Writing with a Partner: 4 Writing Teams to Learn From

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

At some point, most every writer wishes they had a partner to help carry the load of their story. While some creators are well aware of their own inability to collaborate, others have considered trying it, but never found a willing partner or someone they trust, both with respect to creativity and dependability. Writing teams are not for everyone. However, they can be a powerful approach to telling a story, providing insight and well-rounded thinking that might not be possible with a single writer. Here is a look at four writing teams and lessons we can take from their work.

The Wibberleys

Screenwriters of National Treasure and its sequel, Bad Boys 2, I-Spy and a host of other films, this wife/husband team has told stories that have been beloved by audiences around the world for more than 25 years. Legend has it that Marianne and Cormac Wibberley finally convinced Jerry Bruckheimer of their take on National Treasure by borrowing a dollar and pointing out the hidden codes on it that they would use in the story. They had pitched different ideas for the story to Bruckheimer before, but it wasn’t until they were able to connect the high-stakes adventure to the experience of the average person that they struck proverbial gold.

While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of lessons we could take from the Wibberleys, this one tops the list. Remember to find a universal angle for your story.

Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski

This screenwriting duo has seen enormous successes on both big and small screens. While one would suspect that the team responsible for biopics such as Ed WoodThe People vs Larry FlyntMan on the MoonBig Eyes, and The People vs OJ Simpson spark a bidding war with every new script they write, they have just as many unproduced scripts to their credit as those that have made it to the screen. Screenplays detailing the lives of the Marx Brothers, Robert Ripley, The Village People, and Rollen Stewart remain unproduced.

Alexander and Karaszewski remind us that being a writer is not about how many stories we can sell. Rather, writing is about finding material that your curiosity draws you to – material you can spend years with, even if it never finds a home onscreen.

Jessica O’Toole and Amy Rardin

Before writing the pilot for the CW’s reboot of Charmed, O’Toole and Rardin had written scripts for TV hits such as SelfieGreekThe Carrie DiariesJane the Virgin, and the American Girl series. The duo is now able to highlight subjects and issues important to them because they earned their reputation as writers able to bring richness to stories originated by others – often a necessary step before a writer is trusted to helm her own ideas. One of many lessons we see in the careers of O’Toole and Rardin is the skill of bringing an original voice to your writing while also being able to capture the voice of someone else.

Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa

One of the hottest writing teams in Hollywood, Silver and Jaffa are currently wrapping up scripts for the live-action remake of Disney’s Mulan and Avatar 3. They are responsible for some of the most successful current franchises, including Planet of the Apes and Jurassic World.

Few remember, however, that Silver began writing in 1992 with a thriller titled The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. Jaffa served as executive producer on the film. The lesson? It has taken this writing team more than a quarter century to land the most lucrative gigs in Hollywood, telling stories for the most precious franchises. A career in writing is a marathon, not a sprint.

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John Bucher is a writer, speaker, and story consultant based out of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books including The Inside Out Story and the upcoming Secrets of Short Visual Storytelling. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to International Ambassadors. He teaches at The LA Film Studies Center and has conducted story seminars on five continents. He can be reached on Twitter @johnkbucher and through his blog, welcometothesideshow.org.

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