Do you know why you’re writing screenplays? It is a bit of a mystery why any of us write. And yet it’s no mystery at all.
“I write because I must” is the easy answer — the cop-out. When someone asks me why I write, the answer that immediately pops onto my tongue is a simple, “Because I love it!” But that, of course, begs the question why do I love it?
If I dig a little deeper, I realize I don’t write just because I love it; I also write when I hate it. It’s a compulsion that goes deeper than simple pleasure. Even more interesting, it’s a compulsion that isn’t unique to me. It’s a compulsion the majority of writers share.
So why is it you’re writing screenplays? Why do you have this deep need to put pen to paper and weave stories from your own experiences and imagination? Consider four indisputable reasons why you really write.
1. You Love Stories
Most writers are also avid movie watchers and book readers. You love stories. You love the wide-open horizons of a good tale—the endless possibilities, the vicarious adventures and relationships. It’s only natural you would want to extend that love into a hands-on experience.
2. Stories Help You Figure Stuff Out
When it comes right down to it, stories are about figuring things out. William Styron asked, “Isn’t all art a search for an answer to a question which can’t even be spoken?” Stories are questions. They’re explorations of life and humanity. In her book Characters, Emotions & Viewpoints, Nancy Kress pointed out:
“[Stories] all create self-contained, imaginary worlds that make us feel the real world more vividly. After seeing Hamlet, hearing about George Washington and the cherry tree, or reading Anna Karenina, our world has been enlarged. We have not only felt things along with the characters (Hamlet’s rage, Washington’s integrity, Anna’s despair), we have received an additional lens through which to evaluate the world around us. This is true even when the stories are, say, a third-rate television sitcom. It’s still a metaphor for real life, and the reason we may reject it as ‘bad’ is because we subconsciously decide the metaphor doesn’t fit life….”
3. Writing Connects the World to You
I find it interesting so many writers, myself included, tend to be introverts. Here we are creating hundreds of in-depth human beings for our stories, and yet we struggle to understand and communicate with other people in real life.
Or is it perhaps the other way around? That we tend to take a step back from the frenetic bustle of life and ask the questions (write the stories) about people and relationships, which then allow our characters to resonate? Is it because we are seeking more than the obvious that we are able to better illuminate the common emotions we all share? In her writing-life memoir Bird by Bird, Anne Lamont says:
“…so many of us can be soothed by writing: think of how many times you have opened a book, read one line, and said, ‘Yes!’ And I want to give people that feeling, too, of connection, communion.”
4. Writing Connects You to the World
If I’m being honest, I have to admit the answer to my original question is, really, “I write for myself.” I write because I want to find the answers, because I want to understand and be understood. But it is also a prayer of my heart that somehow my ramblings might find a place in the bigger picture, that they might resonate with even just one person and form that invisible, ineffable line of connection between my soul and the soul of another.
My heart hurts for people who disparage art, including screenwriting, as a waste of time. They are missing so much. Life is a story; stories are life. Lamont again:
“[Our writing matters] because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or our life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
That is why I’m writing fiction.
K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.