Joss Whedon is the creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its spin-off “Angel”. He also wrote the script for “The Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. Apart from writing he also directs, produces and composes music.
Here are his top ten screenwriting tips:
1. FINISH IT
When you start typing, don’t give up until you type THE END.
It’s important to know what happens at which point in the story, so you can build the structure around the way you want your audience to feel. Use whatever means you need to get that right: charts, graphs, post-it notes, highlighters, but don’t go in a circle; otherwise, you are just wasting time.
3. HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY
Always, always have something to say in your stories. It can evolve into something different than initially predicted at the start of the film, but there needs to be some substance.
4. EVERYBODY HAS A REASON TO LIVE
As a writer, you need to know why everybody and anybody is in the script. What is the reason that they are in the story? Why they are doing what they are doing? Why they are feeling the way they are feeling? If you don’t know your characters intimately and well enough, you are going to be in big trouble.
5. CUT WHAT YOU LOVE, IF YOU NEED TO
Even if there is a scene, a character, a setup in the script that you love, but somehow it doesn’t work, you need to “kill your darlings” to be able to move forwards and free yourself to accept new ideas and inspirations.
Sometimes we get stuck in our writing process and can’t seem to find a way out. If we reach out for help, or our producer hires a script doctor, listen! Often, people who aren’t involved so emotionally in the story, are able to see a way out of our troubles.
7. TRACK THE AUDIENCE MOOD
Your goal is always to connect with and engage your audience. If parts of your story confuse the audience or they have to try to understand what you mean by this or that, you aren’t doing your job right.
8. WRITE LIKE A MOVIE
Describe the setting and make it specific to the scene, if this is what’s essential for the story and the characters. If the setting isn’t that important, you can just use a couple of sentences to let the reader know where they are.
9. DON’T LISTEN
Choose your battles wisely, and sometimes you need to go against the current to make a movie you want to make, but you need to know, which battles to pick and which ones to let go.
10. DON’T SELL OUT
Sometimes this is harder done than said, but try to take the job that you love and feel passionate about. It will make the process and your life so much easier.