Screenwriting : Can you write about things that aren't your passion? by Jody Ellis

Jody Ellis

Can you write about things that aren't your passion?

the other thread sparked this thought in my mind and I wondered what others experience/opinion might be. My own experience, I've never had a problem writing about things I might not find personally interesting. Maybe that stems from my background as a freelance writer, where I wrote about anything and everything, from ad agency work to magazine articles to technical writing. I feel I always learn something new when I undertake a project and it only enhances my writing skills to find something interesting in a story that might otherwise be dull. Insofar as screenwriting goes, a friend/mentor suggested I write a story about a particular true crime. I'm not really excited by true crime, but took his advice and wrote it, worked very hard on it. Now I have a producer potentially interested, which could lead to other doors opening. I think if one is passionate about the craft of writing in and of itself, and is intent on learning and furthering their knowledge, one can write about nearly any topic. Thoughts?

Jody Ellis

@Jim I am all about comedies and indie-type dramas. But I feel like I did a decent job on the true crime story. At the end of the day, it's about honing and learning, right?

Zlatan Mustafica

Of course! The whole " write what you know" thing is an excellent starting point for new writers during the learning process. And sure, for some exceptional writers that model has probably worked very well. What I have learned over the years and through other writers´ stories, most of the time, a professional screenwriter that "makes it" rarely writes what he/she knows. I totally agree that it is love and passion for the craft of writing and telling stories that makes you a writer. In order to get recognized you have to be excellent and that comes through learning and working at it. Like anything else. There are so many dimensions to this profession I probably need more space here :) But personally, human beings carry that curiosity in their genome. If you hunger for knowledge and want to evolve as a person and on top of that you love writing, then no topic or theme or subject you are given to write would be an "alien" one. I love sci-fi, for example. And I can´t tell you how many hours I have spent reading, studying and researching before sitting down to write a story (in form of a screenplay) in the genre I love. So yes, you can definitely write about things that aren´t your passion and you can do it exceptionally well too.... Just my thoughts on that :) Excellent question, Jody!

William Martell

I don't write about things, I write about people with problems.

Jody Ellis

Right William. But that doesn't really answer the question I posed.

Andrea Ruschin

I'd definitely agree, Jody, but I suspect this comes from my academic background more than anything. When you learn to churn out work about things you don't necessarily care about because it's a requirement, you learn very quickly that you don't have to be personally attached to the project to write something or even write something well. Does this mean that personal projects aren't important? No, and in some cases they can be extremely rewarding. Having a personal connection to what you write can add an element that a screenplay may otherwise lack, or be better motivation. But it's definitely not required, and who knows, you may end up caring more about the project once you've started it than you originally bargained for.

Jody Ellis

@Andrea yes I agree. The true crime screenplay I wrote wasn't even on my radar in regards to interest. But by the time I finished it, all that blood, sweat and tears, it sure as hell meant something to me

Wal Friman

I did this passion thing once, as a test on a forum. I announced that I will write a script for one location, five characters, a theme I dislike and gave myself 3 months. When ready with the first draft I sent it to a covering service and showed the result on the forum. Guess what the script's weakness was? Voice was weak. Lack of passion, in other words.

Bill Costantini

Drama, conflict, fully-developed characters, twists, rich dialogue, a satisfying storyline.....how could a writer not be passionate about fulfilling any of that, regardless of the subject matter?

Jody Ellis

And that's exactly what I'm saying Bill. If a person loves the craft, the act of writing and creating, subject matter isn't necessarily important.

Cherie Grant

Not sure if I could tbh.

Beth Fox Heisinger

While that certainly may be true, actually enjoying the subject, having genuine interest or finding some way to connect to it personally speaks volumes. :)

Jody Ellis

I think it's possible to find a way to connect even if it means connecting in a different way (i.e.; connecting in the sense of just enjoying the process of creating.) I've written about a lot of things I didn't find personally interesting. But I am personally interested in making sure anything I'm assigned to write is given the same level of care, expertise and even passion that I would give my own pet projects.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Sure, makes perfect sense. But it certainly adds "voice" or "soul" to a work if you find some way to get into the story or the material or the subject matter or a character — whatever that means for you. :) For me, I have to find some personal connection on some level, which isn't too difficult. Just something I can relate to—universally perhaps?

Dan MaxXx

jody- my experiences, I don't write for 'passion', i write emotions. i just look for least 1 theme, 1 character, or even 1 scene that sorta reveals my belief.. if u can find 1 nugget of any story that u believe or want to prove, u will be fine. the plot takes care of its own.

Beth Fox Heisinger

That's a great point, Dan M. ...Kind of what I'm trying to say: connection=emotion. You gotta find something, as you said that "one nugget of any story you believe or want to prove." I don't really think in terms of "passion" either when it comes to tackling various subjects or stories. Perhaps "interest" or "intrigue" fits better for me? Well, whatever "it" is, I gotta find something to inspire me. Help me bring life to the thing. Lol!

Dan MaxXx

beth i 'stole' that "1 thing" line from City Slickers. but I believe it :)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Hey, you totally did! Well, not exactly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k1uOqRb0HU. Heh heh.

Jorge J Prieto

I've written three screenplays that were not passion projects per say, yet I put all my effort, love and creativity on them and loved the characters, the story the way it came alive little by little and I said to myself, ' there's no passion project, is the love of writing and creating which sparks my passion in every single project. Hope this makes sense to anyone? Jody??

Christopher Binder

You can write about other things that aren't your passion if you do the research.

Aray Brown

I don't know if i could either, but I'll try anything once

Jody Ellis

@jorge that's pretty much what I'm saying. As a writer for hire, there are many times I get assigned work that is less than exciting to me. But I look at it as a challenge, "what can I do to make people want to read this" and use my love of writing and creating as a way to ignite the passion. Like I've said before, most working screenwriters ARE writers for hire. They are doing re-writes, adaptations, fixing other people's mistakes, etc. We know the stats on a spec script selling, so if a person wants to "make it" per se (as in making a living at this) you do have to somewhat disengage from the notion of only writing about what inspires you or feeling you can't write well about things you don't care about. I'm thankful I had many years as a freelance writer under my belt prior to delving into screenwriting. It's made me very pragmatic about the industry.

Dan MaxXx

jody- passion is the PAY CHECK! $$$$. Think about the happy faces in your family. It's a blessing to be paid to write what u love/want to do/try to do. creative/entertainment writing is BS. fantasy. the next time u see your kids & family smile because your writing paid for a meal, rent, vacation..whatever... PAT yourself on the back! good job! u are a pro!

Jody Ellis

Thanks Dan. That's really it for me. I have a family to take care of and I've never had the luxury of turning down paid work. While it's always been a part time venture (too sporadic financially) I have managed to pay for some extras we wouldn't otherwise be able to afford.

Stephen Barber

Yes... Out of disgust. Tends to be very dark. ;)

Dan Guardino

I don't have to be passionate about what I am writing about but I have to be passionate about the project.

Jody Ellis

I just finished articles about a logging company, a human interest story about a cancer survivor and a blurb about Nurses week. None of which fall into the realm of things I am "passionate" about. But I feel like I did a good job and the $ I earned will help pay for me and my kids to go visit my brother next weekend :-). And I am passionate about being able to do that!! :-) The true crime script I wrote was not a passion project either. In fact I struggled to write it, because I'd just finished a book adaption and wasn't thrilled about writing yet another story that was not my own. But that script is potentially opening some doors I didn't think would ever open, so I'm glad I took it on.

Dan Guardino

Jody. That is how it usually works. I don't have time to go into details but that is basically how I got my foot in the door.

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