The late great ❤️ Wes Craven was one of the best horror writers and directors. Due to his very strict Christian upbringing the horror genre was his artistic go-to genre. Read more about his backstory here.
Although teenagers got brutalized in his movies, at heart they were about teenagers and their struggle being teens. Reading about him then watching his movies you get where he is coming from and what drove him. His movies are riddled with messages if you read between the lines.
"Horror films don't create fear, they release it." - Wes Craven
Script Personality - Part I: Why is it important?
“To write means more than putting pretty words on a page. The act of writing is to share a part of your soul with the world.” – Unknown writer
I worked with many aspiring screenplay writers as a script consultant and have seen many great ideas and stories. But journey wise the ones which grabbed me the most were autobiographical screenplays. Why? Because the writers shared not only their backstories with the world but also their most intimate and vulnerable moments.
I’m not saying go and write your autobiography as a screenplay, but it is a good idea to know where you are coming from and what kind of genres, stories and characters that you're trying to convey; touch your heart.
A movie character always goes on a personal journey and has to face certain internal issues. People watch movies because they can identify with a character’s journey. They themselves have issues to overcome, so watching a movie where a character does just that and has a happy ending is a rewarding experience.
Just like other art forms, screenplay writing is an outlet and you may have issues you don’t only want to overcome, but you want to write about it and share them. So as you write about the journey and stories of your characters, you are able to go and reflect on your personal journey.
If you haven’t figured out your journey yet, it’s advisable that you do, as it will give your screenplays so much more depth.
Why is it important to find your writing personality?
It will help you figure out what kind of stories and themes you want to write about. It will make it easier to create characters you can identify with and build their inner journey. It will help you find the genre you are passionate about as the writing style in each genre is different. It is a good idea to figure out what genre you are passionate about and become conversant in that specific genre.
There is a saying, “write what you know about”, I agree. If you know what you are writing about you will feel passionate about it. It will make the writing process easier and richer, it will feel more genuine.
Your screenplay will have depth and originality, therefore it will stand out from the crowd.
You will spend a long time working on your feature film script so it makes sense to write something you feel passionate about and can identify with, as well as others.
It can inspire readers, producers, directors, actors, etc.
You can use your past experience to get them out of your system and use writing about them as a healing tool and share your experiences with others. It can be cathartic.
Script Personality - Part II: How to find it?
A very good way to start this process is to think about what kind of movies you like. Even if you like a lot of movies, I’m pretty sure there are movies you like to watch over and over again. Or maybe there are a handful of movies you liked better than the rest of them. Something about those movies inspired you which is crucial in finding your scriptwriting personality.
So how can you find your screenplay personality?
Think about your favorite movies; what exactly did you like about them? The story, the character’s journey, the theme (message of the movie) or was it the visuals? Think about anything which springs to mind.
To what genre(s) does your favorite movie or your favorite movies belong to? I have favorite movies in all kinds of genres, but for me horror is my favourite. I feel at home within horror. I think everyone has a genre which matches his or her personality.
Think about your past and where you are coming from. Just like you have to know the main characters from your screenplay, you have to know yourself inside and out to create powerful stories. One of my assignments in my scriptwriting course was to write and discuss my backstory in class. This was an intimate thing to do and I remember more than one person tried to be absent on that particular day of discussing their backstory. Who likes to be put on the spot? But at the end we all had a better understanding of what we would like to write about and why. In the next step I will give you a couple of examples why it is important to do this.
But just as thinking about movies you like and why you like them, it makes sense to think about movies you dislike and why you disliked them. I really dislike movies with explicit rape scenes. Mostly it's the woman who get raped. Being that I am a woman, a scene like this is particularly hard to watch, so I would never even write a scene like this. But I feel strongly about the subject, so it might be worth to write about rape, but in a way it doesn’t feel brutalized.
Finally there might be stories or experiences from other people you know which inspire you to put on paper.
As a lot of movies are based on books these days, it makes sense to also think about why you love certain books. But it doesn’t stop there, you can find inspiration everywhere, be it magazine articles, paintings, while travelling, etc.
Script Personality - Part III: Examples
As mentioned before I do like movies from all sorts of genres but when I write my favorite genre is horror. Why?
I grew up with parents who both had insecure pasts, so they raised me to have a safe life, with a safe job and so on so I never took many risks. For example, I always wanted to be an artist and do something with movies. My parents always said that being an artist is risky. So I grew up with this great fear of life, not risking anything. But because I am a rebel at heart and have a strong personality I fought against this fear.
So what is horror about? Horror is about facing your fear, your most inner and outer demons, that is why I’m drawn to horror. Horror is also about loss. I lost quite a few people in my life like friends, family members, etc., for me losses are hard to take. Horror can be about loss too.
A friend of mine got burned by people so many times, had relationship losses, work burn-out that she just lost herself in movies where people are on their own, they fight their inner demons and go on a healing trip. She loves “finding yourself movies” like "Wild" and "Tracks".
These are just a couple of examples to give you some ideas on how you can reflect on your own past experiences or even your current life situation. This maybe why you are drawn more to some movies than others.
I hope you feel inspired. Good luck finding your writing personality.
Script personality - Part IV: Exercise, Tip and Selected Links
Watch your favorite movies and think about what you liked about the movie. It can be anything from the story, character journey, the theme, visuals, settings, etc.
If you watch movies in the future, try to figure out why you like and dislike them and collect these thoughts. These will help you on your journey to find your script personality.
Movie Therapy is something which can help people to overcome their issues or understand themselves on a deeper level. I believe it could be a useful tool, help you to figure out what to write about and what what matters to you!