Screenwriting Advice From The Past: The “Interest” [Part 2]

September 2nd, 2012 by

If you are a screenwriter, you should know about Anita Loos. Loos was one of the most influential writers in the early stages of American cinema, associated with 136 film projects per IMDB.

Married to writer John Emerson, the pair wrote one of the first books on screenwriting in 1920: “How to Write Photoplays”. I have been running a weekly series based on the book. You can access those posts here. Today: The “Interest” [P. 68-69]:

To inspire emotion in your audience you must have been inspired with emotion yourself. It is impossible to write a good story in cold blood. People who take up motion picture writing because it is the fashion or because they are told it pays are apt to find a most unappreciative audience. Make yourself feel the things you are writing about. Even the “sure fire stuff” will fizzle out unless the fire itself is real.

Do you remember a series of posts I did back in May and June called How to Generate and Critique Story Ideas? In a post called “Test Your Concept,” this was the final test:

Does the story resonate with me on a personal level?

You may have stumbled upon the greatest high concept of all time, but if you don’t connect with it, if you don’t sense much in the way of enthusiasm for its narrative possibilities, and/or if the story doesn’t play to your writing strengths, it’s probably not a good idea to write that story.

You need to have some sort of personal connection with a story to find its emotional core and imbue its characters with life.

You need to have a passion for a story to keep luring you back to the writing and push you to FADE OUT. Writing is hard work. Writing something for which you do not much enthusiasm is really hard work.

Consider that channeling the spirit of Loos & Emerson.

Next week, more screenwriting advice from 90 years ago.

If you live in the U.S., you can read “How to Write Photoplays” via Google books online here.

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