Screenwriting is, at its heart, storytelling.
And storytelling is about creating an emotional connection with an audience.
But how do you connect with your audience unless you, as the writer, are willing to let us in?
For your work to connect, what it needs is for you to do that most difficult of things, to be vulnerable. No matter the shame. No matter the fear of embarrassment or ridicule or rejection.
Telling our stories on screen allows us to reach huge audiences, making writing for film and television just about the most commercial form of creative writing there is. While that can bring with it the advantages of (sometimes huge) financial rewards, sometimes it leads us down the path of searching for the most commercial idea, for what we think the market wants and will buy. And in doing so, we can lose sight of what this story means to us.
We look outside for the answers to our story problems, when we should be looking in.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting at Content London’s WritersRoom event with showrunner Simon Mirren (Criminal Minds, Versailles) about how he became a screenwriter. What struck me most was how deeply personal Simon’s breakthrough script was and how strong his emotional connection to that material was, even twenty years on.
We often talk about finding a personal connection to your stories but how do you do that and why does it matter?
Storytelling is about connecting. And truly connecting with other people is about sharing those truths about us which make us vulnerable. And that dependence upon vulnerability for connecting to others is as true for our writing as it is for our own lives.
This is a plea for writers to enter into their work whole-heartedly and authentically. To allow yourself to be truly exposed, no matter how painful or embarrassing.
To share our truth we need to be willing to let go of you we think we should be and instead to share who we really are.
To strip away the mask, the front. To expose our flaws. To be emotionally and psychologically naked.
We need to give life in our work to those unspoken wants and desires, to those deepest fears and anxieties that keep us awake at night.
Being open and honest isn’t weakness, it requires great strength to share our inner thoughts and feelings.
The need for vulnerability is talked about a lot in acting and performance, but you, the writer, have to be willing to go there first.
Because it is only through sharing our vulnerability that our writing will truly connect with other people.