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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ARTICLE BY Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff has written more than 100 episodes of television, the mini-series “Midnight Man,” starring Rob Lowe, the feature film “The Real Howard Spitz,” starring Kelsey Grammer, and as been a script doctor on projects starring Eddie Murphy, Michale Caine, Kim Catrall and others. His books include “Your Writing Coach” (Nicholas Brealey Publishing) and “Creativity Now!” (Pearson Publishing). For more tips from Jurgen Wolff, grab this screenwriting resource.