1/1/12. Happy New Year! Getting things organized. I’ve wondered which projects to pursue and how.
- $elling completed feature script (DEPARTURE POINT, TEXAS)
- Finishing and $elling 1 new feature script (AGE OF AQUARIUS)
- Finishing and $elling 1 original 1-hour TV drama pilot & several more episodes (ART AND COMMERCE)
- Writing 1 blogpost every week (on this here blog, LIFE & WRITING)
- One Logline
- Two Halves
- Three Act Structure
- Four Actual Acts
- Five Moments
- Six Things That Need Fixing
- Seven Elements of Story
- Eight Sequence Method
- Nine ?? (If anyone can think of one here, please let me know).
- Ten Minute Sessions
- The Logline (or 1-line or Oneline) – The one line that encapsulates your story. You must have one later on to sell your script, and you better have one early on, so you know where you’re headed as you write. Look for this and more in Crafty Screenwriting: Writing Movies That Get Made by Alex Epstein – Fun. Easy read. Great tips on everything from creating to business. You can put these ideas into practice immediately. Epstein has a great blog, too: Complications Ensue. And he has a great book on TV writing called, you guessed it, Crafty TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box.
- 2 Halves – Makes me remember to make the midpoint of my script a false high for the main character if the story is a traditional comedy, as in, it ends happily, and to make it the actual high point if the story ends in tragedy.
- 3 Act Structure – This one’s about rhythm. It’s a reminder that the whole story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Every sequence has scenes of preparation, scenes of conflict, and scenes of resolution. Every scene has a set-up, an action, and a resolution.
- 4 Actual Acts – When you learn 8-Sequence Structure you find out that Act 2 is NOT one long rambling act of mish-mash that’s twice as long as each of the other two. Act 2 is really two separate acts that behave in an orderly fashion even as the story runs along in a surprising manner to the audience.
- 5 Moments – The ideas about your movie you can’t get out of your head. They’re the ideas that made you want to write the movie in the first place. They may be stunning visuals, lines of dialogue, the dramatic ending, the self-revelation. Keep close to your inspiration, even if you rewrite those scenes beyond recognition or cut them out completely. I can’t remember who said this. If you know, please let me know. It may be anyone referenced in this post, or quite possibly David Milch, creator of DEADWOOD, who not only quotes everyone who ever had anything to say about writing and language, but also says his own awesome quotes on life and writing pretty much all day long I bet. For proof, check out the DVD extras in DEADWOOD, and prepare to be blown away.
- 6 Things That Need Fixing – This is from Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need. He says in the first act, you have to introduce all the quirks and problems you’ll spend the rest of the movie working out. He has a fun and entertaining way of teaching 8-Sequence Structure. Worked great for me as a review, having already studied The 8 in a more intense way mentioned in #8 below.
- 7 Elements of Story. It’s always a good idea to brush up on the basics of story: 1.)Character; 2.)Plot; 3.)Setting; 4.)Theme 5.)Point of View; 6.)Symbol/Image; and 7.)Tone/Language/Style. I think Truby, mentioned below in #22, helps integrate all the elements organically while helping you develop your story. In fact, I’ve always felt most information on the 7 elements (some teachers point to only 4 or 5 main elements, but still discuss the 7 listed here) do a good job defining them and giving examples, but they do not do so well actually helping you integrate that knowledge into the practice of writing. Discover Truby.
- 8 Sequences – Every great movie is made up of 8 sequences of equal length, 12 and a half pages each (or 15 or 10 depending on the length of your script). Each sequence functions in certain ways no matter what movie. Learn these to help you outline your story or guide you in rewriting. From Screenwriting, The Sequence Approach: The Hidden Structure of Successful Screenplays by Paul Joseph Gulino. I’ll discuss the 8 sequences in future posts.
- 9 – I’ll add a 9 in a future post if y’all give me some ideas! Thanks.
- 10-Minute Sessions – Pilar Alessandra’s book, The Coffeebreak Screenwriter: Writing Your Script Ten Minutes at a Time, delivers on the title’s promise, getting you started no matter how you work or where you begin your process. Quick lessons followed immediately by exercises help you practice what you just learned. You may use the book piecemeal, or run straight through it. No writers block while you’re doing these exercises. I’ve got one of her classes on DVD and I took her 6-week email class on rewriting which was extremely helpful without being overwhelming.
- 21 Days…Writing a Movie in 21 Days by Vickie King – Easy read. Helps you see your movie in your mind’s eye, which is great if you haven’t done that yet. After all, movies are visual. Great introduction to sequencing. Vickie King claims you can write your movie in 21 days. While that may or my not be true (more likely not), you can visualize the entire story and outline it and get started in a big way if you need help with structure and visual thinking. While there are numerous arguments about whether or not learning structure helps or hurts a writer, as with anything, use what you need and leave the rest on the side of the road. I always feel it’s good to know the rules you’re breaking.
- 22 Steps…John Truby understands and clearly communicates what story actually is and how you do it. His book is THE word for me right now. The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby – Slow read. Complex. Helps you organize your story without imposing false structure on it. Truby leads you organically through the story you want to tell. Every sentence in the book reveals a secret you already knew at a feeling level. This book helps me organize all the countless notes I make when I first put my story ideas down on paper. It’s what you do anyway, but he tells you what it is you’re doing, where to start, what’s related to what, how to proceed. I can tell it’s going to save me tons of time. I tend to write down everything way too many times. Truby’s ideas and methods help me recognize what goes where almost immediately. Clear exercises at the end of series of related chapters take you along the 22 steps at your own pace. I do the steps as I read about them, but you can wait for the clearly-marked exercises.
- 40 Cards… At least 40 index cards as an outline on your floor, wall, bulletin board, or white board, will guide you well, especially if you include on each card the protagonist of the scene, the conflict, and the emotional change that occurs says Blake Snyder in Cat.
- 80 Scenes… Write 80 scenes and you have a feature screenplay. More or less. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.
- 100 Pages… Shoot for 100 pages on your feature. The limit used to be 120, but nowadays it’s 100.
Other fun books on screenwriting:
What are your favorite books or best classes on screenwriting, writing, or story? What are your writing goals? Creative, business, process, anything? Do you know of any screenwriting or story instruction I can fill in for #9?
Happy New Year! Happy Writing!
- Logline – The Shortest Pitch (kellyaatkins.com)
- Screenwriting 101: William Goldman (gointothestory.com)
- The diminishment of screenwriting (gointothestory.blcklst.com)