Monday, June 11, 2007

Assignments Week Three (And we're off!)

Well, here we are. The start of the script. Don't know about you, but I'm pretty excited. I feel wound up from all the writing exercises and ready to rock and roll.

It's been pretty quiet out there aside from the few private e-mails about wild octopus attacks and youtube video links (yeah, thanks, as if I don't procrastinate enough). And Tod is on his way to the Banff World Television Festival (yes, I am jealous, I admit it! Everyone in this town is off to Banff! Well... there's always next year...). Good luck, Tod! Pitch like the wind!

This week when you start out on page one of your script (i.e. day one of week three), I'd like you to set your timer for 5-7 minutes and warm-up with the start line:
The story I'd like to write is about...

This is slightly different than "this is a story about" because it's about what you'd like to say through your story. What you aim to achieve through this story. You can do a short sentence "wind up," a chaining, a long sentence release, it matters not.

You can continue that as a warm up every day if you want, then do 1 or 2 more. For the start lines below, set your timer anywhere from 5-10 minutes (depending on how long you have to write) and run through the list. Rotate through them so that by the end of the week you've done them all at least once. Also rotate the kind of writing you do short sentence, chain, LSR, etc.

My protagonist's exterior goal is...
(What is it in the outside world that the protagonist wants in order to succeed)
My protagonist's interior need is...
(what is it that the protagonist needs in order to heal - i.e. to forgive himself for his brother's death)
If my protagonist does not achieve his/her goal then...
(what are the stakes, sometimes they are personal, sometimes they effect the world: if Indiana Jones allows the arc of the covenant to fall into Nazi hands they will take over the world)
My antagonist enters the story when...
My antagonist's deepest fear is...
My antagonist's secret is...

After you have done your warm-ups (I recommend at least 2), then it's time to write. Set your timer for 20 minutes and go. Do not look back, do not edit. On computer or by hand. In Final Draft or in Word. It's great if you've got the format down, but you can always format it later. Right now, we're getting the story OUT.

After 20 minutes. Take a little break, stretch, pee, refill your coffee, and then write for 20 minutes more.

I'm not going to say don't read what you've written, because I always read my own (I usually read the previous scene just before writing to remind myself where I left off). Just don't get caught up in fixing it. Keep writing each day, MOVING FORWARD. Remember, there's a reason I call this from Start to Finish.

For those of you who have never written a script before:

When I say "write the script" what that looks like is Slugline/Action/Dialogue. Keep your descriptions minimal or you will get too caught up in them. Description does not move the story forward. For example:


JOE (17) and SAM (18) enter a loud sports bar. A football game is on the television and crowds of drunk men cheer. The boys sneak up to the bar and a surly BARTENDER approaches them.

You've got to be kidding.

I'm looking for my Dad.

Notice that I didn't describe the bar except that it was a sports bar. There's a game on and it's loud. Notice that I didn't even describe the kids except their ages. Their personalities will emerge in the script, which will help readers picture them in their minds. I said surly bartender and you know what I mean. If you need to add something to identify the kids better, like punk, goth, nerdy, athletic, etc go ahead. Just limit your adjectives.

You only capitalize the characters names the first time we see them in the story to indicate it's the first time we're seeing them.

Slugline is either interior or exterior and then place and time. For time, just put "day" or "night." You don't need to worry about anything else such as camera angles.


Action and Dialogue are the key concerns.

For script samples, visit Drew's Script-O-Rama
Make sure you pick "film scripts" not "film transcripts"

And feel free to ask more questions. I sometimes forget what it's like starting from the beginning. I'm purposely keeping it simple so you don't get caught up in stuff that doesn't (say it with me) MOVE THE STORY FORWARD.


GG said...

So when you say after warmups we just write the story you mean the screenplay. Sorry if this is a stupid question. I'm not familiar with this way of writing so I'm not sure HOW to write it. I have mostly done journal writing and a short stories.

I have been doing my warmups and the other scene exercise and I'm so amazed!! I wrote a scene each time!!!!


OpenChannel said...

Hi GG,

No, it's not a stupid question. I know exactly what you mean. I should have said more for those who haven't written in this form before. (and I have also gone back and done some clarification, so perhaps you can reread my entry when you get a chance)

Basically it's action and dialogue. There is a bit of description in there, but don't over describe. This isn't a novel. There are other people who take care of things like wardrobe, set dec, and location.

I recommend you read a few scripts to get an idea. Try Drew's Script-o-Rama:
That will give you some idea of format.

Be sure to notice what version of the script you are reading. A spec script is what you are writing. A shooting script has scene numbers and camera angles. You don't need those.

more4dan said...

Dear Miss Accidental Novelist,

That's some accident. Wish I could be hospitalized for same. Alas, I have not written creatively in such a long time. I've sold my soul to corporate America.

Your process is intriguing. Are you going to offer this course again? I wrote a screenplay about 10 years ago (before all the handy-dandy software) and have an idea for a second one.

OpenChannel said...

Hi Mr. More4dan,

You don't have to follow us in real time. You can simply start with Assignment #1 and work your way through at your own pace.

I understand how working through the process with others can be more inspiring than working on your own (and help you to be accountable, too). But the exercises will stay up there, so you're welcome to them.

You could also find a partner or a writing group to meet once a week and use these exercises together. At some point, I'm thinking of having an automatically generated system so you can sign up and it sends you weekly assignments via e-mail.