Thursday, October 29, 2009

What I learned from my notes

I sent my script to a friend the other day and last night he gave me great notes. I hope he doesn't mind, but I'd like to deconstruct his notes because they taught me some things I thought were interesting.

We did the notes in real time, which I've never done before but liked very much. As he read the screenplay he emailed me questions and comments, and I responded, so every time he had an observation he sent it to me so I could see how his thoughts flowed. I really liked doing it this way because it allowed me to ask clarifying questions and see exactly what his instant reactions were without a filter of editing. That's how I like to write notes myself. If you give me a screenplay to read, I tend to just write my notes in order and not edit much before I send them so you can see my journey through your work.

I learned that when you're working with historical fiction, you have to have an exposition dump at some point, or your reader, who is most likely not an expert in your period of choice, will be terribly confused.

I learned that I write better on the fly. All the stuff I sat down and carefully planned with the index cards was not nearly as good as the stuff I just cranked out while I was in front of the screen. All the things my friend said he liked were things I was inspired to write by the characters themselves. So I should definitely trust my instincts.

I learned that it's funnier than I thought it was. I thought when I was writing this thing that it was so goddamn serious I needed to intentionally insert funny moments for comic relief. I went back through the script and looked specifically for moments when I could lighten shit up because I'm not actually trying to be the world's most depressing action screenwriter. Apparently it worked. There were laughs to be had.

I learned that "Eyeball fucking" means different things to different people.

I learned that yes, just as I suspected, I suck at writing death scenes.

I learned that when you call a character NAME and change it to Simon, you might want to go back through your script and make sure you didn't use the word "name" anywhere else or you'll end up with several references to "What's his Simon".

Tomorrow I'll talk about the most interesting comment to come out of last night's notes, whether or not you must have a happy ending. This one's going to need its own post.


  1. that's what the folks at the WGA said: outlining and planning are good, but you have to be open to that bolt of lightning that is a great idea.

    In other news: we named our new writing group "Zombie Preparedness Group" and we're getting t-shirts made...across the shoulders in back will be 'In case of involuntary revivification, please shoot twice in head KTHXBAI."

    I wonder if Emily would want one...

    and hey, why my blog no on blogroll? I sexy. I smart.

  2. You went private so I took it off. Then you changed your mind and I haven't updated my list in a while.

  3. LOL @ "I learned that "Eyeball fucking" means different things to different people."

    This is why I read blogs. To pick up these little gems of wisdom so I can pass them down to my son someday.

    Thanks Emily!



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