Monday, 26 April 2010

And next...

I implied that I only intended this blog as a supplement to Script Frenzy, but now that I started I figure it might as well tick along as a general writing blog.

I didn't spend my childhood writing fantasy stories, and indeed, I didn't spend all that much of my adulthood reading fiction (I have read far more non-fiction) - so quite where the writing bug came from I don't know.

Maybe because (bottom line) it only needs pencil and paper, no elaborate set-up or tools, and as story-telling it only needs a voice. Not that I expect the end of civilization as we know it, or to run entirely out of resources, but somewhere in there the simplicity does seem part of it.

Simple, however, as I used to say when teaching juggling (you could describe the cascade pattern as 'simple') does not necessarily mean 'easy'. I see simple as the opposite of complicated, and easy as the opposite of difficult.

Not that many people in talent shows try becoming jugglers, or animal trainers, piano players or tap dancers, because they look difficult. Almost everyone appears to think they can sing or tell jokes, though (and since soap operas cast for type, act). It looks 'simple'.

I guess writing also looks like something a lot of us think we can do...

So anyway, I soon got tired of the finger-exercises in 'How To Write' books, and have had more fun plunging in. So far I have written 3 novellas (50,000 words) with NaNoWriMo, and a film script at Script Frenzy. Not necessarily honed, or rewritten, but done. As I still don't quite know what I want to achieve, it seems a good idea to just keep going.

People have suggested autobiography (I seem to have had a colourful life) but somehow I can't get a handle on that. Too many people still alive who I might upset, too much soul-searching, perhaps too much honesty. Who can tell?Magical Means

A few years back I even tried to compile a 'script' for a comic book (sorry, graphic novel) called Magical Means - and although it never got completely manifested, still I turned it into a short story and got some illustrations to go with it, and published online.

  • Graphic novel - think visually, with minimum dialogue

  • Film script - think visually, but practice dialogue exchanges

  • Novels - play around with POVs, and the balance of plot, description, character arc, etc.

I will be amused when I find out what all this adds up to...

Saturday, 24 April 2010

I have a certificate to prove it!

Today Script Frenzy turned on their measuring devices, and proved that I had 'won' by completing a 100 page script!

Like The Scarecrow, I may not have any brains, but at least I now have a certificate!

And like him, I might consider myself a Doctor of Thinkology!

"The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side. Oh joy! Rapture!"

Monday, 19 April 2010

Sunny day reading

I read "The Whole Equation", a quite wonderful book about the 'whole ecology' of Hollywood films, by David Thomson - all 400 pp of it.

For light relief I read "Wishful Drinking" by Carrie Fisher (hilarious and a touch sad).

Having completed the first draft so quickly I went into a kind of limbo, and just dropped the whole thing. It seemed far too soon to re-edit.

However, I am still thinking about it all. The other book I read this weekend was Crafty Screenwriting by Alex Epstein (subhead: Writing Movies that Get Made). However, I don't kid myself.

All of this seems like doing finger-exercises to me, practising writing. I really don't set out thinking I am going from rags to riches. The whole idea makes me chuckle. I didn't expect to go from street performer to Star Wars puppeteer and although that happened (a) I didn't plan it (b) I didn't remain in the 'rich and famous' world, but was just one more disposable Private in the film army.

The only reason I say all that? When I say I am writing a script, friends seem to assume that I am trying to make money or get famous or something.

Otherwise, what's the point?

Well, I never have had very good reasons for doing things. They have to amuse me. Whether or not they ever amuse anyone else seems neither here nor there.

So writing a paranormal movie might have some small chance of getting made.

Writing a movie saying there are no paranormal levels to existence, and that people are just kidding themselves, and conning others, seems doomed from the word go (like an atheist running for President of the USA). Hey ho. It may change in the re-write, of course, at least in the direction of ambiguity.

I think I want to amplify my 'baddie' who is currently a medium who is in it for the money, originally more of the 'sweet little old lady' type, but I want to move her in the direction of Madame Blavatsky, sitting there like Jabba the Hutt, rolling her cigarettes with haschish in (although modern Theosophists might skim over that aspect of HPB), a blatant and unrepentant charlatan who also seems to have had immense charisma, and a worshipping circle of followers.

As it happens, I have a soft spot for Madame, without her influence on my dad I suspect I wouldn't have been a vegetarian all my life, with a leaning to Hindu/Buddhist approaches to life (I didn't get that from The Sixties).

Monday, 12 April 2010

the luxury of having time to read...

...and maybe even watch a movie or two.

This first run only involved watching much less tv for ten days, so hardly a sacrifice, but even so, now I have this first run, I feel free to spend a little time browsing.

I will be adding random links for myself're welcome to browse them, too...for me this post is just a set of bookmarks.

Wikipedia on Screenplay

ScriptWriters Network on format, etc

ScriptWriters Network on Hollywood Outreach (yeah, it costs money)

FinalDraft on Script Rules

First Draft is in the can!

I had almost got there, so did a bit of hacking away during my early lunch, and have now got 100 pages of film script!

Just as it is, sufficient to claim success at Screen Frenzy, but I have the rest of April to get it up on the board as index cards, and tweak it around. If, in the process, I hack too much away, I can always post this version come the Great Reckoning.

Almost the whole thing

I have gotten to the end but fallen slightly short.

I have 96 pages, but I already ended the story.

it might prove the 'natural' length, of course, but I feel sure I can find room to expand, either with the stage directions, or the descriptions of settings, etc.

Or add expanded scenes.

Essentially, I have a rough draft! Whoopee!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Coupla late nights...

...and apologies to the dog about his missing the end-of-the-evening walk.

Actually I fell asleep early last night, then got up in the small hours and zoomed to page 75. This morning I have edged it to 80 pages. I managed to:
  • create a bit of jeopardy for my hero(s)
  • get the clock ticking (increased urgency for them to act)
  • amp up the baddies, so that they are capable of murder, and guilty of more sleazy backstories, etc.
  • reveal a hidden ally
I may need to improve the buddy banter, and although one of the women has revealed new depths and a hidden side, the other remains a cypher at the moment.

Although Script Frenzy targets 100 pages, Blake Snyder suggests 110 pages as some sort of average or standard. This does mean I haven't necessarily got all the beats in the right place just yet, but I have used his beat sheet as a skeleton at least, and it has helped.

In fact, Script Frenzy offer their own version, trimmed to 100 pages (the Hollywood Beat Sheet) but I can't finesse right now.

I have predominantly written in dialogue to start with, as I felt the danger of writing too much action might turn it into 'fiction writing' again. Likewise I have hardly ever suggested shots.

Designers only need a hint, actors don't like being told how to play things, and directors don't really need my suggestions for shots. At least, that's how I decided to approach it for now.

Once I hit the target, anyway, I will have to proofread, and may add some action or description to clarify what I meant, just as some dialogue may work better 'acted out'.

As I seem to be on target for finishing the first draft really quickly, I can use the rest of the Script Frenzy month trying to hone it up a little. I will put the script into cards on the board (currently it is covered in almost random posts) and shuffle them around a little.

I may re-read Save The Cat, to check I have covered most of the issues (and he has a specific chapter for tightening up slack scripts, a check-list for improvements to make in the edit).

I am also reading a little wider in the screenplay writer blogs that I have come across (see blog list to the right of the screen), which make more sense now that I have actually started.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Don't delude yourself

Writing a script has made me search new places on the web, and (let's face it) more people are interested in television and film than read fictional books.

This does also make it a very competitive space, and anyone who knows me realises I don't have a competitive bone in my body.

Either what I do seems good to others and they employ it, enjoy it, reward it, exploit it, etc.
Michael Dare's joke
Or they don't get it.

And my dabble in the film business in the 1980s gave a real glimpse of the shark pool, the scripts that never get made, the people who make their living in pre-pre-production, and all that.

I came across a hilarious Poster Guide on a Screenwriter's Life, that Michael Dare did for the LA Weekly, which you can find full size here.

It puts it all in perspective. Don't give up the day job.

Floundering slightly

I have hesitated, and lost tempo, but, still staggering forward, I have reached page 61.

I suspect I may have to make the baddies badder, and the jeopardy worse, and all that - but for the first draft it may still have to suffice to simply get to the 100 page mark, and not worry too much.

It feels harder to keep the internal critic at bay when you lose the rhythm of writing (this seems to happen if you stop writing to 'think', and wonder if you should go back and tinker/edit a bit).

Especially as scripts are almost all dialogue, I just have to keep them talking. Maybe I should try reading the scenes aloud (?)

Although, I guess, (aha!) I could try writing an action sequence with no dialogue.

Now that seems like a good idea to get through the next few pages...

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Some kind of whoopee!

I put my head down today, and have crossed the halfway point (52 pages out of 100).

I didn't know (using Blake Snyder's map) if the halfway point was going to be a high or a low (false victory, false defeat) but it turns out to be a high for my Protagonist.

He seems on top of his game, and the baddies seem overwhelmed for the moment.

All of which can only bode ill for him and his associates in the second part of Act Two.

Apparently the Bad Guys Close In, now, and we head to the All Is Lost point (around about page 70/75) which is the flipside of the HalfWay Point.

I don't know if I'll stick to his map, but it offers a loose structure to may shapeless thinking...

Friday, 2 April 2010


Well, I skimmed through the 130 pages of Wizard of Oz script, and it did seem to align itself better with the beats, though I'd be hard-pressed to give you exact page counts.

It opens and closes in Black and White, of course - opening images (The Set-Up) contain all the characters who will re-appear in the contrary (colourful) world. The good companions, and the genuinely evil witch, as well as the incompetent but benign wizard. Also the themes of Courage, Brains and Heart get introduced, but I guess the Theme Stated must be Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Aunt Em tells her to go look for a place where there is no trouble)...

The Catalyst arrives bang on page 12 - as Toto escapes back to Dorothy but she knows her Aunt and Uncle will give way to the evil one, so has to choose to run away.

Now we get the 'debate' section as she meets the Professor who tries to get her to turn back from such a decision, but by page 33 we reach the Break into the Second Act ( and into colour, of course).

I am not sure about the B Story (in Snyder's model) but Dorothy meets and builds up relationships with three 'helpful creatures' and they merry along the road to the MidPoint, which uncannily arrives (as Snyder says it should) on page 65, exactly half way through - where Dorothy sees the Emerald City, but has fallen asleep in the Poppy Field!

The baddies then do close in for quite some pages, and their first meeting with Oz turns into a 'False Victory' (All Is Lost) as he sets them a daunting task that throws them back to the baddies lair (the Dark Night of The Soul).

The Break into Act Three seems like the moment when Toto escapes and (like Rin-Tin-Tin) goes to find the Helpers and lead them to rescue Dorothy, by using the aspects of themselves they didn't previously believe in.

In the Finale they overthrow the witch and all return to find the Wizard, who grants them their (non-magical) rewards. He then appears to help Dorothy get home with his hot air balloon, but it escapes (false ending) but Glinda arrives to tell Dorothy she has the power within herself to return...she just has to want to "There's No Place Like Home".

And the final image, of course, in Black and White, she is home, but hasn't had to say goodbye, as it turns out that Zeke (Lion), Hunk (Scarecrow) and Hickory (Tin Man) are still there, in human guise, and even the Wizard/Professor pops his head in...

Yup, I can see why it works.

Beats working

I still feel I haven't quite grasped the significance of Mr Snyder's Hollywood beats, so I dug out my old Labyrinth script, and read it through with beat sheet in hand.

I couldn't quite figure out the elements he mentioned, but then again, Labyrinth proved a box-office failure, so he still might have something!

Perhaps I need to look at a successful movie?

At 130 pages it does seem long, and I remember when watching it that it seemed to sag here and there. I never felt the right to criticize, but now I have to bring something like a critical mind to it.

It has an episodic structure, but these 'set-pieces' don't seem sufficiently well linked for the drive and urgency of the quest to keep going. This isn't helped by the lack of clarity about 'goodies' and 'baddies'. The Goblin King, and the goblins get the role of baddies, but compared to (say) the flying monkeys and the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz, they seem quite tame (because comic).

So just as the baddies aren't scary enough, the helpful animals seem quite ambiguous (apart from Ludo and Didymus). Hoggle, I suppose, has one of those 'character arcs' but he seems to wobble quite a lot, and all the other characters met in the labyrinth remain more confusing and confused, than (say) working for the Goblin King to thwart her.

I may come back to this later. It has helped a little in clarifying that although you don't need old-fashioned black hat/white hat distinctions, you do still need more clarity and dynamic drive, not just a series of sketches.

Um, perhaps looking at Wizard of Oz with the beat sheet might show why it 'works'.

I've taken the plunge

Purely in terms of pages written, I have got ahead of the game. I have introduced my 'buddies' - a sort of Holmes and Watson double act. I have introduced the 'baddie' - a daunting and powerful medium, and her henchmen entourage, plus her loyal followers. I have got a victim, and her protector/helper, currently like a damsel in distress, but I suspect she will reveal hidden strengths.

However, at 16 pages already it has already got a bit flaccid and slack, but this is not the time to tighten up and edit. Blake Snyder builds his 'grid' on a scale of 110 pages, and Script Frenzy asks only for 100 pages, so the exact breaks may vary, but I definitely have to move the Catalyst (Call the Adventure) back a bit.

1. Opening Image (1): A dodgy seance, that our heroes treat lightly

2. Theme Stated (5): Do harmless lies that keep us happy (foma) need to be challenged, can suspect beliefs sustain us?

3. Set-Up (1-10): My Buddy duo go to investigate this murky world, the one (Sam Hill) to see if he can find evidence of something useful and interesting, his side-kick (John Watts) to prove to him once and for all that the dream and hope of telepathy (let alone survival of death) is an illusion, and a dangerous one.

4. Catalyst (12): A young woman (Daisy) asks for their help to get her elderly aunt out from under this malevolent influence - a mediumistic circuit dominated by Eve Vera Poulter.

5. Debate (12-25): They investigate the true nature of this movement, and duel verbally about whether there is anything of value in it at all. They are under observation, and rightly paranoid.

A rare photo taken of Madame Blavatsky with Masters Kuthumi, El Morya & St. Germaine.
6. Break into Two (25) This will be where Sam enthusiastically determines to help Daisy and her aunt, if he can - and John reluctantly agrees to help, too.

7. B Story (30): I hope I can introduce here a young female medium who foxes them both, scares and attracts them a little, and is part of the 'school' of EVP.

I won't bore you with my very sketchy plans to reach the halfway point (let's face it, I still can't quite decide on it being a high point, from which they descend into the maelstrom, or whether it should represent the lowest point they reach, and from which they have to climb out).

Fun to do, so far.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

It's a start...

As ever, I have no idea what I have started - when you switch off your internal critic and just go for it, anything can happen.

Apart from anything else, it's great shutting off that f***ing voice of authority.

Do you remember 'playing' as a kid? Well, the fun with a script (as opposed to a novel) is that it seems a good idea to act it out, or make a Gilliam animation to help with the process, or...or...

So as well as getting a script started (for the hell of it) I might find myself in other areas of creativity and modern tools and toys.

I know when I finished early on one NaNoWriMo I found myself contributing little video comments, and even a radio interview, just because...

It's not too late to join in, on Day One. Script Frenzy.