In one of my previous posts “SHOW ME, DON’T TELL ME. PLEASE!!”, I promised that I would explore the mythical assumptions about you not ever being a good writer if you don’t go into reading. It’s finally here. In as much as I’d love to concur with such discouraging and far-fetched rule (because it makes the likes of us appear well-read), I’d say it’s a BIG FAT LIE!!!
Let’s not jump to conclusions already; clarifying this assumption by observing this. What is meant when people say you have to read to be a good writer?
You have to start reading novels/ other literary works to be a good writer
You might wonder “Why on earth should I read someone’s idea when I have mine?” I totally agree with you. There is even a major disadvantage of reading people’s works as a writer; their ideas get jumbled in yours, and then you may end up not having confidence in yours anymore. This is because you believe that you got the idea elsewhere. And with how foul-mouthed some people are, you definitely aren’t escaping that criticism.
The truth is, if you’re meant to be a writer, ideas would come naturally, and when your own ideas keep coming, you’d write so much, and in your own voice, that you wouldn’t have the time to check how green it is on another person’s grass.
If you can, at least, attempt Intermediary English, that’s fair enough, make do with that for expressions, and where you’re lost for words, just use a Dictionary or Thesaurus to beef up those bleak expression of yours! (Of which, that’s not so compulsory these days. Simple expressions trend nowadays in screenwriting- your audience need to understand all you write/say).
But what if, unfortunately, you have no ideas of your own, or along the line, you need help? You have to, by all means, get story and language ideas from novels and other literary works, it’s the least you can do.
You have to read articles in your field to be a good writer
There’s nothing as spot-on as constantly reminding yourself of the do’s and don’t’s in your field.
- What is the right format/style/structure?
- How do I use language?
It may be a little free-handed over at other writing sectors, but there are strict rules to writing movie scripts. Some recommend you read available produced scripts, but most of the ones I’ve seen have broken all the rules in the book! Some of them resemble shooting scripts (production scripts), which are not good for teaching screenwriting.
So, how did they get made into movies if they aren’t following the set rules? You’d find somewhere that recognized pros CAN break the rules. So many distractions! But one thing is for sure; pros advice newbies to play by the rules if you ever are gonna get a breakthrough writing movies. So keep reading articles in your field, and never forget how to drive.
You have to read articles in other fields to be a good writer
Yeah, you have an article in math talking about simultaneous equation, or some other math logic. Tell me how that can affect your movie writing!
Unfortunately, it does. What if your main character is a math guru? You have to solve those sums on his behalf. Or if he’s a pilot, you have to fly that plane on his behalf. If he’s a soldier, you have to fight that war on his behalf, and the only way you can genuinely appeal to your audience is if you can brilliantly execute the phenomena in those fields. Guess what? You have to read a lot of articles in those fields to be able to do that.
In the end, turns out you have to read (a lot). Good news is, but not in the annoying way you thought was compulsory (i.e. reading countless novels to get what’s what).
Isedehi Aigbogun, also known as ISD, is a staunch academic, holding a B.A., M.A., and PhD (in view) in English Language.
She’s a Screenwriter, Screenplay Analyst, Consultant, and Film Scriptic.