• Joseph Morganti

The Art of Screenwriting: Fran Walsh

Fran Walsh is a New Zealand writer who has countless great works under her name, which we can analyze as writers for the art of screenwriting. Most notably, Walsh co-wrote The Lord of the Rings film trilogy with her husband and film director Peter Jackson. As we all know, Lord of the Rings is one of the best trilogies ever created.


Besides Lord of the Rings, Walsh has writing credits for The Hobbit trilogy, King Kong, Mortal Engines, The Frighteners, Heavenly Creatures, The Lovely Bones, and Meet the Feebles. Nevertheless, below will discuss what makes Walsh a fantastic writer and what we can learn from her work.

Photo credit: Stuff


Adapting Notable Works


Though Walsh has 21 writing credits, her most notable scripts are adapted from source material. Whether it’s The Lovely Bones, King Kong, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or The Hobbit Trilogy, all is derived from somewhere. Adapted screenplays present the challenge of sticking to the source material while crafting a great screenplay.


Many writers who face this issue struggle to remember that the foundation of a great script is still essential. You shouldn’t rely on the appeal or popularity of the subject or story you’re writing about. As great as it is to adapt a story, none of that matters if you can’t craft a great story.


Walsh understands that with some of her best work. Even if J. R. R. Tolkien’s work didn’t exist, the Lord of the Rings would still stand as a great film. Fans of Tolkien’s work and people who never read anything from the author equally enjoyed the trilogy. It’s a testament to excellent writing.


Internal Struggles


Walsh does an excellent job at creating characters that have an ongoing internal struggle. Furthermore, you don’t need something extrinsic like a ring to bring out this struggle. What does your character fight with? Questions? Dread? Weakness? Covetousness? Disdain? What are the worn parts of your characters' hearts?


Will your character let it consume them, or will they conquer it? It’s an example of how character development shapes their personality throughout the story. Try not to think in absolutes. Remember that a character can change based on the scenes and scenarios they experience.


Think of it from your perspective. I imagine you’re a different person today than even a few years ago. People change, especially when discussing the high impact and conflict a script has on a character. Either way, remember to showcase that change; otherwise, the story will feel odd.


Epic Battles and Death Scenes


Practically every story Walsh crafted has an epic battle or death scene in it. There are too many examples to discuss from the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and King Kong. Those battles typically meet to completion when a central side character dies. It’s a matter of making that particular scene stand out.


Walsh feels their passing ought to stir things up when you kill off a character. Characters should feel the characters' melancholy. Perhaps it won’t be until a character sees the characters lament that conflict arises. Basically, kill off a character so that it influences the audience. Remember, there are numerous ways of making a character’s demise resound.


Differing Characters


The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, and the Hobbit share the commonality of differing characters. Whether it’s over eccentric individuals, different cultural backgrounds, or personality traits, the films do a great job showcasing these differences. It makes for fascinating writing too, when these differing characters interact.


While making a world in your story, consider how societies can vary and act toward one another. For example, if you’re story features a teenager, a rich guy, the daughter of a rich person, and a food vendor, remember they all have different life outlooks. Doing this adds more authenticity and can make a few fascinating contentions and components for your plot.


Lost of Hope


All of Walsh’s scripts feature a moment where there appears to be a loss of hope. It comes in King Kong when the crew is being wiped from giant insects and worms in the ravine; the Two Towers during the Battle of Helm’s Deep; the Lovely Bones when a neighbor's dog finds Susie's elbow.


While composing your story, you need to cause your audience to realize that the objective of your central character is exceptionally challenging. It ought not to be a cakewalk. The loss of hope moment is where you make your audience wonder if accomplishing the objective is possible.


Each Point of View Plays a Part


Walsh’s stories typically feature several points of view, all of which play a part in the main story. Frequently in stories, the differing point of view is exclusively for a fascinating subplot. However, it doesn't have to do with the story's primary concern.


It can be intriguing, be a redirect for the plot, or be confounding for the audience. Remember its importance while utilizing a differing point of view method. Basically, only go this route if it benefits your story.


Best Fran Walsh Scripts


● The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

● The Hobbit Trilogy

● King Kong

● The Lovely Bones