Something’s holding this together.
Earlier this year, I blogged about the advice given by one experienced screenwriter to read one screenplay per week. As I get into writing the second drafts of my various screenplays, that advice becomes more and more valuable.
I was aware of the novelist Stephen King advising anyone who wanted to write to read a lot and write a lot. I was happy to do both, although I felt I was doing it with no particular aim or direction. His advice became clearer when teamed up with the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, advising writers to be good diagnosticians: to try and work out why they liked certain screenplays / films / television and not others.
With websites like Simply Scripts or Screenplays for You offering plentiful, free .pdf files of screenplays both old and new, acquiring screenplays is easy. (On a Kindle, reading them is easier still. There’s no wasteful printing and screenplays are terrifically convenient to read on such devices.) I’ve begun to really direct my reading.
Most recently, I’ve been concentrating on reading Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplays. As screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Kasdan can be looked on as writing screenplays with definitive great openings, as well as keeping a story moving along at a clip. Personally, seeing Empire for the first time as a ten year old was the first time I really felt fear at a film; it’s been fascinating to see how Kasdan and Leigh Brackett constructed that.
This, for me, has been what being a writing diagnostician has been about: I read screenplays of films that work for me; I reread them until I find out how they’ve worked and what structure holds the elements together. If nothing else, they’re an inspiration of what a great screenplay can do as well as what I can aim for.