Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Alli Unger

Award-Worthy Advice From Award-Winning Screenwriter, Peter Dunne

Does your writing speak for you?

If not, it’s time to let it get to talking. It is easy to get wrapped up in format, story structure, character arcs, and dialogue adjustments, and we can quickly lose sight of what the story is. What’s at the heart of your story?

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The answer, according to award-winning producer and writer Peter Dunne, is you.

“We have to be aware as writers that writing is for us to discover who we are; not to tell everybody who we are as we know ourselves, but to allow the writing to tell us how we really feel about things,” he said during the SoCreate-sponsored Central Coast Writers’ Conference.

Dunne is best known for “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “JAG,” both of which he produced. He also wrote and produced “Melrose Place.” He’s earned an Emmy, a Peabody, two Media Access Awards, and many more honors, and now teaches screenwriting at UCLA School of the Arts and Writers’ Program. But even with all of those accolades, the most essential writing lesson he’s learned and taught over the years is a simple one:

“Our best writing happens when the thinking stops,” he said. “We are often surprised by what we are writing about. In fact, the next morning, you may look at your work and say, ‘Wow, I wrote that?’”

Dunne’s advice to writers is to never sacrifice the story’s truth for the sake of the plot’s action. The plot is what’s happening and the road it takes to get somewhere, but the story is who it’s changing as it’s happening and the journey for truth.

“The writing comes to us after we allow the thinking to drift away,” he said.  

Dunne wrote a book titled “Emotional Structure: A Guide for Screenwriters” to help writers tell stories with more clarity, depth, and power and get to that “something” that seems to be missing in so many screenplays that only develops when we relinquish a bit of control. You can also find more of his interviews right here on our website, including this inspiring discussion about why we write stories to begin with.

Time to take your thinking cap off and put on your writing one.

Happy writing!

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