Julian Hoxter is the author of feature screenplays such as Kiss Me Again.
What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?
Go on a trip. It doesn't have to be expensive. You don't have to travel to distant lands—although if you can, why not? The idea is to break cycles of thought through new stimulus. Of course one can find new stimulus in many ways, but being confronted by places and people and sights, sounds, smells and tastes that are new to me tends to push me into creative thinking automatically. Make the planning a creative exercise in itself, even if your trip is just to the other side of town, or to the district you have never really explored, or that new museum, gallery, park, swimming pool, beach, hiking trail or whatever is lurking just down the road or just over the next hill. This is a very literal reaction to being stuck in a metaphorical rut but it never fails for me. Of course, sometimes I don't magically solve my present problem, but I always find new inspiration for other projects and that can be just as productive in the long run. And the excitement of that new creativity somehow plays back into invigorating my thinking about the old.
What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?
This is an old one that many writers will sign on to, but when I get into a script and am getting to know my characters, they always talk to me. Even in my little manual: Write What You Know, I have an ongoing dialogue with an imaginary 'implied reader' whose job is to give me a hard time and make me justify my ideas to my real readers. After writing a couple of little exchanges between 'myself' and this bolshie character, they popped up regularly in my head as I was writing. Most of the exchanges in the book were not planned specifically, they were forced out onto the page by the 'needs' of that character. I believe the book is much the better—or at least more honest—for them.
What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
I didn't get much writing advice early on other than general parental encouragement and good grades in English classes at school. In a funny way the best advice I ever got was from an actor, in the form of criticism about my stage directing. While I was an undergraduate drama student at the University of East Anglia I was staging a production of John Arden's brilliant play Sergeant Musgrave's Dance. During a rehearsal my leading actor told me I was directing him "like a film director". What he meant was I was micromanaging him on stage—a lesson I was grateful for and learned from. It also got me thinking: well maybe I should have a go at that film thing... Now that lesson translates directly for a screenwriter: focus on the needs of the drama, don't over-write description or micromanage characters in your writing. There is nothing actors and directors hate more when they are reading a screenplay than endless writerly interventions (especially in parentheses [sic]) that try and do their job for them. Good screenwriting implies performance, it doesn't imprison it.