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September 16, 2023

How to Write like Jack Thorne

In the world of screenwriting and playwriting, few names resonate as deeply as Jack Thorne. A master of his craft, Thorne has artfully woven stories that oscillate between raw human experiences and fantasy.

With notable works such as This is England ’88, The Virtues or National Treasure that are grounded in the pressing issues of the day to the adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s beloved fantasy epic His Dark Materials he has stamped his indelible mark on contemporary storytelling.

Beyond his scripts, Thorne's collaborative effort with J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child solidified his position as a versatile storyteller.

This blog serves as a guide to the world of Jack Thorne, providing insights into his signature storytelling techniques and offering aspiring writers a beacon to light their creative path.

Here’s how to write like Jack Thorne.

Background and achievements

Born in Bristol, England, Jack Thorne's early works immediately showcased his potential, but it was projects like This is England '88 that brought him to attention in the U.K. A poignant exploration of British subculture and the throes of young love, This is England ’88 showcases Thorne's ability to delve deep into the human psyche.

His scripts often receive positive reviews for their introspective look at life. But they also have compelling narratives and character-driven plots.

It's also Thorne's ability to resonate with audiences across generations that truly sets him apart. Whether it's the emotional turmoil of a teenager or the existential musings of an adult, Thorne captures the essence of human emotions of all ages.

Deeply personal narratives

Jack Thorne's storytelling is often celebrated for being authentic. Drawing inspiration from both personal experiences and broader societal issues, Thorne crafts narratives that are both intimate and universally relatable.

For instance, in His Dark Materials, Thorne delves into the complexities of trust, betrayal, and the journey to self-discovery.

This line not only underscores Lyra's determination but also highlights Thorne's ability to capture the essence of a character's internal struggle and desire for personal autonomy.

Similarly, in The Aeronauts, Thorne showcases his flair for intertwining personal aspirations with broader societal challenges. The protagonist Amelia Wren's dedication to her craft is evident when she proclaims,

"We changed the way they saw the world. We changed the way they dream."

Such lines reflect Thorne's knack for conveying characters' deepest convictions and dreams, making them resonate with the audience's own aspirations and fears.

Through these narratives, Thorne ensures that while his stories might be set in unique worlds or historical contexts, the emotions and struggles faced by his characters are universally relatable.

Character development

Jack Thorne's expertise isn't just limited to crafting compelling narratives; he's also renowned for his intricate character development. Thorne's characters stand out because of their depth, flaws, and relatability.

He doesn't just present heroes and villains in black and white; instead, he paints them in shades of gray, making them more human and allowing the audience to empathize, even with the most complex of characters.

For example, in His Dark Materials Thorne introduces us to Lyra Belacqua, a young girl who is curious, brave, yet also naive.

We see Roger and Lyra playing on the battlements and treating a chase like a game.

His Dark Materials Episode 1 script (BBC, Jack Thorne)

This reveals a sense of adventure intertwined with the innocence of childhood. However, as the narrative progresses, we witness her growth, challenges, and the shedding of this naivety, making her journey incredibly engaging.

On the other hand, The Aeronauts offers a portrayal of James Glaisher, a scientist driven by ambition yet burdened by societal expectations and personal fears. It's evident that Thorne excels in crafting multi-dimensional characters battling with internal conflict.

He ensures they evolve, face moral dilemmas, and undergo transformations, making them not just characters in a script but real people with whom the audience can connect.

Emotional depth

One of Jack Thorne's hallmark qualities as a writer is his ability to delve deep into the emotional reservoir of his characters, creating moments that resonate profoundly with the audience.

He doesn't shy away from exploring heavy emotions, from the pangs of loss and heartbreak to the first love, making his works deeply moving and memorable.

In His Dark Materials we're presented with a world filled with wonder and danger, but it's the emotional journeys of the characters that truly captivate the audience. A poignant moment arises when Lyra realises she has been taken away from Roger.

This line not only showcases her determination but also the depth of her bond with Roger, emphasizing the lengths she's willing to go for those she loves.

Similarly, The Aeronauts provides a canvas for Thorne to paint a vivid picture of human vulnerability and strength. The emotional depth is palpable when Amelia Wren, reflecting on a past tragedy when recalls her husband falling.

This encapsulates the duality of her experiences – the euphoria of touching the skies and the heart-wrenching pain of personal loss and how closely related they are.

Through these narratives, Thorne masterfully taps into the universal human experience, crafting scenes and dialogues that tug at the heartstrings and keep viewers engaged.

Social issues

Jack Thorne possesses a keen eye for social commentary, often weaving pressing societal issues into his stories. His commitment to shedding light on topics like disability, mental health, and socio-economic challenges is evident in many of his works, making them not only entertaining but also thought-provoking.

In His Dark Materials the portrayal of the Magisterium offers a critique of oppressive institutions and the lengths they go to maintain control. The series, while fantastical, mirrors real-world power dynamics and raises questions about freedom, autonomy, and the consequences of unchecked authority.

Similarly, The Aeronauts touches upon the challenges of breaking societal norms and expectations. Amelia Wren's character, as a female aeronaut in a male-dominated field, showcases the hurdles faced by women seeking to break barriers and the scrutiny they're subjected to.

Through these narratives, Thorne emphasizes the importance of challenging societal norms and advocating for change. His stories serve as a reminder that art can be a powerful tool for social critique, pushing audiences to reflect on their own beliefs and the world around them.

Emotion is key

By studying how to write like Jack Thorne, we get to learn about the importance of emotional depth, authenticity, and the intertwining of personal and societal narratives. Thorne's works, characterized by his nuanced character and engagement with relevant social issues, provide a template for aspiring writers seeking to craft gripping stories.

Arc Studio offers a user-friendly platform to start writing. It's free to download, with no credit card required. Begin your storytelling adventure with Arc Studio today.


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How to Write like Jack Thorne
Harry Verity

Harry is a professional writer. His first novel The Talk Show was published in the U.S and the U.K by Bloodhound Books in 2021 and he is currently working on adapting it for screen using Arc Studio. He's also written for Media Magazine - a UK magazine for students of A-level Film, Media and Television Studies. His journalism has appeared in The Guardian, Readers' Digest and Newsweek, amongst many other publications. He has just finished his second novel for young adults, set in a boarding school. He holds a BA in English from Loughborough University.

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