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The scores are in...

Jessica has received her grade for her 2nd Masters assignment and tells us what she's learned about script writing

I had the grade back from my second Masters assignment yesterday and was absolutely thrilled to receive my second distinction in a row. I dropped 2 marks from my previous assignment which, granted, is going in the wrong direction, but I’d anticipated moving a lot further in the wrong direction because I found this assignment so much harder….

My first block of learning through Open University was fiction and, as I’ve been writing fiction for the past 15 years and have released seven books, the learning and subsequent assignment weren’t too great a challenge. That’s not to say I learnt nothing because there’s always room for improvement, but I was definitely in my comfort zone.

Block 2 was a pre-chosen option and I’d selected script because I’ve always fancied the idea that Searching for Steven would translate really well onto the big screen. I often joke with my husband about it being a great Richard Curtis film. Responsible for producing and/or directing phenomenal successes such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill as well as The Boat That Rocked and About Time, he’s got a pretty awesome back catalogue of bringing romance to the big screen. Plus he was the writer on the first two Bridget Jones films. Well, you’ve got to aim high, haven’t you?

Anyway, I thought script would be quite straightforward: take existing story, characters, setting and dialogue and twiddle with it a bit so it looks like a script, right? Oh my goodness, how wrong could I be? You see, the massive difference between writing a novel and writing a film script is that the writer becomes part of a collective, all of whom have different roles to play. As a novelist, I would convey details about my character’s reactions, expressions, emotions and so on. As a script-writer, I don’t do this. It’s up to the director and actors to create this detail so I need to ensure that every single word of dialogue and the brief bits of guidance I am permitted to provide about movement convey the emotion I want each scene to convey. Which is not that easy.

I knew that I’d learn a lot from the script block because it was new to me but I hadn’t expected to learn quite so much that would translate into my fiction writing. I’ve had thoughts about dialogue, use of silence, and exposition to name a few areas. It’s given me a huge amount of admiration for anyone who does write scripts for radio, stage or big screen because that’s a very special skill to have. And it’s also made me even more determined to turn Searching for Steven into a film script although that might take quite some time. Why am I so determined? Because this was the feedback from my tutor:

“I would urge you to keep writing for the visual world. You have a flair for visuals coupled with a talent for character creation and character-driven dialogue.” When an award-winning script-writer gives you feedback like that, it would be rude to ignore it, wouldn’t it?

Now, how do I get hold of Richard Curtis …? And what part could Bill Nighy play?

Jessica xx

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