Aaron Sterns talks about his “Adapting Fiction to Screenplays and Utilizing Screenwriting Structure in Fiction” workshop

asternsTell us something about your StokerCon workshop that is not in the original description:

I ran a similar workshop at one of the Beechworth Asylum writers’ weekends recently (https://asylumretreats.com/tag/asylum/) and invited the participants to each pitch the logline of a story idea. After outlining my approach to structure, conflict, the wound, and theme, I then returned to their ideas and helped shape each into a (hopefully) sale-worthy outline, with a razor-sharp high concept logline to boot. Something a script editor would usually charge … quite a bit more for.

What skills or achievements make you ideally suited to lead this workshop?

Twenty-plus years in the horror field both writing fiction and film, an actual produced film to my credit (which is not easy to achieve), another dozen in current development, a decade or more of script editing experience, and I was also once a university lecturer so teaching is in my blood.

Why do you feel that your workshop subject is especially important?

As much as I love horror fiction it’s an incredibly small market compared to film. Horror has more potential perhaps than any other field to make the leap from the written word to the filmed image (perhaps because it’s so based in atmospherics, eliciting emotion/ response, digging into fundamental human truths and fears, etc.), so there’s always a hunger for well-conceived material.

If you could participate in one other StokerCon workshop, which one would you choose and why?

I’m booked in for John Skipp’s master plotting crash course, because he’s legendary, and I also don’t intend to miss Jack Ketchum’s workshop on the wound, as his previous writings on the subject changed my approach to story.

Do you approach the craft of writing horror differently from other genres?

I’ve found that the skills learned in writing horror – that good characterization elicits empathy and so emotion in the reader, that there’s no point unless there’s some social or existential commentary, that art should be about truth and so nothing is off limits – are all elements that other genres sometimes overlook and can benefit from. That’s why there’s so much bleeding of horror into other genres (and particularly into mainstream and literary writing).

Apart from teaching your workshop, what are you most looking forward to at StokerCon?

It’s a huge undertaking from me to fly to the US for StokerCon (in fact, the timely sale of a recent script is the only reason I can afford it), and I can only do it at this stage every couple of years. So I value the experience of attending the panels and staying in touch with the pulse of the scene highly, but it’s really catching up with old friends and making new contacts that I cherish. Writing is an isolationist’s game – even more so when you’re marooned in Australia – and the convention is an amazing whirlwind that gets me through the bleak months alone.

What do you most hope that those attending your workshop will take away from it?

I hope I can arm them with a new, more ruthless approach to their writing. It’s taken me a lot of years to distil these techniques to the stage where I’m being approached almost weekly to write or rewrite or script edit others’ scripts. I believe I can not only help the participants with whatever pressing story idea I help develop, but to continue to apply those techniques to their future writing – not only in attempted screenplays, but applied back to their own fiction.


Please click here to read more about Aaron or his workshop, or to register for any of the StokerCon workshops.