London Screenwriters' Festival

Talent, Learning and Craft

Posted on: July 24th, 2010 by Lucy V Hay 1 Comment

BBCLast night, the BBC’s Front Row programme on Radio 4 broadcast a 30-minute special on creative writing courses.

Featuring authors, screenwriters, lecturers and gurus from all sides of the writing spectrum, it’s a fascinating insight into the divided opinions on whether or not you can “learn” to write.

We can all do with developing our practice – learning new tips and tricks for creating the most powerful stories, the most vivid characters and the most “real” dialogue – but does a writer need an innate talent to be able to write at all? Or it is honestly possible to learn everything you need to know to become a successful writer from courses alone?

Here at the London Screenwriters’ Festival, we believe that natural talent is always going to play a part in ensuring success, but just because a writer has talent doesn’t mean they’re capable of writing the great script.

There are numerous tricks and techniques peculiar to screenwriting that enhance what you write and help producers, development execs and script readers acknowledge that you’re a professional – or at least professionally-minded – writer.  In the same way, there are many stand-out mistakes made by new writers that can highlight inexperience and lack of understanding of the medium.

Debate about the merit of screenwriting “rules” of the kind put forward by the likes of Syd Field and Robert McKee will always rage on.  Anywhere rules are laid down in life there will be those who wish to rail against them, just as there are those who will follow them with an almost religious zeal.

Both of these types of people will fall short in screenwriting.  As writers we all need to know the rules in order to break them and come up with something that has a voice uniquely our own.  That’s not to say we can disregard the rules, but rather make a conscious decision about what works best for the piece we’re writing at the time.

As Suzanna Moore so eloquently puts it in the programme, “You can’t get to the jazz until you’ve mastered the instrument”.

Click here to listen back to the whole of the Front Row programme on the BBC website.

One Response

  1. jazad says:

    Writing courses are “a victimless crime.” I like that.

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