J. Michael Straczynski is primarily know these days as the creator-writer-producer of cult fave TV series Babylon 5 as well as of the slightly less cult favored Sense8. He’s also written a ton of other TV and won his fair share of awards.
So now that we’ve established dude’s cred, how about we see what he has to say about this TVWriter™ minion’s all-time favorite subject – writing:
by Dane Styler
Screenwriter, producer, novelist, and comics writer J. Michael Straczynskibelieves in sending the elevator back down. He believes in helping others, like he once was, who have talent but not enough information. So at San Diego Comic-Con 2017, Straczynski helmed another of his irreverent yet frank, funny yet informative Q&A panels as he solicited questions from a room full of aspiring writers.
Shall we begin?
FINISH THE GODDAMN SCRIPT
“While we are in the process of writing things, we can’t be judged. But when we finish and put it out there among our friends and people who don’t like us, they could say, ‘You’re not very good.’ If you’ve been working on something for a long time, finish the goddamn thing and move on to the next project. The more you do and finish, the more you learn.”
For comic books, don’t be worried too much about the type of script format you choose; it’s really what’s inside the format that matters (i.e. the content).
WORKSHOPS EN LIEU OF WRITING CLASSES
“Attend workshops before taking writing classes. Classes are there to teach you how the teacher feels you should write. Workshops help you find your voice.
“Though the best way to learn how to write is to read a lot.”
FROM CHARACTER TO PLOT
“When developing a story, there’s two ways usually: Go from character to plot, or plot to character. I work from character to plot because I found that when going from plot to character, often you end up with characters who are service to the plot instead of their own thing.”
ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS
“After you have a general idea, begin answering each next logical question, truthfully, one after another. Who is the character? What does he want? How far is he willing to go to get it? How far is someone else willing to go to stop him?”
Straczynski quoted Heinlein, saying that part of science fiction writing is solving the problem for the next five minutes. To compel readers to read further, you hook them with mystery after mystery, starting with first page and/or scene, answering some along the way as you create more mysteries. In addition, he emphasized research, research, and more research, which will lead to more ideas, and make it easier to find yours answers in the process of questioning.
“So really, your process should be: Asking the next logical question, defining your characters, and doing everything in your power to poke holes in your story. Better to figure out those holes now, than 200 pages in.
“Because if you don’t find those holes now, someone else will….”