Two Wrongs

Screenwriting and Software Development

Screenwriting and Software Development

About a year ago I took up a book1 Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and th Principles of Screenwriting; McKee; HarperCollins; 2010. on screenwriting.2 It’s a type of writing I have not explored previously, and I thought it might improve my technical writing. It did improve my narrative abilities somewhat, but if anything it made my technical writing worse. I’ll try a book on business communication at some point in the future.

The introduction talks a lot about narratives being models of life, and a recurring theme is Box’s idea that “All models are wrong, but some models are useful.” A narrative does not have to be correct, just express the right ideas for the story conveyed. Echoing domain modeling advice, a common mistake in screenwriting is trying to narrate every detail one can think of, rather than just the things one wants to explore for the moment.

There’s also a discussion about the need for the storyteller to have a deep curiosity for how things fit together, questioning assumptions, not obsessing over apparent facts if they get in the way of truth, and shaping the narrative with, through, and about the audience. Exactly the stuff you need to write good software.

Several pages went by and I could almost have accidentally picked up a book on software design and not noticed the difference. I suspect creative jobs are more similar than they appear on the surface.