Words properly arranged

March 7, 2017
typist

Behind that disarming smile lurks the constantly-devising mind of a creative genius

Jumping back to focus on the pulp adventure spec, along with a return of that certain ZING! one gets when quite psyched about a story. Yep, still going strong.

Gotta say, this whole “break down each scene to its individual elements” thing is really working out nicely. It’s tremendously easier to have a line-by-line description of what happens rather than trying to figure it all out on the fly.

The most recent wrinkle has been manipulating the events that lead up to and just after the midpoint of the story. I originally had the antagonist explaining their sinister plan, but seeing as how it sounded a lot better in the outline than it does on the page, there’s been some extensive editing, rewriting, cutting and pasting going on over the past couple of days.

And this was just for a couple of pages’ worth of material.

Among the pleasant surprises:

-discovering that a line or action in one scene could easily be relocated, thereby making the new scene that much stronger. All the elements were in place; it was just a matter of finding the right order in which to put them.

-being reminded of the concept of “less is more”. Some scenes as originally written turned out to be simply overly complicated – just too much going on. By eliminating everything EXCEPT what’s necessary in that scene naturally tightens things up, but also really moves things along and gets the point across that much faster.

-figuring out a way to present details of the plot without being so blatantly obvious about it. Implying seems to be much more effective.

It took a while, but the changes that have been made have proven to be most satisfying. No doubt there will be more of this sort of thing in future drafts, but for now it works.


Now it gets really interesting

January 24, 2017
desert

First few steps are always the toughest. Good thing I came prepared.

Let’s pause now for your humble blogger-in-residence to proudly proclaim that Act One of the first draft of the pulpy adventure spec is complete.

Whoopee.

But you know what that also means.

Yep. Time to buckle down even more, strap myself in, and jump feet-first into the intimidating arena commonly known as Act Two.

I’ll also admit it’s a little thrilling, too. There was a particular charge in working out the action sequences and story set-ups in Act One, so I’ve a strong suspicion the continuing build-ups for the former and the gradual development of the latter will be equally, if not more so, fun to write.

(and believe me when I say this is the kind of story that automatically requires a sense of fun)

Maybe it’s from continuously trying to improve as I go, but working on Act Two doesn’t seem as intimidating as it used to. Not to say that it comes easily; just slightly less insurmountable. I spent a lot of time on the outline, so confidence in that is pretty solid.

I read a lot about how a spec script might have a phenomenal Act One, but then things fall apart in Act Two for a myriad of possible reasons: the characters don’t do much/nothing really happens, or the overall story’s too thin, so a lot of Act Two is empty filler, and so on.

The only writing process I know is my own, and I always strive to make sure the story feels…complete? Full? It comes down to “I know what has to happen to tell this story,”, and while the first act is all about setting it all up, the second act is about fleshing everything out.

We get a closer look at the characters and how they’re progressing through the events of the story. We can see how they’re changing from when they were first introduced. Plot threads of all sizes get further developed. The central question is continuously asked (oh-so-subtly, of course).

It also involves steadily-mounting complications for your protagonist. They’ve got a goal, and it’s our job to throw all kinds of obstacles in their way that just keep making it harder for them to reach it. Again, a lot of it happens during our second act.

Act Two really is where the meat of the story takes place, so stuff needs to happen that not only holds our interest, but makes us want/need to know what happens next, and even that better be that much more intriguing.

 

As you’d expect, our work is cut out for us.

So off I go. Dispatches from this formidable excursion as they develop.

See you on the other side.


The “sound” of your writing

January 17, 2017
eavesdropping

No! Find your own style of writing. Don’t copy someone else’s.

When somebody reads your script,is there something about the writing that they can tell you’re the one who wrote it? Do you have a certain style or “voice” regarding how your material reads?

Each writer develops their own particular way of not only how they write, but how that material comes across on the page.

When you’re just starting out, maybe you play it safe and keep things simple and straightforward. Or you might try from the get-go to emulate a script or writer you really, really like, because if it worked for them, then it stands to reason that it will undoubtedly work for you in the exact same way. This is occasionally referred to as the Tarantino Syndrome.

There’s nothing wrong with appreciating a pro’s style, but for crying out loud, DO NOT try to duplicate it. That’s how they do it, which is not the same as how you do it. It also smacks of laziness. You want to make a name for yourself, right? So how are you going to do that by writing like somebody else?

Find a way that works for you and stick with it. Hone your writing skills with each draft until every script you offer up is undeniably identifiable as yours.

The more you produce, the more comfortable you’ll get with how you write, along with becoming more confident in your abilities. You’ve put in the work learning the rules, so now you feel ready to see how far you can bend them (but not too much! They can be very fragile at times.).

Soon you’ll have no hesitation to start putting your own spin on things; little touches here and there. Although the usual challenges and obstacles will still be there, you might discover that your overall process of writing has gotten just a little bit easier.


X + Y = you(r script)

July 9, 2013
Two individual great things combine to make a new great thing

Two individual great things combine to make a new great thing

Scenario time! You find yourself in the mythical elevator with the even more mythical open-minded Hollywood exec. Their attention is all yours for the next 30 seconds. Your moment to shine is at hand!

You give ’em your honed-to-perfection logline. They react with raised eyebrows, a slight tilt of the head and an intrigued “Hmm.” The fish is nibbling at that hook, but the deal ain’t sealed yet.

“How would you pitch that?” they ask. “What’s your X meets Y?”

In other words, what two movies does your script incorporate elements from while telling a unique and original story?

I’ve read arguments both for and against doing this. Personally, I don’t have anything against doing it, but usually try to avoid it, preferring to let the logline do the selling.

But sometimes you’re going to need those two points of reference to offer up a stronger idea of what somebody can expect from your story.

It’s also important to name films that are well-known, successful or both. Avoid box office flops and the obscure at all costs! There’s also the question of timeliness, but I’ll get into that in a second.

Case in point: The folks at the Tracking Board Launchpad gave each semifinalist script it’s own landing page, featuring a thumbnail sketch of details (logline, genre, contact info, etc.)

Part of what they wanted from the writers was their “X meets Y” pitch.

Since I couldn’t go with the phrase that served as my mantra during the writing process (retro sci-fi steampunk pirates), I thought “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN meets STAR WARS” summed it up nicely.

The response was that this was just “okay”, but the story didn’t seem as reminiscent of STAR WARS. Maybe there was another film that was more similar?

Fortunately for me, K was right there next to me during this exchange and suggested “How about ‘PIRATES meets THE LAST STARFIGHTER?'”

Yeah, that works. Definitely a stronger connection with my script on several levels.

Maybe my only nit to pick is that it’s not the most recent of films. 1984, to be precise. Almost 30 years old(!). But it’s still pretty well-known and is usually mentioned as part of “they don’t make ’em like that anymore”, so 2 points in my favor. If you’ve never seen it, you should really make a point to do so.

(And just to put it in perspective, STAR WARS is over 35 years old, but is probably a little more in the public eye.)

So take a look at your script. Put some thought into what best makes up your “X meets Y”.

That way, the next time someone asks “How would you pitch that?”, you’re ready to go.


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