Screenwriting : How do you stay young and connected as a writer? by Dorian Cole

Dorian Cole

How do you stay young and connected as a writer?

What do writers do to stay connected and relevant to younger generations as they age. I think everyone can relate to the human condition, but the issues of 20 somethings are not the same as 50 somethings. And are there really issues of style? How do people stay connected and relevant?

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Vitamin C and Viagra… and occasional exercise helps. I was also tapping on my car steering wheel while listening to an old Hole song today.

William Martell

I used to be 20.

Marty Wolff

Talking to people of different ages might help, you find out then what is relevant to them, what moves them.

Cherie Grant

I stay relevant by not giving a fuck about the younger generation. They have their lives I have mine.

Kerry Douglas Dye

I just don't write stories about teenagers anymore.

Tom Lazarus

Pay attention to the culture, the media and do drugs.

Dorian Cole

I'm enjoying your comments!

Dorian Cole

My wife and I worked with youth groups for many years, and now have grandchildren, so we kind of stay in touch with what young people are thinking. I think that kind of thing helps. And I stay very technology oriented, so I kind of understand where they are in that respect - but they move to the next thing faster than a rocket. Schools are beginning to have trouble with a high percentage of kids who can no longer communicate in social settings because they are so immersed in technology based communications. It's a very relevant topic (although I'm told the concept is "hard to sell," which sounds like the typical Hollywood shuffle I've heard since 1980 - candidly I'd rather produce in New Media.) I recently wrote a screenplay, romantic comedy, for 20 somethings and technology. But there is this fear always looming over my shoulder that it may not feel relevant to that age group.

Dorian Cole

Tinder? Etsy? It's hopeless - I'm far behind already! :)

Dorian Cole

Very well said, Kathy Schenfelt.

Dorian Cole

I find that today's 20 - 40 somethings freely talk about things my generation never thought about talking about - much more free. But get them in a focus group, and they are as protective of their kids as my generation: "No, can't say that on family television." It's very confusing to me in the context of a movie, what their generation would talk freely with each other about. How they might behave. For example, Sex in the City, and now Friends, is many years in the past, but is that just TV and good entertainment, or have values shifted? Has the 1960s sexual revolution come home to roost in 2000? Or is everyone as diverse in their opinions as Kathy suggests? That's the really exasperating part.

CJ Walley

Something that needs to be considered is that, when we're young, we strive for maturity and seek guidance. As older writers we have been able to explore and, hopefully, form balanced views of many concepts that fascinated us when we were younger. Young Adult stuff tends to be very big concept. I can still happily watch Clueless as Cher's internal conflicts are lifelong concerns. Ten Things I Hate About You is thematically Shakespeare's Taming Of The Shrew. More recently, Easy-A feels like a very mature movie to watch and every time I watch Girls I feel like Lena Dunham is more grown up than me. The cool factor can be a concern, but we can always move our stories universe back in time to negate that issue.

Marco Pieper

Grow old very fast, do drugs, alcohol and wrestle with grizzlies until you look like a zombie. Because the kids like zombies.

Guy McDouall

I spend loads of money dressing like a complete wanker in the hope of looking like at least as much of a douchbag as the other precocious prats crammed into the godawful trendy nightclubs where I can pay exorbitant prices for mediocre drinks and send text messages to people who are fifteen feet away from me. I text LOL in reply to stupid shit that was mildly amusing at best and certainly did not make me laugh out loud. I say "YOLO" a lot, not as much as I play "Angry Birds" on my phone or sit on my fat arse watching The Kardashians but, you know, quite a lot. After all, you only live once. I literally misuse the word "literally" all the time. For example; "This party is so lame, I am literally bored to death." If I was making this comment to a few friends I would make a point of saying it loud enough for anyone in a twenty foot radius to hear. That way everyone will know I am a cool dude because this party is lame compared to the wild and crazy shindigs and happening cat like me normally attends. I will drop a few additional comments in about how cool the places I normally go to are just in case some people don't get it right off the bat. I will make similar loud comments about how much alcohol I've consumed. Most people can probably tell I'm a drunk by my free flowing self indulgent, egotistic pontifications fueled by lager and deep seated insecurities. However, just in case they can't, I make a point of slurred bellows of "this heeeere, this is, this is mmy elevenish beer! Ha! Ha! Ha!" (even though it might only be my third of fourth. I am also thinking about moving back in with my parents. Lately, we've been getting on great. But perhaps if we lived under the same roof we could get into some great strops, after all they really don't understand me.

Dorian Cole

Alle, you turn marketing on its head. Usually the younger generation goes for programming with characters and themes that are a couple of years older than they because they are thinking about those issues. I can't argue - don't know - but Sex and the City was targeted at 40? Are you talking about the remake movies?

Dorian Cole

Alle, I kind of agree with your analysis of the younger generation. They seem to speak with much less reserve than my generation ever did, despite the 60s sexual revolution. I think that you are kind of on target about the differences between what men and women are looking for. I regularly look at statistical analysis of today's trends. Birth rates in Western countries are way down, and teen pregnancy is way down. If you look at college recreational sexual activity, hookups are statistically very high. And the number of men who would date rape a woman on campus if they thought they wouldn't get caught is so high I won't even give the number. The difference between men's attitudes about sex, and women's, is so radically different, they don't just inform me, they alarm me. By the way, recent studies indicate drinking coffee is much more healthy for you than previously thought, and it helps prevent cancer.

Dorian Cole

Another difference that it is mind boggling for me to adjust to, is that today's generation waits until around age 26 to get married, and typically around then to move out of their parent's home. (My 3 have been back and forth like yoyos.) Half my H.S. grad class immediately got married, and most of them couldn't wait to be on their own. It's a very different way of thinking. And watching programs like Sex and the City, and Friends, and even Big Bang Theory, doesn't help understand the younger generations attitudes about things. Most producers push the envelope as hard as they can push it to get an audience. (I think show runners Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady are genius.) But it isn't art reflecting society, it's just pushing the envelope.

Dorian Cole

This seems very relevant: Couple of videos on Male VS Female (Yes, I write these, but not promoting here.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wycgp3G_Gg8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPLUUINppLE

Kalisa Moore

To me Dorian, it comes from within and where you are mentally..almost naturally....for me that is and this is how I write....from the soul =)

Don Thompson

Have friends... hang out... check out social media sites. You can make a lot of friends on Facebook. Watch them and see what their concerns are and thee things they do. Go to those types of things and connect with some. While some will find it creepy to chat with older people, for the most part they won't, and since mostly you'll be listening, they will ignore the differences. It's the same way to find out how other racial or socioeconomic groups think.

Kevin Fukunaga

I go on IRC and chat sometimes. You can find people of all ages, demographics, interests from around the world there. It's quite interesting to get the various perspectives and points-of-view of different people and see how they differ and how they are the similar. This was a very interesting question BTW.

Geveryl Robinson

Because there are so many facets to the "younger generation," I think focusing on one aspect of the generation, or picking a particular group to write about helps. Honestly, if the story you write is a good story, I mean a very good story, EVERYONE will like it. For example, movies like "Rocky," and "Forrest Gump," weren't written for a younger generation in particular, but kids and adults alike love the movies. I'm not saying you have to write something like this, but if you just select a topic that is relatable to everyone, and not focus on young or old, just tell a great story, I think that will be your best bet.

Lee Davis

Try watching TV shows and films aimed at the youth market (e.g., Pretty Little Liars, Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, etc.). There is a lot you can learn by simply watching material you wouldn't immediately be attracted to because of your age and interests. I think it's vital to at least be aware of what younger people like in order to remain relevant. Lee Davis.

Dorian Cole

I think knowing what appeals to youth helps. A couple of my favorite - yes favorite - shows are The 100 (CW Network), and Big Bang Theory. The 100 deals with a lot of questions about leadership and hard choices in this life, as well as other human relationships. Of course Big Bang Theory characters are probably Aspergers (Autism spectrum), but they have such great appeal because teens and young adults (and others) go through a lot of this same social isolation, awkwardness, bullying, and search for a friendship and love, that is exaggerated in these characters. I don't get into today's vampire series - they are becoming more and more humanized in the literature, and fading, but loved Buffy The Vampire Slayer - strong female lead dealing with life and love issues. I don't think you need to be a psychologist to understand the human condition. You just need to remember what the younger generation is dealing with, that we have all dealt with, and write those emotions. But there is always this nagging feeling... : )

Dorian Cole

It may be all about the human condition, but how do you prevent 2015 comedy from looking and sounding like 1980s comedy?

Tom Lazarus

Have people looking at their cell phones full time.

Dorian Cole

Tom, I just saw a picture on Facebook of a group of people standing around looking at their cell phones. It applies to people of all ages.

Mary Winborn

age of the mechanized brain..

Dorian Cole

Demographically millennials have some big differences from older generations. Here is an excellent video from Pew Research on the 18 to 39 age group that lays out the differences. Big Bang Theory series totally reflects these differences. Personally I identify more with millennials, but they are generally ten times faster than me on technology gadgets, and I'm a technolgy oriented person. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0mw7Vp0tYI

Alan John Denman

I think this is a great question because as writers we want to be able to create characters and write stories for all ages. For me the old adage applies here: write what you know. So I think back to what it was like for me to feel 15 - 18 - 25, to recall what was going on for me then (so much uncertainty combined with big dreams!!). I'm also a relationship coach as well as a screenwriter and understanding life-stages is really helpful for characterisation. Each life-stage has its own texture, issues and goals. Thanks for asking this, Dorian

Janet Scott

I think you are as young as you think.... Smile.

Rebecca Schauer

Are you talking about writing FOR millennials? If so, is there something in particular about them that interests you and makes you want to reach out to them with your writing? There is so much media inundating the brains of this generation that you really should have something quite pointed to say either to them or about them. You may want to connect with and better understand millennials, but you need to make them want to hear what you have to say which, trust me, is a much harder feat. I'm a high school teacher in my thirties and I still don't feel like I can write authentically for millennials. Yes, the human condition is universal, yadda, yadda, but it seems like writing for or about this complicated generation for the sake of staying "relevant" might not yield the most authentic writing unless you feel strongly compelled to do so.

Alan Rubinoff

I play with my kids and I pay attention.

Dorian Cole

Rebecca, as I remarked to one writer, I personally could not write "The Bridges Over Madison County." My psyche just isn't in that age group or in their problems. I think "young." But I can look back on the problems of the more youthful generations and, not so much have answers, because that's a big mistake writers make - they aren't looking for someone to tell them what to do - but have the maturity to explore the human condition wisely. It's just who I am. But if you write for that generation, I think it is very helpful not just to be relevant, but stay up to date and not have teens talking to boyfriends and girlfriends for hours on a rotary dial phone, or older party line, which they historically did, but understand how they are connected through all of today's communications devices. The desire to be connected and talk about their issues with their age group hasn't changed, but they are now much more connected through a variety of devices and social platforms. The pace of communications is changing.

Tim Lane

The same way you stay connected with anything - by looking at it from their perspective. Take the saggy pants debate for example. I laugh when I see them. It's not a judgemental laugh. I laugh because I remember wearing bell bottom jeans size 36x36. Today I wear 38x32. And no I haven't lost four inches of leg though I have also worn a 42x32 and hopefully those four inches are gone for good. My kids laugh at the old photos. I'm sure the saggy panters will have their kids laugh at them, too. Staying connected to the young is no harder (or easier) than staying connected with the old, the opposite sex, the rich, the poor, the sick, the liberal, the conservative, the atheist, the religious, yadda, yadda, yadda. You just have to watch, pay attention, and look for the perspective.

Simon King

I suppose I have an unfair advantage. I am 55 and my first two scripts had teenage leads. Studios/producers who read the scripts said I had the teen dialogue down perfect. My characters sounded like their teenage sons and daughters. Why? Because I spend way too much time tutoring high school students! When you live with a species you take on the habits of the species.

Dorian Cole

Wow. That's a great advantage.

William Philip Zacchi

Great Simon! My teenagers sound like mafia hit men with thirty contract killings under their belt. I have totally forgotten what it's like to be a teenager. Maybe in future you can help me Simon?

Simon King

Sure thing, William. Soon as I stop snapchattin' and posting my lunch on Insti...

Edward St.Boniface

Hi Dorian, I'm in favour of universality. I'm 48 and between jobs and last year was a volunteer at a charity shop where I was working with some other volunteers between 19 and 22 and all of a sudden I was conscious of that enormous generational gulf you mention. It's inescapable but perhaps not as fundamental as you think. Despite my age I still continue to enjoy graphic novels and comics, science fiction and fantasy and new movies in the superhero and fantasy genres. However I'm doing it with the perspective of someone who grew up in the late '70s and early '80s and kept surprising myself with my backward-looking attitudes with those young people. It makes me feel old to use that terminology and think that way! What struck me though is how much these young people unexpectedly reminded me of myself at their ages. They weren't really savvy and didn't know that much about life since they were just out of school. What they did have, and in great quantities was the almost limitless confidence and enthusiasm of youth, and it was revitalising to be reminded of that. I think that's the thing to key in on if you're trying to capture youth and its problems and dilemmas. We do tend to forget what it was like because we get good at adapting to circumstances. There is also the danger of nostalgising the time when you yourself were young. I think Anthony Burgess put it best at the end of the novel A CLOCKWORK ORANGE when Little Alex describes youth as being like a wind-up toy, set off into the world blindly and not being able to help bumping into things, falling over and precipitating disasters without intending. That's the way to stay young and connected with life in general - stubbing your toe now and then to remind you just how painful it is...

William Philip Zacchi

So true Edward. I actually feel sorry for the teenagers growing up during this violent times. Whatever happened to those old t.v. sitcoms that had a moral issue to their theme. Today everything is about murder. And OH MY GOD - the movies today I think totally suck!! Everything is high tech, bombs blasting, Physho monsters, and just plain ;no regard for human life whatsoever. My fantasy would be that every writer were to write for God for one year, and all the scripts dealt the beauty of life. Pipe dream, huh Edward?

Dorian Cole

I write religious material, but in a different market. I like literature with a somewhat moral theme to it, and write the same. But an action movie is a style, and definitely escapism, and if it started focusing on nitty gritty human suffering, it would be drama, not action. Most action does have a moral theme - the good guys almost always work for a moral cause and win at the end, and that's what people want. When the good guys lose, most movies don't get a significant audience, unless they're actually about the bad guys (Ocean franchise, etc.). Bonnie and Clyde are killed at the end. I think what Edward mentioned is very true, the "What they did have, and in great quantities was the almost limitless confidence and enthusiasm of youth...." and I'll add, a healthy sprinkling of idealism, that is refreshing. I like people who haven't succumbed to the relentless problems of life and the unchanging ways of the world.

Simon King

William you wrote, "write for God for one year" but that raises the question of WHICH God? For better or worse films reflect global society and this means guns, murder, bombs, terrorism, cheating, stealing, etc. Of course there are films that avoid this but they rarely make back their budget.

Dawn RR

There are universal themes, such as wanting to find love, be understood, exploring the world whether by actual travel or via the internet. While the growing up experiences may vary as to what was out there electronically when one was growing up, the main issues of being a human being are unchanged whether it's 20, 50 or 80. Stay with the universal theme, you can't go wrong.

William Philip Zacchi

Wow! Dawn! Very insightful wisdom. I will take your advice into consideration. I have to admit I'm a by product of the 50's, and 60's, and must realize to expand as a writer I must accept the current trend of the changing times, or I will be an unknown writer for the rest of my life.

Janet Scott

As another one of the older writers cough, cough.... we have the past on our side... as well as living the present, and, we get to see the world as it forges ahead into the future.... Hello Katherine, and your gods love your writing.... J

Janet Scott

William, looking forward to reading the play... thank you friend for the offer of friendship.

Edward St.Boniface

(replying to a reply post from William Phillip Zacchi) Hi William, There's certainly a lot of negative stuff in TV and mainstream cinema - but I wouldn't be disheartened. That was also being said back in the 1950s in the early days of TV and certainly in the 1920s about cinema itself - sex and violence, as perceived, led to the Hays' Code regulating the industry in America for subsequent decades up to the '70s. Intensified conflict and sex sell, so naturally most film-makers gravitate to it. A great story however will always transcend those things. Recently there was a movie called KILL YOUR DARLINGS about the early Columbia University years of Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac who were all friends there. There was some sex and a little violence but largely it was concentrated on their mutual evolution as writers, later so influential in their different ways. The movie also captured that spirit of youthful idealism and the tragedies that can happen when you love something or someone too passionately. I really recommend it. You can also download the script on sonyclassics.com or dailyscript.com Craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy world; man!

Lee Davis

I don't know of any "negative stuff" in TV/Cinema. However, there's a lot of programming and films that don't appeal to me, but since other people enjoy them, who am I to judge?

Trey Wickwire

I drink a lot. ;)

Trey Wickwire

Thanks. Seriously though, I'm 48 and know full well that I'm not up to speed on the youth of today. Still, I try to keep up with the basics. Having a daughter helps, she's 11 so I end up watching a lot of Disney and Nickelodeon. That helps a little bit. Also, I taught Sunday school for awhile. Basically, if you want to stay in touch with kids, then interact with kids.

William Philip Zacchi

Thanks Edward. I will try, and find that film. It sounds interesting. In a lot of ways I kidding myself about my ideals. My screenplay Blood Justice opens with a murder, and my next screenplay starts with a car bomb going off in a mob war, so I'm actually being honest about I'd like to see in the movies. Yesterday my script consultant gave me back his notes on my latest screenplay. They threw me for a loop. The things I thought were good; he didn't buy it, and the things I thought were bad; he praised me for. As soon as I finish this email; I'm going to read the script all the way through so I cab begin to get some clarity on his notes.

Janet Scott

The young are brainwashed by the media. Fast food, fast highs, fast techno music, quickie face lifts and dentures on demand... Everything.... right down to how they mastered the art of texting faster with one thumb faster than I can type. Sad really in many ways. Everything has to be instant. No patience... and no bars hold when it comes to the F word or talking sex. That is just part of life... that they see advertised all around them. Someone should pen the lyrics to... It's an instant world we live in, won't you give it a try... live and lets die...

William Philip Zacchi

Dear Janet, I erased your email address by mistake so send it again. No needless worry. I think I'm getting an idea for the premise for your next screenplay now that I'm getting to know you. I will send my idea on your private email.

Janet Scott

Wonderful William... thank you....will do.

Edward St.Boniface

It kind of sounds like my youth - I'm 48...and I think Juvenal mentioned something about the youth of Claudaian Rome. And wasn't there that crabby guy in the cave round about the early Pleistocene...young cave-people don't give NO RESPECT these days...

Bruno Leydet

I'm fifty four and I never asked myself that kind of question. Of course Dorian, anyone can relate to the human condition. I would say it's our job as a writer to relate to the human condition no matter how, when or what…

Edward St.Boniface

...howabout the HUMANOID condition???...

Edward St.Boniface

...(thinking of the final future evolution sequence from ALTERED STATES)...

Janet Biery

Teaching high school students for decades keeps you aware of trends, not sure how connected. Come to think of it, I've never felt that connected to any group. Live too much in my own head to ever be a trend follower or setter. Feel like a constant observer, trying to analyze or understand other people's actions fuels all the stories I like to write.

Dorian Cole

I can identify with that "observer" feeling, yet I'm also very involved. Odd disparity.

William Martell

Date women who are half my age... well, that's the plan at least. Hasn't worked so far.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

William: A lofty goal.

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