Screenwriting: write what you don’t know

An interesting twist on the old “write what you know” adage comes from aspiring screenwriter Mark McCann, who also is a policeman. One of his shorts was produced and has won some prizes and one of his feature scripts has just been optioned–for the fifth time.

He told Arkansas Online: “I try to avoid writing movies about cops.  That may seem illogical, but let’s face it… being a cop is not all roses and sunshine. Nobody calls 911 because they’re having a good day.

“Being a cop means you are there for the worst time of people’s lives; they’re bleeding, crying, or both.  Rarely are there happy endings.  So when I write, I create my own world with happy endings.”

In that sense, writing about what you don’t know may be a great strategy. Stuck in an office? It’ll probably make you happy to write a story set on an idyllic island. (If you’re stuck on an idyllic island, will you want to write about an office?)

Writing about realities we wish were so is a powerful motivator. If you’ve felt constrained by the ‘write what you know’ idea, give it a try.

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For more tips on screenwriting, visit Filmmaking Stuff every Tuesday for a new post from Jurgen Wolff and also check out his site, You may also find his “Your Writing Coach” book useful.


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