Problem solving. Screenwriters and teleplay writers have to be practical. They have a great “tool kit” for telling stories and developing character, usually on really tight deadlines. If you steal from their really versatile set of tools, you can avoid getting stuck in your prose writing, and create scenes that are not stuffy and/or un-dramatic.
* 20/20 collaborative hindsight. Screenwriting and teleplay writing are inherently collaborative. Screenwriters and teleplay writers have to work with directors, actors, set designers, etc. What does this have to do with writing prose? When you look at what directors, actors, set designers, etc. contribute to what screenplay and teleplay writers have written, you can come up with kick-ass ideas for character-and-plot-enriching nuggets to add to your prose.
* A lot are just damned good writers. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, every good writer steals. A lot of screenplay and teleplay writers are, frankly, just really freakin’ good storytellers. If you’re gonna steal, steal from some of the best.
Revenge of the Smart Page-Turner will meet for 10 Wednesday-night sessions from 6:30-9:30, starting on April 6th at Grub Street Headquarters in Boston. To sign up, click here. Last day to enroll is the 6th.