There are thousands of screenwriting courses, that promise to offer you the opportunity to “write a role that will have every A-List actor out there fighting for your script!” Some of these promises go further and claim that that your script will take the great leap – the one that will generate a bidding war, Submit on Thursday, sale on Monday. You know the drill.
I don’t know what to say about those courses. I don’t know if writing can be taught. Appreciation, history… these are things that can be taught. The rest? Well… I’m not too certain. One can learn structure, writing dynamic dialog, creating a character’s complex backstory. These elements can be taught – and taught well, but the rest? I don’t know. I rarely purchase a lottery ticket, therefore, I won’t be standing in front of the camera as I cradle an oversized check. That’s one of the reasons that I don’t encourage you to buy into the aforementioned dream – an A-lister will value your words above those of everyone else’s. Being a filmmaker is hard. Your skin needs to be fused with Kevlar, in order for you to survive.
And so, I won’t teach you how to write. I will, however, ask you to look at Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Look at her. Now, look at her smile.
Mona Lisa is a richly layered work of art. By layered, I do not mean with paint, chalk, or other tangible tools, but the layers of the subject – Mona Lisa. What and/or whom is Mona Lisa? Where did her smile begin and where does it end – and, from what? Joy? Passion? Penance? Pain?
In short, what is the truth within her smile? What’s the story? Is her smile one of revelation… or is it a smile of sorrow? Is she Our Lady of the Smile of Perpetuity?
Why is she smiling? What happened to her, for this expression of elegance
and possibly deceit to grow?
This question may seem trite, and yet, I assure you, that it is anything but. Look at her. Her glossy hair, her patrician features, her elegant fabrics, and her enigmatic smile. Look at her in wonder: What is the source of Mona Lisa’s smile?
Now, ask yourself the same question…. but of your own script : When does your character have his/her own Mona Lisa smile?
Do that, and you will have a character that could not be declined. Get out there. Get out of your house, your coffee shop, your caffeine-laden sanctuary. Get out of your head, and into the world… and permit yourself the glorious action of finding out what caused Ms. Lisa to smile.
Then, go write.
HRH, Princess Scribe