Billy Wilder wrote and directed some of the best movies ever made, including Some Like It Hot and The Apartment. In Conversations with Bill WIlder, Cameron Crowe interviews him in great detail about all his films. It’s one of the best books about making movies I’ve ever read.
In the appendix Crowe included Bill Wilder’s 10 tips for writers. I recommend picking up the book for a further discussion of all these points, but there’s a lot of practical wisdom in the list itself.
Billy Wilder’s Tips For Writers
- The audience is fickle.
- Grab ’em by the throat and never let ’em go.
- Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
- Know where you’re going.
- The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
- If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is the first act.
- A tip from Lubitsch. Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
- In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they are seeing.
- The event that occurs at the second-act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
- The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then-
- -that’s it. Don’t hang around.