The Spy Inside by Mark Paskell

“Writers are shameless spies.”   — Tennessee Williams

 I’m a little amazed when I hear writers moaning about lack of ideas or material, or that they can’t be as original as they want to be, mainly because I feel that the opportunities are endless!  For me, it all starts with passion.  What do I care about, and how can I share that in the work I am currently doing? 

Right now I am writing an action script for a director/producer.   Even though he’s indicated certain guideposts he wants to see in the final product, I feel a great freedom to work in all sorts of personal things in all sorts of places.  Character traits and idiosyncrasies, the way a character talks, even an unusual or unique location – I use all these as opportunities to work in my points of view or feelings and/or opinions I have about things. 

Example:  I never forgot this from years ago in a writing class.  My teacher was discussing his latest play.  The theme was about vanishing values and the disappearing lifestyle in America… so he set it in a traditional old-fashioned barbershop.  I thought that was brilliant!  A great choice where the setting can subtly reflect the theme.

Regarding the Williams quote above, I must confess that there is always part of me – an “extra ear and eye” – that is listening for unusual dialogue or noticing life situations that seem memorable for some reason.  From the quietly ironic to the laugh-out-loud hilarious, I have adapted into scripts many things that have happened to me or my family, or that I have heard standing in line or sitting in an airplane.  It’s actually quite invigorating once you give it a whirl.

 So give your “spy” a try; believe me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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