Screenwriting or Creative writing – what to choose?

If you need to choose between screenwriting and creative writing programs, this article can help a little you see what suits you better. In my 2nd year, I took Introduction to Creative Writing with Professor Pasha Malla, and I loved it so much that I wanted to do a double major, screenwriting and creative writing! It took too much time to find out how to do that, and although I got information in the end, not everything was clear, so I decided to focus on screenwriting. 

Introduction to Creative Writing (not mandatory) was similar to the Screenwriting Fundamentals course (mandatory). They shared so much: amazing guests and feedback sessions from my professors and peers; I wrote a lot in both! And both are introductions to craft. I loved each course; I could see myself doing full-time Creative writing as I do Screenwriting. 

How different are screenwriting and creative writing?

A lot, and not much. In creative writing, I had more space to be poetic and write page about leaf falling. In screenwriting, that would be “Leaf falls down.” Yes, the structure was often the same – the same hero journey – but in screenwriting, you are making a blueprint, and in creative writing, almost the final product. Your screenplay will result in the collaboration of many and depends on many. Someone will act what you wrote. Maybe 500 people will work on it. In creative writing, the reader is the actor. If you write a novel, you will work with editors, publishers, designers; not sure is there anybody else, but I believe it’s basically you and editor. In the screenplay, I would note, “The room is filled with 80s stuff,” and I would be much more detailed in creative writing. You can do that in screenplay, but that’s usually job for production design.

So, it’s different and similar. That is why you need to put other stuff in this equation. As you will meet fellow production majors in the screenwriting program at York University. That is a plus for screenwriting, an option to meet people you want to pitch a movie. In a 4-year screenwriting program, you can make 1 or more short movies that could launch your career. With help from creative writing, you could publish your short story, which could help you get published. And they can help publish a novel if that is your goal.

Screenwriting could also be better if you aspire to be a narrative designer or write for games. Some people from the Screenwriting program at York University work in the narrative departments of huge (and small) gaming companies. Writing for games is a course in Cinema and media stream at York University, and as you tailor your own path, you can choose screenwriting with an emphasis on game writing.

When I finish the Screenwriting program, I will have several short movies produced, screenplay for one feature film (I will work on that one for 2 years) and TV show script. And still, It’s a hard choice. I was accepted to the OCAD Creative Writing program, but Screenwriting at York University was a better option for my future – especially writing for games.

One of the things you can do is research alumni from the program you are interested in on LinkedIn. Every University has a page where you will find alumni, so see how many creative writing people work in the industry or how many screenwriters do that. It will give you a sense of what to expect. Be sure to check the faculty members, both on Google and Rate my Professor.

Photo: Sculpture at York (William Hodd McElcheran The Encounter, 1991)