There are a number of online screenwriting courses that promise to break down screenwriting for aspiring writers. Most of these courses aren’t taught by working writers, but rather professional teachers who themselves are aspiring screenwriters. Personally I’d rather learn the trade from someone who already has the job that I want.
I’m not a professional teacher. I’m a professional television writer and showrunner with 25 years of experience. I’ve written on King of the Hill, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Beavis & Butthead, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many others. I’ve sold numerous screenplays and pilots, and written on single camera shows, multi-camera shows as well as animated shows. While each may seem very different from the outside, to insiders they’re really not. They’re all just various formats for telling stories.
My job as a showrunner is to write and produce new episodes of TV every week. On the first day of rehearsal, some episodes go smoothly, and others don’t. My screenwriting responsibilities include quickly troubleshooting the script and determining how to fix it. Over the years, I’ve heard about the various methods that online screenwriting courses teach and truthfully, I find them to be more complicated than necessary. They tend to emphasis theory over practical advice.
So if you’re interested in taking a screenwriting course, throw that stuff away and start with the basics. Great screenplays start with a solid story, but few aspiring screenwriters have a firm grasp on this. Ask yourself why people watch stories. If you can’t come up with the correct answer, then you’ll never be able to give your audience what they want.
If you asked 100 students in a screenwriting class why people watch stories, I bet they’d give you a bunch of pseudo-intellectual answers. Answers like:
- To understand the human condition.
- To see ourselves reflected in others.
- To transfer knowledge and wisdom.
- To find meaning in the meaningless.
- To explore pathos and ethos.
While these answers might get you an A on a term paper, they’re not that helpful.
I feel like there’s a much easier answer.
People watch stories because they want to find out what happens next.
That’s it. Pretty simple, right?
If you’re not giving the audience that urge to find out what happens next, then you are failing your job as a screenwriter. So how does one do that? Click here to learn more about script writing online. I’ll teach you the method that I use every day as a professional writer and showrunner to tell engaging stories.