The Writer's Cookbook

Writing, productivity, publishing.

Category: Scriptwriting

Get out of your rut and find what you need to write great fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and scripts with these essential writing ingredients! Download your free ebook today.

Introducing the Essential Writing Ingredients ebook!

Last week, I had an idea.

Since then, it’s been pretty much all I’ve been able to think about.

And finally, finally here it is!

Introducing the Essential Writing Ingredients ebook!

Whether you write fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or scripts, the essential writing ingredients are the same.

No, seriously.

I write fiction, poetry, scripts, blog posts, product copy, email materials, social media posts, and more, and these rules always apply.

Get your free copy now

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Happy writing!

6 Shows You Need to Watch To Improve Your Screenwriting

If we learn writing through reading, we learn¬†screenwriting through watching. Whilst I think the importance of a good film shouldn’t be overlooked, TV is becoming big-budget business too. There will always be low-budget shows that are cheap to make and can be made by the bucket load to fill gaps, but there are also some really great shows out there that can teach us about plot, characters, and more. Here are some of my favourites.

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Why Do We Still Say ‘Strong Female’?

why do we still say strong female

When asked in an interview why he writes strong female characters, fan favourite and feminist Joss Whedon replied, ‘because you’re still asking me that question.’ And that raises the question of why¬†are people still asking that question?

The term ‘strong female character’ is a difficult one to define. ¬†Characters such as Nancy from¬†Weeds, Nurse Jackie from¬†Nurse Jackie, the sisters from¬†Charmed and Xena from Xena: Warrior Princess have all been called strong females, but they’re all very different types of characters. The term, in a broad sense, means an independent female who doesn’t need a man by her side to do things, and doesn’t let the kitchen, chores or baby-making rule her life (we’ll temporarily forget Phoebe’s obsession in the later seasons of¬†Charmed).

Former¬†Heart of Glass literature editor, Emma Pearson, describes a strong female character as someone with a ‘LET’S FUCK THIS SHIT UP!’ attitude, and someone that ‘never makes mistakes.’ Weak ones, meanwhile, ‘are passive and wait around for the hero to do things.’

It seems that when it comes to female characters, it’s rare to find a character that has a vagina and a normal personality. She’s neither FUCKING SHIT UP or crying into her pillow because she can’t orgasm at the same time as the hero. One example is Skyler from¬†Breaking Bad. She balances out her husband. She isn’t his slave, nor is she his boss. Few other characters like her exist. She’s neither strong, nor weak: just like your average person.

Why Do We Still Say 'Strong Female'?

Nancy Botwin from Weeds.

However, would an interviewer or critic class her as ‘strong’? Probably. She doesn’t sit idly by and let Walt get by with whatever he wants. She calls him up when he’s a dick. She leaves him when she finds out what he’s done. She cheats on him. She forgives him. You get the idea. She’s conflicted, like everyone: it’s not all black and white.

There are few other characters you can say that about. Netflix even has categories for strong female leads in TV shows and films (both of which appear on mine, if you were wondering). The list is questionable, containing everything from¬†Orange is the New Black, to¬†Gavin and Stacey to¬†Secret Diary of a Call Girl. ¬†All very different shows. Are all (or any) of the female characters strong? Are any of them¬†believable as human beings? (The characters in¬†Orange is the New Black¬†and¬†Secret Diary are based on real people that were featured in autobiographies, so they run the risk of being hyperboles of hyperboles, and have most likely been watered down for the purposes of streamlining a script. I can’t comment as I don’t know the people the characters are based on, and haven’t read the books.)

Well, according to Hollywood, female characters aren’t human. They’re either flat, eye candy, or kick-ass. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true. Hopefully the time will come when all female characters are as well-rounded as the males, but until then, we’ll just have to go crawl back into our little boxes.

Note: The original version of this article was first published on the now-defunct Heart of Glass magazine.

What do you think?¬†Why do we still say ‘Strong Female’? Is it a term that’s being used less and less, or is it still ever present when referring to female characters?

The Curse of Too Much Dialogue

Dialogue is great. It’s one of my favourite things to write because I feel like I can really see and hear the character when I put those words on to a page. However, studying Creative Writing has taught me that too much dialogue can be the equivalent of binge-eating your favourite food: it can take your love away.

If you write screenplays, the temptation can be to write dialogue and only dialogue, and leave the description up to the director. However, this gives you less control and creative freedom. It also makes it harder for the reader — and potential bringer to life — of your script to envision what it will look like on screen. ¬†We may¬†hear scripts, but we predominantly¬†see¬†them, and what someone does as they speak can completely change the meaning of what they say.

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How to Write a Stage Play

Watching a play can provoke many emotions: happiness, sadness, even anger. You get far more creative license writing a play than you would a screenplay (compare¬†Posh to¬†The Riot Club, and you’ll see what I mean).

However, writing a play comes with its own challenges. You’re limited to setting, and staging some things (such as magic tricks) can be difficult. But they’re not impossible. A lot can be done with modern technology and a good imagination, so keep an open mind when writing but remember to be practical.

Much of the staging will be up to the director and set designer, but if there are certain things that are required (such as a door that opens and closes, or a table), make sure it’s included in the descriptions.

How to write a play

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The 8 Ingredients You Need to Write a Stunning Screenplay

Despite the amount of drivel produced for film and TV these days, writing a screenplay is not easy. ¬†Surprisingly, it takes a lot of work to produce the same thing over and over. ¬†However, it doesn’t take anywhere near as much effort as it does to produce the truly amazing screenplays that will keep a potential agent/director/producer reading, and want to bring your work to life.

This latest edition of the ingredients list is all about how to write a screenplay that will grip the audience over and over.

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