Monday, August 16, 2010

Writing a Screenplay

As my family knows (and a few others) I’ve been working on a screenplay for several years now. It’s coming along and I was trying to explain to my wife how hard it is. Here’s a glimpse at my writing adventure.

I think I have a pretty good story (who doesn’t think that about their own work!)

In the beginning I just tried to write it out, mostly in linear fashion, kind of let it happen in front of me and see where it led. This might work for some novels but not for me.

I started listing scenes I thought I’d need to move my story along. Then I put these scenes on 3X5 cards.

The whole thing was still too overwhelming.

I decided to work on one scene at a time. For the time being stop worrying so much about the scene before or after – just get the one I was working on right. Writing one scene at a time helped me not to get bogged down and move along in the “don’t get it right, get it written” method.

With this I was able to write about 15 scenes – maybe 5 of them are good. Still working on the others.

But in this scene-by-scene construction something else started to pop up: continuity.
If a character says something in a scene then I have to make sure it is supported earlier or later by other statements or actions.

Chronology. My story is linear. I don’t plan on flashbacks or telling things out of sequence. Still I need to make sure things happen in the right order.

I started working on a timeline. I literally began with the year my lead character was born and worked toward today. This helped with lots of things such as how old each character is at certain points in time. And this helped me get the whole Act I, Act II and 3rd Act thing sorted out. It also pointed out a 10 year hole!

My story doesn’t really have a 10 year hole as I mention above. But as I developed a backstory I realize I needed to account for a missing 10 years of my lead character’s life – even though 90% of it will never actually be in the story.

And of course I have to have more than one backstory. When and where and why did certain people cross paths? I need to know all that so when they meet up in my story (if it is not for the first time) it can determine how they act or re-act and what they say.

Here’s a small example of those issues: My lead has an old car. What type of old car? That depends on when he bought it. If he bought in in 1975 or 1985, why? So I need to step back into that time in his life and understand why he owns this car. For the reader/viewer, it may be nothing more than he owns a 1985 whatever. But if I have to go any deeper than that, there has to be a deeper to go to.

Maybe I’m overthinking this. Maybe for some writers this is intuitive. They just know everything about every character. But I’m stalled and I needed a way to get unstalled so a timeline and fleshing out a few backstories has helped move me along.

I’ve spent chunks of time over the last four years working on this. I read something this weekend about a screenwriter who worked for eight years before finishing one up. I hope it doesn’t take me another four!

No comments:

Post a Comment