Brianne Hogan’s Year in Quotes
Brianne looks back over her interviews from 2016, and shares some of her favorite quotes.
From an Oscar-winning screenwriter to established script readers to an upcoming TV writer, over the last year I have had the privilege of speaking to a wide array of industry insiders, all of whom had plenty of sage advice to share, both technical and philosophical.
So here are some of my favorite pieces of advice from 2016, to hopefully inspire you in 2017 and beyond. And to read the full interview that they are taken from, just click on any of the images or links.
Don’t get hung up on structure.
While structure is so important in telling a good story, there is more to it than that. It’s the writer’s duty to build complex and engaging characters as well, especially the protagonist. Adding to that, dialogue also plays a big part in making those characters feel very real.
People who feel that Save the Cat! is all that’s needed to write great scripts are wrong. Even Blake said that. The writer still has to give his audience something that’s familiar. The writer must still “stay in touch” with what the audience wants. If the writer goes too “experimental,” there’s a real danger that you lose touch with your audience.
As writers, you have to make sure that the structure serves your hero. If done right, the structure gets hidden in a wonderful way. It’s not “in your face” but it’s still there. More importantly, you don’t end up with a “paint by numbers” story.
If you don’t have a solid main character, you don’t have a solid story.
A good character—like a good date—should be interesting, complex, fun to be with, a good listener, smart, quick, aware. They should engage and challenge you. The greatest characters have something universal in them—we have to be able to see enough of ourselves to make us care. I believe what makes characters memorable is if they are relatable, fascinating, or mysterious.
A lot of writers are under the misconception that a character must be likable – no. A character must be relatable, and oftentimes that means making a character unlikable. The key is creating a fully fleshed emotional life. I think if you’re really creating a complex character that they may come to reveal deep motivations. Just as in an evolving romantic relationship, you want to get as much personal information as you can about the character.
Don’t under-populate your scripts.
Newer writers tend to be very concept-driven and, as such, don’t focus enough on their characters – exactly how I used to be! Subsequently the voice of their characters tends to shift, and their goals are often unclear.
I really try to emphasize the importance of constructing compelling, three-dimensional central characters with clearly articulated voices, backstories, fatal flaws, and conscious and unconscious desires.
I also encourage my students, during the outlining phase, to come up with supporting and antagonistic characters who will enable and challenge their central characters. I find that newer writers tend to under-populate their scripts.”
Impress with a reversal.
Whether it’s in a comedy that gets a huge laugh or creating a situation that delivers a lot of conflict, or something that just grabs me and surprises me. It doesn’t have to be a premise that is super new or inventive, but just having something that you wouldn’t be expecting.
I think that is the clearest indicator of someone worthy of a pass. Someone who really brought their A game to a project. I think an early reversal, generally in the first 10-15 pages, I think that is the strongest way to get the ball rolling.
Other readers might think strong characterization or a strong premise as the most important, but I think a reversal is the strongest way to go.
An effective logline is essential to selling your script.
It’s such a great skill because it really does help you sell your material, especially to those who only have five seconds to hear your spiel because they have a billion things to do in a single day. So you better have a good five-second pitch, which is your logline.
Learn to embrace rewriting and taking notes.
So many writers receive notes and listen to them, but when they sit down to their computer, they say, “Oh god, but I love that scene. If I take that note then it will just unravel this whole first act.” But maybe it does need to unravel. Maybe the first act needs to disappear and start with the second act.
So I think those things are scary because you think you’re brilliant and limited. You think, “If I throw out this idea, will there be another good idea?” One of the lessons that I’ve learned by being in writer’s rooms is that there is always another idea. By making a radical change, you can unearth a much better story.
You don’t take everyone’s notes because everyone is opinionated and you want to tell the story you want to tell, but I think when a note rings true or when many people give you the same note, then I am all for accommodation.
Write the story that you love (but have a few ideas on the go).
People will always ask what you’re working on, and so it’s a great idea to have two or three in your back pocket that you can share.
Procrastination is very normal.
I hate writing. [Laughs.] I just hate it. It’s painful. The most difficult part for me is just planting my rear end in front of the computer. I really dread it. The procrastination piles up and it gets worse and worse.
I mean, I’m not telling you anything that you haven’t heard before, but it’s really just about diving in.
Screenwriters should be reading as much as they are writing.
As a matter of fact, if you haven’t read a few hundred scripts you probably can’t begin to write a saleable one of your own. I mean, how many people read five or six bestsellers and are then able to write one of their own?
Networking is helpful and imperative for a writer’s career – and doesn’t have to be scary!
I tell everyone who wants to get into the industry to connect with anyone they know in the industry, or reach out to people in the industry and let them know that you’re a writer and starting out, and ask them if you can take them out for a coffee.
I swear that 99 percent of the time, they will say yes…But that’s how the industry works. If you take initiative and show that you’re eager and serious about pursuing this career, then that’s key.
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