Research is, undoubtedly, one of the most important parts of writing. It doesn’t matter how good your script is, if you have moment that doesn’t ring true or doesn’t make sense, you snap your audience out of the story – and you never want to do that. Research is the reason I clear my internet browsing history once a week – some of the stuff I search could look quite strange to an outsider. I would even go so far as to say that research is THE most important part of writing.
Note that I said important part. Research is oh so very definitely a part of the writing process. Just because you aren’t scripting, that doesn’t mean you aren’t writing. Looking into how things can actually happen – how a building would collapse, how to reshoe a horse, how to roast a turkey – is so important to the final outcome of your script. If you get it wrong, it throws people out of the story. I remember I once watched a show with a protagonist who was on the Tube on the Central line get a text message. Another film had visa regulations that were wrong. It broke the suspension of disbelief for me because the research wasn’t done right.
Saturating yourself in the genre you’re working on – watching hours and hours of sitcom or romantic comedy films or slasher flicks – is part of honing your skills to write something fantastic. After all, how can you write something original if you’ve no idea what’s been done before?
Never underestimate the power of research. You could stumble across a scene or storyline that’s exactly like yours. Then you need to figure out if you can make it different enough or scrap it. There’s nothing worse than pitching your work to someone who turns around and says ‘Oh, that sounds like The Godfather,’ but you’ve never seen it and suddenly your storyline is shot. If you’ve spent months slaving on the script, then where are you? Frustratingly enough, it happens.
Never, ever beat yourself up if you spend a day watching something of your genre instead of typing ‘EXT. RAIL PLATFORM – DAY’. Getting all the information you can is a key part of arming yourself so that you can write the best possible version of your story when it comes to that.
And that could be what sets you apart from the other scripts in the pile.