John R. Worsley is an unrepresented screenwriter living in Portland, OR. Not to be confused with his third cousin John C. Worsley, a graphic artist also living in Portland, OR. Don’t worry, they look different.
John prefers to speak of himself in the first person, so I will. I have dabbled with short poetry, long poetry, flash fiction, short stories, a novelette, a novel, and a non-fiction book. But after discovering how much easier screenwriting is, I have gone over to the dark side. Some of my best friends are novelists, so I will continue to visit the other side as long as the border guards will admit me.
I joke about screenwriting being easier; here’s what I mean. I have always enjoyed words: hearing them, saying them, playing with them. Growing up I read constantly (200 books one summer for a library contest); engaged in creative word usement with my siblings (many nouns were verbed); and enjoyed writing essays in school. I was not a significant movie-goer then, and have never, in fact – unlike many screenwriters – been a film buff.
At 19 I discovered that a friend of mine was a film buff, and saw my first indie films, but my own tastes have been rather too particular to appreciate a wide spectrum of films. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I learned writing was involved in movies; an obvious point, in retrospect, but I’d never thought about it. From that moment on, I began to pay more attention to film, to think about it more. As the recent spate of popular Jane Austen film adaptations hit, I brainstormed with a friend on adapting one of the novels which hadn’t been done yet. I began writing more during that period too — all fiction, and partly inspired by my discovery of National Novel Writing Month.
And then it happened. Spring 2007. Script Frenzy. The delightful folks at the Office of Letters and Light decided that running an enormously popular and ever-expanding global writing effort (NaNoWriMo) was not enough, and launched a screenplay-in-a-month program as well. My growing interest in film and screenwriting made participating in Script Frenzy an obvious choice. And to my surprise I discovered that – whereas the process of extracting from my mind a first draft of a work of fiction is nothing short of excruciating – stories in screenplay form flow more easily from me.
For the next several years I continued to compare my experiences with the two monthly events, in November and April. My first script was an adaptation, so I wondered whether that might be rendering the writing unnaturally easier. But when I began to write original scripts I found that while the first draft was still arduous, the sense of being able to feel my way through the story was still present. That really got my attention.
As I thought about my writing history, I noticed several facts. I wrote my first short story (in high school, for a creative writing class) by imagining it as a film. When writing fiction, I do not tend to get inside my characters’ heads, as is normal and encouraged for the form. And ideas for film stories come much more easily to me than ideas for fiction stories. All that, plus the difference in writing experience, led me to make the jump in spring 2009. I have since then been pursuing screenwriting with everything I can muster. I find it completely rewarding.