The Seven Deadly Sins: Screenwriting Edition

Today’s Movie Quote: Unforgiven
March 11, 2014
1930/1931 Academy Award Winner for Outstanding Production: Cimarron
March 17, 2014

The Seven Deadly Sins: Screenwriting Edition

I was having a hard time getting out of bed this morning to write, and I was trying to tell myself not to be lazy. Having been raised catholic, that got me thinking about sloth, which many know is one of the seven deadly sins. That got me to thinking about how sloth is not only a deadly sin in terms of salvation, but also in screenwriting. My mind being what it is, figured that each of the deadly sins must also be associated to the profession of screenwriting.

So here is your theology/screenwriting lesson of the day.

Lust

Lust: This sin must be looked at in a different way in regards to screenwriting. Too many people write screenplays for the wrong reasons. They don’t necessarily have an interesting story to tell. Rather, they’ve heard that they can sell a script for a 6 or even 7-figure deal and their lust for riches is what is motivating and driving them to write. That is always the wrong reason. It’s like trying  to make a movie that everyone will like. Chances are, that motivation will cause you to make choices so that no one will like it. Just make a good movie and the rest will take care of itself. Writing the script is the same. Having a good story that you’re passionate about will give you a much better chance of getting noticed than if you’re just in it for the money.

Gluttony

Gluttony: I’ve read a lot of scripts and I’ve seen a lot of gluttonous scripts. That’s the kind of script that has way too much dialogue. Or it has way too much description. A screenwriting professor once told me that screenwriting is the thong bikini of writing.  That means less is always more. I once read a script that took place in Los Angeles, and it sure seemed like the writer was more interested in showing that he knew all of LA’s famous landmarks and streets than in telling a good story. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Don’t over do it.

GordonGekko

Greed: This could be similar to lust, but I interpret it in a different way for screenwriting. Your story is everything to you. The greed is in regards to your story and your reluctance to share it with anyone. Perhaps joining a writer’s group or using a reading service will help you make it better. Getting feedback from other writers is not a bad thing, but you’re afraid of having to share the glory and the credit when it finally gets made. You don’t want help, you don’t need help. This is your story and everyone else should just back off. Avoiding critique from others is a sure-fire way to wind up with a pretty terrible screenplay.

Sloth

Sloth: Ironically it was sloth that gave me the idea to write this blog. Every writer has to fight it, especially aspiring writers who are writing nothing more than spec scripts. You have a full time job and you write in your spare time, which is constantly shrinking. You’d rather have that extra hour of sleep or go out for a couple of beers with your friends. More than anything, sloth represents a lack of discipline. If you can discipline yourself to the point where certain hours of certain days are dedicated to writing, you can beat sloth. This is the most dangerous of the deadly sins to any writer, for this is the sin that will keep you from writing in the first place.

KhanBloody

Wrath: The early Church viewed wrath as a duality, a sin that could be projected both outwardly and inwardly. When outwardly projected, wrath is described as rage, violence and hate. When directed internally, wrath can lead to the violence of suicide, the final rejection of God’s love. Thus wrath is a deadly sin for screenwriters, especially when directed inwardly, as it will eat away at your confidence and ultimately cause you to give up, perhaps even before your script is complete. Frustration with the quality of your writing, the difficulty of getting people in the industry to read it, and challenges getting it made into a film can lead to feelings of wrath that are counter-productive. Just like in real life, it’s not for any moral reason to avoid wrath and rage. You should avoid wrath because it’s an impediment to progress.

Othello

Envy: Although some look at envy as a motivational tool, it can also be counter-productive to screenwriters in the same way that lust is. It speaks to motivation. Why are you writing? You’re writing because you’re a creative person who has a story to tell. The worst thing in the world is to be jealous of another person’s success. Writers are brothers and sisters in arms. Pitching ideas off of each other and working together to better our craft. Not only should we console each other in our failures, but we should rejoice for every success. We all know that it’s hard, and I mean really hard, to break into this business. When a fellow writer is successful, it is cause for celebration. It also speaks to attitude. You’re going to be a better writer if you have a positive attitude about life, and envy, especially at the success of another, is a negative emotion that will stifle  your creativity.

AmericanHustleBradleyCooper

Pride: Perhaps the most deadly of the deadly sins for writers. Pride will kill your script. The absolute worst thing that a writer can do is fall in love with his own work. Be proud that you finished your first draft. It’s a hell of an accomplishment. Be proud of the work you’ve done. You worked hard. But if you’re overly proud of the material. If you cannot see the flaws in what you’ve done, you can never improve as a writer. That is the danger in pride. You can never be so proud with what you’ve done, that you think you’re done. Writing is an organic process and you can always be better. Don’t let pride stunt your growth as a writer.

Well, I hope I didn’t get too preachy. I think that these are all things we should keep in the backs of our minds as we write and as we make our way through the minefield that is this profession. And if you ever feel the need to confess your sins, the confession room at Monument Script Services is always open.

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