I enjoyed a workshop that used Billy Wilder’s tips for screenwriting. The facilitator showed how the tips could help in writing fiction. The tips are listed below. A short explanation of how it applies to writing fiction is shown in italics.
Wilder’s screenwriting tips: *
- The audience is fickle. Every reader starts out with giving the author goodwill. The reader is excited to be reading a new story and they want to love it. Goodwill can run out if the author doesn’t deliver.
- Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go. No explanation necessary!
- Develop a clean line of action for your leading character. Goal or motivation.
- Know where you’re going. Don’t ramble or dither. Keep the plot moving.
- The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer. Practice, practice, practice. See #7.
- If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act. Set up your plot so you don’t write yourself into a corner.
- A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever. Respect your reader’s intelligence.
- In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing. Many writers make this mistake and have a character recount what has happened in a previous scene with other characters.
- The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie. Lead the reader to the Black Moment. They know it’s coming and the tension rises.
- The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then—that’s it. Don’t hang around. Once the Black Moment has been resolved, end the book. The reader needs to keep that relief fresh in their minds during the satisfying ending.
* From Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe
These are not new ideas. I liked seeing them in this form. They are short and clearly written. What do you think? Is there a favorite tip of yours among them? Is there one you could improve on?