Screenwriting and the Genre

Genre: Multiple categories of films based on subject matter, theme or tone.

Film genres include comedy, action, drama, horror, mystery, thriller, science fiction or western. There are also sub-genres, such as romantic drama, romance thriller, sci-fi thriller, teen comedy, and one of the latest sub-genres to sweep the box office, “bromance”. Later on down the road we may see sci-fi bromance or even bromance thriller…

I’m gunning for a western bromance thriller myself.

Logline: While running from the law, a cowboy seeks to clear his name in the death of his brother and finds that his best friend and confidant holds the key that will turn their town upside down. –

Should a screenwriter pick one genre and write only in that area? If you currently write comedies, should you only write comedies? What if you’re inspired to write in many different genres? Would it be okay to experiment, try something new once in a while?

I recently started looking into this in order to answer these questions for myself. Sort of a self-applied ‘checks and balance’ to make sure I’m going down the right path. This leads me back to where my inspiration lies. My inspiration comes from what I was afraid of as a kid and what makes me laugh today. Fittingly, my genres of choice are horror and comedy. Though I write in both genres now, I found that it’s a good idea to choose one specific genre and focus my efforts there.

If you’re a film lover or screenwriter or both, as I am, you probably like several different genres. From what I’ve read, if you’re a screenwriter just starting out, it’s okay to experiment in different genres. This will give you the chance to hone your skills and figure out the genre you like best. After crafting several screenplays in a variety of genres, determine which ones generate the most interest.

Once you have optioned/sold a screenplay you will need to settle on one specific genre. Your breakthrough script will be your calling card to the industry. If your first option was a comedy, you’ll be known as the comedy writer. If your first sale was a horror, you’ll be known as the horror writer. You don’t want to confuse your agent, producers or anyone with leverage in the industry. For this reason you don’t want to switch genres until after you’re firmly established in the industry with multiple sales.

Luckily I’ve found the opportunity to experiment in different genres prior to making my first option. Though I have a knack for writing in multiple genres, I feel I showcase my best work in comedy. How do I know? I naturally have a sarcastic humor about things. I like to see the bright side or comedy in most hardships. This has helped to shape part of who I am and my writing style. Also, the majority of screenplay ideas I have are comedies. Therefore, it is my decision and chosen path that I write comedy and stick with that genre.

The first key in achieving success is knowing where your potential lies. You must first believe in yourself before others will believe in you.

Write what you know best and stick with it.

– David L. Spies

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