Write what fascinates you

This seems simple, right? Of course we should write about what fascinates us, what we obsess over. But so many people approach writing, and especially screenwriting, as if it can be gamed, figured out, strategized.

And if you’re someone who can do that, congratulations. Rock on. Although I wish you wouldn’t waste that kind of strategic brainpower on show business. There’re problems to be solved, out there in the real world. Go figure out how to arbitrage our energy resources in a way that motivates buyers and seller to create a more equitable market or something. I don’t know. Because I don’t think that way. But obviously you do.

As for the rest of us. We need to calculate less. And to look inside to find our subject matter. Or outside at the world we see, but through a prism of enthusiasm. Meaning: we must find subjects that are personally animating. Inspiring and engaging to us.

Once we do, we have a shot at making them inspiring and engaging for others as well.

Because when the story is important to you. When it fascinates you. That passion is tangible. The reader senses it. And, without even knowing why, gives you the benefit of the doubt. You still have to tell the story well, of course, and that still takes an enormous amount of effort and concentration. But: The huge collateral benefit of telling stories that genuinely fascinate you is this: forcing yourself to sit down and actually do the work is much, much easier than when you are merely writing something because you think it is marketable, can sell, is in a genre that’s currently in demand.

So. Calculate less. Write your obsessions. And have a better chance of A) really getting something written and B) making your screenplay into something that excites and engages the reader.

Published by

Brian Koppelman

I'm co-creator/Executive producer of Showtime's Billions. Some of the films I've either written/produced/directed are Solitary Man, Rounders, Ocean's Thirteen, Knockaround Guys, Runaway Jury, The Girlfriend Experience & the 30/30 Documentary on Jimmy Connors. I'm also the host of the podcast The Moment. iTunes.com/TheMoment

2 thoughts on “Write what fascinates you”

  1. Brian, you seem to nudge me in the right direction whenever you share. Do you happen to post your prose, poems or stories?
    Thank you.

  2. Okay, Brian, I seem to be commenting on every single Post. My apologies, but you’re really hitting the nail on the head. 🙂

    If you’re familiar with my fiction writing, you know it’s pretty damn dark. I mean, it IS Literary Horror, after all, but that’s what fascinates me — the darkness in all of us struggling to find the light wrapped in the tortured life of a man trapped in immortality — and, honestly, that first book just few outta me. My fingers couldn’t keep up with my thoughts!

    But I never brought that darkness to my screenplays. Those were journeys that were based in the here and now, had moments of doubt where the clouds turned dark, but the sun always peeked through. And I loved writing those, but there was that awareness that audiences, film audiences in particular, needed that sun to peek through. No doubt that affected what I wrote on some subconscious level.

    It’s only recently, though, with my shift into writing teleplays, that I’ve let that darkness come back in. And, because of shows like American Horror Story, it’s suddenly okay! In fact, there seem to be very few rules right now when it comes to how dark you can go. And for the first time in a very, very long time, I’m really enjoying writing for film/TV. The same joy I feel in writing fiction, I’m feeling in writing dialogue and scenes and action. The joy of letting the story go without apology or an awareness that it will never, ever find a home now drives me to outline future episodes and sketch out that First Season Arc and even dip into that Second Season.

    Writing what fascinates me has breathed new life into what I do. And I’ve no doubt that it shows in the quality of my work.

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