for writers and readers….

Scriptwriting can help solve plot problems in your novel and short story

Different writing disciplines aren’t locked into tight compartments. If you’re writing a novel I think it helps to read poetry for the richness of the language and the way it opens you up to fresh ways of making words work together. But if you need assistance with structure then I suggest you look at the challenges faced by scriptwriters.
I subscribe to Philip Shelley’s weekly email newsletter. He has worked as script editor and producer on many successful series, such as INSPECTOR MORSE, KAVANAGH QC and WAKING THE DEAD.  I particularly enjoyed Waking the Dead (and isn’t it one of the best titles ever) so I was interested to learn how they dealt with the problem of having too much back story — having to explain what happened in the past. This is what he had to say.

 The one ‘format’ difficulty with WAKING THE DEAD was the fact that the cold cases had obviously all happened in the past – they were essentially BACK-STORY – and this necessitated a lot of expositional unpacking of this back-story. So the investigation of the cold case always had to work alongside an investigation in the present – usually a new murder committed in an attempt to cover up the truth of the cold case murder!

This strategy can be translated to a short story or novel. The main event – and the consequences that spiral out of it – can happen in the past but you also need a correspondingly big and connected  drama happening in the ‘now’ of the story

4 comments on “Scriptwriting can help solve plot problems in your novel and short story

  1. Larry Crane
    December 22, 2012

    Your post brings the novel Word of Honor by Nelson DeMille to mind. The protagonist is being prosecuted in the present for events that happened in the past, and the events of each carry equal weight.

    • bridget whelan
      December 26, 2012

      Thank you so much for this – love getting book recommendations and I have never come across DeMilie before. Just looked up Word of Honor and I gather the past criminal events relate to an atrocity during the Vietnam War. Interesting subject rises loads of issues…I will check it out.

      • Larry Crane
        December 26, 2012

        The book is, of course, much more than a Vietnam War book. The details of the atrocity are slowly revealed, and in the end prove to be very emotional and moving.

      • bridget whelan
        December 26, 2012

        Now you have really whetted my appetite Larry – I count this as a very nice Christmas present, thanks again

        Bridget Follow me on twitter: @agoodconfession Visit my website:

        > Date: Wed, 26 Dec 2012 17:08:10 +0000 > To: >

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This entry was posted on September 21, 2012 by in Muse and tagged , , , , , .


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