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5 Q&A's with Joctan Hernandez, 24-Hour Screenwriting Challenge winner

Joctan, congratulations on winning the 24-Hour Screenwriting Challenge at FilmCon Awards. We enjoyed reading “Coincidence.”

In less than 24 hours, you wrote a short screenplay about a man who is about to do something risky when everything is stopped by fate or merely coincidence.

Let's talk about how you started out. Tell us about your background, what sparked your interest in screenwriting?

I always loved writing, since I was about 8 years old, I was always writing and making up stories. I started to write screenplays in college, I immediately fell in love with the process of it, and I haven't stopped since. This is actually the second time I have participated in this event.  

Your winning entry, “Coincidence,” tells the story of Raymond, a 40-year-old man who plans to rob a jewelry shop. But when he finally feels ready to start the robbery, he coincidentally meets his ex-girlfriend Regina, who has her own plans. How did you come up with the idea, and what do you like about dark comedies?

I actually have to thank the due date, I wrote it with one hour left of the clock before the deadline, I sat down and just wrote. Though, when I first read the prompt, and character details, in my head a scene popped, and it was Raymond entering a jewelry shop talking to an old man. So I wrote around that image and Coincidence showed up. 

Tell us about your writing process. How do you approach a new story? What kind of stories attract you?

I actually like to marinate the idea first, normally I go on long walks and just think about a situation or a character, I get involved in its life, I can't say where the ideas come from, because frankly I have no idea, they just pop up. I just try to be fast enough to grab them and give them life. I love stories about the human condition, it doesn't matter what kind of genre the story is, it gives me compelling characters I can follow and root for, or hate. I do love horror, and dark humor, I think a very serious and real aspect of humanity comes out in those types of stories. 

What are some of the challenges in writing a short screenplay in 24 hours? Tell us about your experience with writing “Coincidence.”

It is definitely a challenge, you're afraid that you might miss something, unless you literally use the whole 24 hours, which is a good idea, I try to go as fast as I can, as long as I have the concept of the story clear, everything else will fit together. Most of the day, like I mentioned before, I let the idea that I have marinate, I don't try to force a story if I'm not sure enough to start typing. But when I am, I just try to focus on not passing the 5 page mark. It's a fun experience. And a great exercise for every writer. You really have no idea what you're gonna come up with in those 24 hours. It's like magic.

In your opinion, what are the ingredients for creating a good screenplay? Do you have any tips for other first-time screenwriters?

I think what makes a good screenplay is being faithful to your premise, and writing great characters. If you start plotting and leave your premise out of it just to have a cool scene your whole script will fall apart. Stay true to your premise and write great and real characters. If I have something to say, it would be to write the truth, in fiction there is truth, inside of the world you create, write your truth and don't be afraid of it, and above all, if you want to be a great writer, a good writer at the least, read a lot and write a lot. There is just no shortcut to it. 

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