Here’s one for the screenwriting contingent . Screenwriting is so different from writing fiction that it requires a whole different way of thinking. While fiction writers spend way too much time on rejectomancy, screenwriters have to try to figure out what makes professional readers want to recommend a script. In some ways it’s the same mental process, but the people at the gates of publishing houses and studios by the nature of their respective industries look for different things.

What strikes me most about this article is the divide between keeping a reader engaged and keeping one invested. At first glance the two seem almost like the same thing. They are very similar, with invested being the natural, souped up extension of engaged. But then it occurred to me that the difference is more than superficial procession of process.

While it takes skill to write in a way that such a pared down medium as a screenplay keeps a reader avidly turning pages, keeping them engaged is another thing entirely. I think in many, if not most, cases keeping readers engaged requires something in addition to skill. It needs that elusive connection between writer and reader that lives somewhere between the place where the writer’s thoughts and intentions flow into ink and the reader’s eyes and expectations. That place might be called a catalyst for the magic that happens when a writer and reader, in their respective roles, form a rare kind of collaboration. Unintentional and involuntary, and very, very special, that kind of entertainment chemistry is what makes written works sing through the mind and heart and soul. The ideas and hopes and experiences coalesce and resonate into unforgettable experiences.

I think engaging a reader can be the outcome of serious intent and effort on the writer’s part. I suspect that making someone outside the writer’s mind become invested in the unfolding story’s outcome is as much a matter of the right minds meeting over a hot cup of freshly brewed wordplay, maybe more than simply well written words.

This leaves me pondering the idea that I can learn and learn and learn some more, until I’m a very good writer, but that may not be enough. Success may require that further element of meeting the mind of a stranger, and making that unknown person fall in love with what I’ve written. This way of looking at it certainly explains how very good screenwriters may remain unproduced indefinitely… or forever. They’re waiting for their proverbial prince to come, in the form of just the right reader who will get them.

I don’t think that kind of seeming magic can be learned or directed or even controlled. Magic rarely can.

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