Session #95 – Interview with Screenwriter Carolyn Martin

Carolyn Martin is a screenwriter and retired licensed counselor, marriage and family therapist who reached out to us after listening to Session #89 – Writing Hard Scenes. Her experience with victims and patients who have experienced various physical and mental trauma intrigued us. This session is our interview with her where we discuss how her work as a therapist helps inform her writing, and how we should all do the research when writing these sorts of scenes without having first-hand experience with them.


Carolyn’s Website:

Hard Scenes—rape, death, suicide, domestic violence, drugs, other trauma?

  1. Don’t use these as plot points or window dressing. Don’t trivialize suffering.
  2. Do your research and then do some more
  3. Consult with a professional, then have them read it.
  4. Ask yourself, what’s the purpose for this scene? 
  5. Ask yourself how would victims want me to tell this story?
  6. If you want to serve a great good, write stories about victim RECOVERY. Those stories are rare stories to find. How can this scene serve a purpose? 
  7. If I left this scene out and just referenced what happened, would the script be missing some important element?
  8. Read victim accounts
  9. Draw on your own experience of any kind. Maybe what you experienced isn’t nearly as bad. Imagine how it might have been if it had been much worse. Betrayal, fear, shock. 
  10. Ask yourself if you’re the right person to write this scene, if not find a writing partner to do this scene. 
  11. Emotion pictures. What feeling do you want your reader to feel while they are reading script? You’re going to have to use words, images, story structure that produce that feeling. 
  12. Watch scenes that ring true for you that are like your scene. Put yourself in the perp’s shoes then in the victim’s shoes. My example—De Sade. 
  13. Is it an issue of going too far or that it gratuitous? 


  • 13 reasons why—rape and suicide
  • Sweet/Vicious—rape, revenge, confronting the rapist, betrayal
  • Good Will Hunting—the breakthrough therapy session
  • Big Little Lies—rape, death, domestic violence, second season–guilt
  • Kate Hagen The Black List–Sexual Violence in Screenplays & SV in S–One Year Later
  • Quills—sexual perversion 
  • The Accused–rape
  • The Tale—child sexual assault
  • Brokeback Mountain—forbidden love, death

Your thoughts?

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