Jeanne Marshall’s Seminar Notes, 1962-63

ADVICE TO WRITERS

  • DON’T LET SENTIMENTALITY REAR ITS UGLY HEAD!!!
  • MAKE PEOPLE THINK… STUN THEM… GRAB YOUR AUDIENCE IMMEDIATELY
  • DON’T OVERLOAD DIALOGUE
  • HAVE A POINT OF VIEW… DON’T ACCEPT SOMEONE ELSE’S CONCEPT
  • OVERALL THEME LEADS TO CHARACTERS THEN ON TO PLOT
  • RESEARCH BACKGROUND FOR ANY STORY
  • CONTINUITY… TIE SCENES OR PARAGRAPHS TOGETHER

This is how our first seminar with Mr. Rod Serling in 1962 began at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Rod had taken a rest from the Twilight Zone and Hollywood by returning to his alma mater. While here he taught two classes for writers at the college. One class was for students in the daytime. The other was a class for established writers from the area at the college in the evenings.

Although I was just a journalist working for the Beavercreek News and the Dayton Daily News, I was one of twenty writers chosen to attend his seminar “Drama in the Mass Media” in the evening class. Although I lived about 30 miles from the college, I didn’t miss one of the classes. Many times my husband wondered and worried about my driving that far in 13 degrees below zero weather. But our old car carried me safely to and from class with no mishaps.

Each of the seven lines of advice are important to the writer, but for me the last line is one of the most important bits of advice. The greatest story can be ruined by not following this advice and jumping from one scene to another leaving the reader to wonder what’s going on. That is something I held on to from the class. If the scenes are not tied together you really lose the impact of a great story. Grab your audience immediately, stun them and make them think. This was heavily stressed by Rod, as was his first instruction, “Don’t let sentimentality rear its ugly head.” He hated this almost as much as he hated Nazis.

The links below display scans of Jeanne’s original typewritten pages. Click a number to read that page.

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A teacher’s photo dedication to a model student: “To Jeanne Marshall, One of the few “A” students still around. Affection, Rod Serling”