Interview with writer Sophie Breeze

WRITER’S NAME: Sophie Breeze
SHORT BIO OF THE WRITER: Sophie Breeze is a 22-year-old writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She is currently studying a Master of Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing as she strives to pursue writing as a full-time career. Aside for her studies, she freelances for several journal publications, with a particular focus on contemporary feminist theory and horror content. She is also a published author and ghost-writer, with years of experience writing across a wide variety of genres. This is the first short screenplay she has ever submitted for review.

  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

Six half-human, half-alien kids are exiled from their home planet and forced to live on earth. Naturally, they all have their own unique superpowers—shapeshifting, super-strength, flying, et cetera—which they use to fight off various monsters, traitors, and assassins. Ten-year-old me thought I was writing an inspired science-fiction epic, but it took a lot more work before the story was even readable. Crazily enough, when I was sixteen, I had the privilege of publishing a significantly refinedversion of that story as a YA novel called ‘Exile’.

  • Growing up, what movies or stories inspired your creative passion?

My passion for writing started with science fiction and fantasy. I grew up with The Hobbit as a favourite bedtime story, and quickly delved into popular children’s books like Spiderwick, Harry Potter, and Maximum Ride. These are the books that got me writing in the first place; determined to create something I’d like to read myself. As I’ve gotten older, my tastes veered more toward the paranormal, and eventually into horror. I was heavily inspired by Gothic literature during high school, particularly Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the works of H.P Lovecraft. In terms of cinema, I was engrossed by popular Asian horror films (The Ring, The Grudge, Shutter and The Eye). Much of my writing took off from there!  

  • For an unknown writer, what is the best way to get their screenplay seen?

The three most important lessons I’ve learned in getting any of my creative writing seen are practice, perseverance, and feedback. The only way to get better at your craft is to just keep doing it, no matter how many times you get turned down (and, for me, there have been many, many times!) Practice also means consuming large quantities of media (films and screenplays specifically)—there is such a wealth of knowledge and experience already out there upon which to draw. Feedback is a slightly more sensitive topic. For me, it took a long time to learn how to accept criticism; because not all criticism is good criticism, let alone useful. But stay open-minded. If someone agrees to read your work, it’s probably because they already want to help you.

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

As with all good stories, but especially when it comes to horror, there is no plot without some inciting character flaw. This is probably why I am frequently influenced by the mistakes I’ve made in my life when I am writing a new character. I often draw on my experiences of femininity and internalized misogyny, whereby my characters start from a place of grudging complacency, self-doubt, or cognitive dissonance. They continue to learn, as I have learned, to both acknowledge and resist such injustice. Of course, their methods are violently exaggerated, but the underlying pattern is the same, with a heavy emphasis on some underlying hubris.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

Like I mentioned above, I tend to start my character development process by identifying the character’s fundamental flaw. I’ll work backwards from there, piecing together their various quirks, motivations, strengths, and values from this one central weakness. There is something very compelling about characters who seem inclined toward self-destruction—regardless of what is happening in the surrounding story world, dramatic tension will follow them wherever they go. In Lilim, the main character’s fundamental flaw is empathy: she is so consumed by her desire to help other women that she completely neglects her own trauma, and her ensuing motivations spiral into monstrosity.

  • Do you write bios before you start writing?

Drawing up character bios is one of my favourite parts of the writing process. In fact, I’ll often think of the character before I think of the story itself. Those characters are not always the main characters, or even human characters, but they give me a platform upon which to launch the narrative. Most of my character bios consist of precise physical descriptions, a couple lines of backstory, and three strong adjectives to sum the person up as a whole. They are also regularly informed by mythological archetypes (monster, hero, villain, et cetera).

  • How emotionally involved are you with the characters you create?

I am deeply invested in the characters I create, both emotionally and intellectually. It’s hard not to be, especially when these characters form the very foundation of my writing. Even so, I think it’s healthy to maintain some distance between creator and creation. One of the main principles of good storytelling is inciting conflict—or, more sadistically, making the protagonist suffer. As a horror writer, I inevitably end up putting my characters through the wringer. If I let myself get too attached, I’ll be completely emotionally drained by the time the story is complete.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

Almost every part of my writing process is governed by some self-imposed structure: timetables, daily goals, routines, et cetera. When I’m looking at a big project, it can be comforting to break things down into smaller, focused tasks. Thankfully, this approach works for me, and it certainly helps get the job done, but it doesn’t always coincide with the wilder spirit of creativity—there is no exact science to when you’re going to feel like writing. Some days, the words flow, and on other days, they don’t. Structure is important, especially for a goal-oriented person like me, but so is flexibility.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

I’m a big believer in outlines. Even if I don’t end up following them to the letter (which, often, I don’t!), they are a very useful point of reference. Particularly when I get stuck somewhere in my piece, the outline will always be there to get me back on track. I find it very useful to have everything intricately laid out for me in the appropriate sequence; it keeps me focused and, again, plays into that goal-oriented mindset, as I get to check my plot points off one-by-one.   

  • What is the most important aspect of building a great character?

Motivation. I know it’s a bit of a textbook answer, but both as a writer and a reader/consumer, I cannot overstate the importance of character motivation. Whatever is driving the protagonist is what’s driving the story. This isn’t always the case, of course, nor is it a hard-and-fast rule of character creation, but it’s a very useful place to start.