Tips For Writers

31 December 2005

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more, not in the weblog, but actual fiction writing. Andrew, Josh, and I plan to meet from time-to-time to share and discuss our individual writing projects. I intend to take another writing class this term or next. I’m excited about writing fiction again.

Sparked by a comment in the recent New Yorker Philip Pullman article, I looked up Billy Wilder’s tips for writers. These are actually screenwriting tips, but they’re applicable to other forms of writing as well.

Billy Wilder’s Tips for Writers

  1. The audience is fickle.
  2. Grab ’em by the throat and never let ’em go.
  3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
  4. Know where you’re going.
  5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
  6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
  7. Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
  8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.
  9. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
  10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then — thats it. Don’t hang around.

(Billy Wilder was a wonderful writer/director of the forties, fifties, and sixties. He wrote and directed one of my favorite films, the never-a-dull-moment Some Like it Hot, which the American Film Institute named as the top comedy of all time.)

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