A Great Idea Doesn’t Make You A Writer by Shannan E. Johnson

Film Courage:What makes you great at story?

Writer/Instructor and Script Consultant Shannan E. Johnson (The Professional Pen): That’s a good question What makes me great? Okay, what makes me great at story is that I understand story. And there is a difference between having an idea and having a story. I think a lot of people get stuck in the idea phase which basically means you have an element to a story like you might have a great character, you might have a great situation for you to put them in, there might be a great world that you’ve started to originate but until you have every single one of those elements, you don’t yet have a story.

Understanding what it takes to have a story helps me help writers get to the place where they have a full story. I am able to look at what they have and say Okay, you’ve got a great idea, but now how do we make that into a story?How do we give this character some depth? How do we give them an actual goal so they can have something to do during their story? Or how do we have this goal and give a character who would be great at actually making the goal happen (or the total opposite, they could never make that goal happen). Now their journey is going to be getting to a place of actually being able to reach that goal.

I am always looking into it to see what elements do you have? What elements do you need and how can we really flesh out what your full story is?

Film Courage: Is this because they [the writer] is actually writing a story that is loosely based on them?

Shannan: Sometimes. I have dealt with a lot of writers who are writing something that is based on truth. It’s really easy to get stuck in that and that’s because when you’re stuck in that truth you are stuck in trying to tell the truth. And I always say to them go look at the actually films that are being made that are based on true stories and read that line underneath based on a true story, right? Which means that you can’t get hung up with what actually happened because in most of our lives everyday is not entertaining.

Even if you look at reality television…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).









About Shannan:

After grad school I became a junior creative executive at NBCUniversal at the Syfy Channel. I was there for the rebrand. Remember Sci Fi? Yeah, not really. Anywho, it was my job to help writers and producers take their ideas from pitch to production. I co-exec’d on Alphas, Being Human, Haven, Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, and more Syfy dramedies. This is how I honed my skill in all stages of the screenwriting process…(read more here).

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