Try a screenwriting class on Zoom with Haether Skybrook

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Haether Skybrook will offer screenwriting classes through the West Tisbury library. — Courtesy Haether Skybrook

Is Hollywood or Broadway possibly calling? Ever think about putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to try your hand at screen- or playwriting? The West Tisbury library is hosting a four-part screenwriting class with Haether Skybrook on Zoom, from 4:30 to 5:30 pm on Jan. 19 and 26, and Feb. 2 and 9.

Students will learn the fundamentals of storytelling, character design, and development, how to write a scene, format it, and how to improve and expand your story. “What we’re basically going to do is create one scene — to think of a theme, and by the end of the series, have the ability and tools to write that scene and expand upon it with all the additional knowledge I’ve given about plot and character development,” Skybrook explains.

Not sure what you want to write about? No problem. Skybrook says she will probably start with questions like, What’s a really funny story that you tell people? What is your fondest memory? What is a moment you very clearly remember from your life that you could recite word-for-word? What was said, by whom, and in what order? And translate feelings into words. The fundamental questions are, What does this character want? How are they going to get it? What’s in their way? And do they get it by the end of the scene?

Screenwriting is a different animal than fiction or nonfiction, in which you read a character’s inner thoughts, or movements such as, “Jane moved to her dresser to inspect the letters there.” It’s a lot of past tense. In screenplays and stage plays, it’s all present tense, what’s happening in front of you. “You can’t have a line like ‘Luke Skywalker felt sad.’ You have to have Luke Skywalker look and feel sad,” Skybrook points out. “Someone comes up over a hill and sees a meadow — what is their expression? How does that make them feel? If there is nobody there to talk to, what are you showing?” 

Directions are for whatever it is that you can’t infer from the dialogue. And showing, not telling, is key in screenwriting. If you can show, do it because it’s so much more effective.

Additionally, there’s a difference between screenwriting and playwriting. In screenwriting you have: John walks through the door of his office and sits down at his desk. With playwriting there are stage directions: John enters stage left, walks to downstage right, sits at a desk, and rifles through papers.

By the end of the series, you should have the tools to write a scene, a short play, film, or story treatment to turn into a complete script. But even if one of these is your ultimate goal, Skybrook says, “No matter what, it will help you better organize your thoughts so you can better tell a story.”

Contact wt_mail@clamsnet.org to sign up and receive the Zoom invitation.