What advice do I have for high school and college students who want to get into screenwriting? Well, at some point, maybe not now, but at some point, you have to study screenwriting. You have to take a course. I got a course. You can check it out in the links in the bio. You can find somebody else’s course. Just make sure they know what the hell they’re talking about.

I think there are a lot of people, young people, even old people, who think that just because they grew up watching television all the time or watching every single movie, they should be able to write a movie or a TV show. It doesn’t work like that. That’s like saying just because you grew up outside of an airport and you saw planes taking up and you watched them take off and land all the time, you know how to fly a plane. It doesn’t work like that. We’re not getting on that plane. You have to study; it’s a craft.

The next best thing you can do is take a course in English literature. And you’re like, “Oh, all that boring stuff?” Yeah, start paying attention to those books that you have to read, because you can learn a lot from the story structure there. Your teacher is probably telling you to take a high-level view, like “Let’s analyze themes and motifs and words like that.” And that’s all great; that’s helpful. But as a screenwriter, you want to approach it more from the bottom floor. You want to look at the main character. Who’s the main character? What does the character want? Why do we root for this main character? Why do we care if the character gets what he or she wants? And how does the author unpack all that? How do they unfold the story, so that we constantly want to know what happens next?

And you can get all that from reading great classic works of literature. You have to remember: These books were not meant to be taught 100 years later, in high school and college. They were meant to be enjoyed. They were meant to be entertainment, and so there’s really no difference between the story in a novel and the story for TV or a movie. It’s just how it unfolds. In a novel, it can take longer, because there’s just more time. A novel is basically a story on pages, on blank pieces of paper.

A TV show is a story that has to happen faster. Same thing with a movie. It has to happen faster, and it goes up on screen. But at the end of the day, story structure is story structure, and that’s what you need to learn.

For more on how to do that, you can follow me here and on Instagram. I have exclusive content on Instagram @michaeljaminwriter. Look me up. Follow me.

Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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