Write What You Know or What You Like?

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by Christina Easter

I’m taking a screenwriting course, again, and trying to decide whether I should write about what I know or what I like. It seems that writing about what I know will lead to way more words on the pages. On the other hand, writing about what I like seems to be an opportunity to write about thoughts, ideas, and perspectives on a person, thing, issue, or topic that is with me all of the time, even if I don’t necessarily want it to be.

Since I had to start writing something, I started writing an episodic story on something I know quite a bit about, money and kids. I started by writing a logline, synopsis, and character names. As I got into writing the pilot episode, I realized the need to do separate writing to better develop each of my characters. This was a good exercise because it helped me create descriptions and traits for each of the characters that feels authentic and real. I also started thinking more about who would say what to who, when, and why. 

As I wrote, it was easy for me to create supporting characters which has been a lot of fun. I want (and need) some humor so I gave my main character a best friend and I made her a pessimistic  wisecracker. As I thought about the need for tension and conflict, I created parents for my main character. As I thought about what a burning question viewers of the show would have, I introduced the other parent of the kids and gave one of the kids a friend (what kid doesn’t have or want friends, right?).

With more characters, I had to think about moving the characters through different places and spaces. As I think about actually filming the story, I realize I can’t go overboard with locations because of, well, money.  

Although I tried really hard not to start writing another story, I started writing an episodic story about politics. I wouldn’t say these are people or a topic that I like, but I couldn’t resist after someone gave their definition of politician – poly meaning many and tic is a blood sucking insect. After he said that, I started writing. 

As I write, I am learning that it may be easier to write about what you know versus what you like because I had to do research to write about politics. Research is the only way I feel I can make the story resonate with viewers. So, I researched what should be the job of politicians. And I wasn’t expecting it, but research helped me with creating supporting characters for this political story.

After turning a draft of one of the stories into my professor, I really appreciate the feedback provided. For one it shows the value in having someone read, ask questions, and offer things to consider about your story.

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