Monday, June 08, 2009

Starting almost over

Well now I did it.

I got about 20 pages into my latest script and then I practically started over. I realized that I had an action scene on the first two pages and then nothing for probably 20 more. You can't go 20 minutes in a martial arts film with no martial arts, or at least something with tension. I had 20 minutes of people chatting. I was boring myself with all that talking.

People in screenplays really do need to learn to shut up and do stuff.

After the first night's adventure, Character A is invited to Character B's house to discuss something that will bring Character A and Character C together. Character A is concerned because she's guilty of a crime against Character B, but doesn't know if old B knows it or not.

Character B does not know, and all three characters talk. Then the next day character A and Character C talk some more. And then more talking. And also more talking about talking.

I thought about it and changed it to the following:

Character A learns that a 14-year-old boy she knows has been accused of her crime and is being questioned at Character B's house, so she storms over to save the boy, but has to do it without giving herself up. Once there she runs into Character C in league with Character B. Confrontation. There's less talking because tensions are high so there's no pleasantries or fond remembrances, just shouting and crying and whatnot from various people and I can meet out the exposition buried inside arguments. And Character A goes to the house of her own volition, not because she is requested there. Proactive behavior and all that.

Then I can not only put some interesting conflict inside my talking, but I can get to the action faster. I like this method much, much better.

The problem is, it changes completely most of the pages I already wrote and also makes me question the direction I was taking a subplot. I think I have to totally change the subplot but I don't know how yet. I need to sleep on it.

The lesson I learned from this is that sometimes when your script is boring you, throw a 14-year-old kid under a bus.


  1. Yay conflict!

    But Doesn't Crouching Tiger just talk for at least 15 minutes before Jiao Long (Jen) steals the sword?

  2. True - and I'm still having a lot of dialogue in the beginning of mine. I'm not adding in an extra action scene, just making the dialogue more interesting.

  3. I can only ask if you fleshed out the story in outline form first. It's indispensable.

    You can spot problems before you get to Final Draft.

    What I usually do is write by sequence where a sequence is 1-4 pages depending on what the content is.

  4. I wouldn't say "indispensible" exactly. Different people have different methods to reaching their story. I'm glad yours works for you, but it's not my way.

    I do a loose outline because I tend to discover parts of the story on the way. So I do very pretty colored index cards and then forget about them. I wrote out my plot very carefully beforehand, but I find that if I rope myself to an outline the story suffers.

  5. I use them because they aren't your babies until they're on the page - as it were.

    I include all research and tend to kill all of those "premature" elements.

    I have saved myself many a night by being able to look at the outline and reflect against the written scene.

    It's always YMMV, but notes are tangible and can always change.

    I usually go through three to four different outlines before I actually start writing - though I do test my "first 2" every time. Sometimes the outline rips it apart sometimes not.

  6. You don't have to defend your method to me. I'm glad it works for you. I use a different system that works for me.


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