Friday, June 23, 2006

Outlining and Other Development-y Goodness

Read 'em and weep, bitches.

This is the outline board for my current script, which I am calling the Redbeard story, pending an actual title.

While I await comments from you lazy slackers who have the Cousins script (you know who you are), I'm starting on my next. I feel a little guilty that this is also a rom-commy story, but hey, that's how I roll.

I'm finding the use of the board to be very good for me. In the past I've always tried to plot out the movie in my head, figuring that if I can't remember it without writing it down, it must not be a good enough idea.

I later decided that this was ridiculous.

The board is nice and visual, y'know? I can set it up there on the desk at work and stare at it for half an hour while ideas surge around. Then I can find the place where the idea actually fits. I can gaze at the story outline in visual form and figure out where the structural weak points are. I can move things around, cut and replace, and it all happens right there before my eyes.

It's a beautiful thing.

So I have this new idea roughly plotted out. The Cousins script was the first time I did an actual outline before moving on to the draft. And because I was doing the 14-day thing, even that was a rushed outline, which will no doubt be apparent to those of you who actually read it.

In this case, I have no such deadline. So I spent this week coming up with a structurally sound outline and deciding what basic character types I wanted. Next week I will move on to some serious character development. This is supposed to be funny, and good comedy depends (in my book) on spectacular and outrageous characters.

Character is, in my own opinion, the thing I am absolutely the worst at, so I'm not sure how long I'll spend on character development before I have it right. By that time, the plot of the movie may also be all different, because I will be making changes to it as the characters demand.

So I'm in for an exciting time, I think. Drafts are obviously the big rush, and I've determined that I can crank one out pretty fast what with my long empty nights at work. But I want each successive first draft to improve. John August claims that he only does one draft. That's pretty damn good. That's a good goal, and one only gets there through improving one's planning skills.

Meanwhile, I need Greg to sell his stupid script and come back here so he can tell me when my ideas suck. I prefer to sidestep the suck when possible.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Must Find Hook

Last night at work I treated myself to a night of watching movies on the couch (I love my job). Why did I do this? Well, I'm glad you asked that, O jealous fellow writers.

Because I finished a script.

Okay, fine! I didn't finish the script. I finished the first draft. But it sounds so much cooler to say you finished a script.

The 14-day Screenwriting Contest worked out well for me. I banged that thing out at an average of almost 6 pages an hour, baby. That's pretty good for me—I don't know about the rest of you.

I think that's the glorious thing about having an idea that you can really see as a movie: you keep seeing it the whole time you're writing; you just have to keep letting the fingers translate so everyone else can also see.

The 14-day script was good for me in another way, besides just getting a draft knocked over. It reminded me how much I love writing a script.

I was pumped when I got the Lifeline job, because it meant I would be able to write for several hours every night while getting paid. True, I wasn't getting paid much, but it was enough to stay alive and not have to stress out trying to find other hours during the day in which to pursue the craft. So I entered the job excited, ready to go.

Then I didn't write for a month.

This is the problem with ideas that you can't "see." You can't see them. I had this "Hero" idea. The most famous heroes of the great stories and myths are actually all the same person. What a great idea, right?

That's not a hook. It's too broad to be a hook. So I went off in search of the hook. Night after night at work I would labor to find the plot for the movie this idea wanted to be. I did one. It sucked. I did another one. It sucked. But it had elements of not sucking. I took another pass at it. It still sucked.

I kept falling asleep at the desk. Outlining a hookless movie has to be the worst thing in the world for someone awake at 4 a.m.

So, worn out from all this story-breaking and not having written in longer than I wanted to admit to anyone, I went off to Sicily. And danged if my second-to-last day there, I didn't get myself a hook. And I don't mean a hook in the "what a great concept to explore" sense, but in the "This is so good I need to check to make sure it hasn't already been done" sense. (Note: this is my big, biased ego talking).

Come home, back to work. First night: outlining.


I kicked that outline's ass.

Second night: writing.
Third night: writing.
Fourth night: lack of sleep, but still some writing.
Fifth night: hella writing (40 pages, baby)
Sixth night: insane work problems and distractions galore. No writing.
Seventh night: Fade to Black. Draft complete.

I think I calculated around 27 hours of writing to produce 129 pages. Not once in all those hours or pages did I get bored. Not once did I wish I was doing something else (okay, maybe sleeping). It was a thrill from start to finish.

Because I had a hook.

New screenwriting lesson: Don't write a hookless movie. Not just because you won't sell it. Because it's not nearly as much fun.

Next week: a new hook, a new outline, a new script. Rewrites on the most recent draft await the perusal of my fellow scribes. Get on that, y'all. Don't leave me hanging.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I'm the Juggernaut of Page Counts, Bitch.

I was going to continue my argument with this post by Greg, but I went away before I could get there, and I don't care enough anymore. So we're done with that.

More exciting (to me) is what's currently going on in the English-speaking world of screenwriting, the 14 Day Screenwriting Contest. This is a contest against one's self, so don't get excited that you might win something. In any case, it's too late to start unless you're even more of a speed demon writer than I am right now.

I got back to the states a little late for the contest (June 6 as opposed to June 3), but I went for it anyway, because while I was away I came up with my most kick-ass idea ever for a story. When I got home, I spent one night at work (I love my job) outlining, and the next night commenced to pound out the first draft. I've now spent three nights of work time writing this script, and the page count is (ya ready?) 90 frickin' pages.

Now, 90 pages is actually pretty close to what I thought the final page count would be. However, I am not terribly far past the midpoint at the moment, and still going strong, so one of the flaws that will be fixed in subsequent drafts is definitely going to be long-winded-ness. But I still feel quite confident that in the remaining three nights of work I have left before the 14 days end I can finish this rough. I'm not saying it will be good. But fixing a sucky thing is about a million times easier than creating a new thing.

One of the other things I have a feeling will be wrong with this script, although I won't be able to verify this until others read it, is that it just won't be that funny. This is my first time trying to write a rom-com, so I've got that working against me. But beyond that, I just keep forgetting that it's supposed to be funny. I get focused on the story, banging out scenes, and every couple hours think to myself, "Am I being funny?" We'll find out.

The other thing holding me back from the funny is that since I didn't have tons of planning time, I didn't so much map out characters beforehand. I think a lot of the essence of comedy is based on good characters, and I don't have 'em. Much of the comedy in this script can be situational, but much of it should still be character-driven. So there's already plenty of work to do in the second draft.

I'll let you guys know how it goes, and I'll probably ask a couple of you to read, if you promise not to do that thing you did with my last script, you bunch of slackers.

I need Greg to come back so I can brag on myself. My writer's ego needs some stroking.