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The Art of Screenwriting: Richard Linklater

Telling a great story has a variety of factors that go into it. You can be the best writer in the world, but if you cannot show proper originality, then your script will always fall flat.

To understand the real importance of developing your best script, it's essential to look at successful screenwriters and what made them successful in the first place. Whether it's how they write, how they tell a story or their way of going about something, looking at professional screenwriters can help paint the picture in your head on how to write a great screenplay.

To highlight the art of screenwriting and one of the best writers in the business, we're going to take an in-depth look at Richard Linklater. Linklater has been around for several years and is responsible for some of the best-told stories ever. Let's get started!

Photo credit: Independent

Sympathy and Empathy

If you watch a Linklater film, you’ll immediately notice the way he gets us to either sympathize or empathize with the story and the characters involved. Even if it’s a story that isn’t relatable in any way, he somehow gets you to relate to the main character regardless if you shared a similar path.

Linklater understands the importance of getting an audience to feel for a character. That’s why his scripts are filled with moving storylines and dialogue that causes us to feel emotional. If you can get your own script to strike an emotion like Linklater can, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

Creating an emotion through text is very difficult to do, but it can be done. Plus, if you can get the emotional impact through your script, then producers will know how impactful it can be visually.


With it comes to Linklater, he has an absolute originality with his writing. It's not done in a way that's trying too hard or has a deeper meaning of something random, but you can tell it's from him. Once you can find your own voice and write in a way that people can say is you and you only, that's when you've practically mastered screenwriting.

Getting to that point is very difficult to do, and most writers don't end up getting there. However, by looking at how Linklater writes and has his own unique style can help you figure out your own originality.

Storytelling is Problem Solving

When we’re writing a script, we’ve all heard about the importance of conflict and the purpose of it. A great story can’t be told unless there’s constant conflict throughout the story. Whether it’s the main protagonist getting injured or just a simple fight with her mom, conflict is what drives stories.

Linklater tends to think of storytelling as problem-solving. Rather than forcing yourself to come up with constant conflict throughout your story, consider what the goal is, and the problems that occur on the way.

Once you develop the problems, it’s up to you to figure out how each and every problem can be solved. Although this sounds a bit simplistic, it actually makes sense if you think about it. Using a simplistic approach to the complexity of your story can help you understand where it’s going to end up.

Trusting Audience

Linklater has made it clear in countless interviews that younger writers need to realize that not everything has to be explained. The audience is smarter than we realize and can piece together whatever is left.

What that means is it’s okay if something goes unexplained. Although it shouldn’t be done in a way that ruins the story, it's not the end of the world.

We need to understand and trust our audience to follow along without a constant narrator telling us what happened.

Best Films:

● Boyhood (2014)

● Dazed and Confused (1993)

● Before Sunrise (1995)

● Bernie (2011)


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