Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Being dramatic tends to cause problems.

The heart of a story is conflict. Really. There's nothing we like to watch better than people dealing with their problems. We don't watch real life (minus Italian NeoRealism) because there aren't enough problems to entertain the audience.

If you're looking to add drama to your script, why not try to add it to your life first?

I can give you a few pointers. You know those people from high school who were always have teary meltdowns in the hallway? Don't do that. The key is to be just a smidgen more dramatic in the things you do, the way you do them. For instance, when I came home from my day, I walked into my room and thought about how it seemed unreasonably stuffy. So I walked over to the window. But did I just open it, dear reader? Of course not! I grabbed it from the top and flung it open. Not in an outrageous tear the window off manner; more like a Disney push open the shutters and sing sort of way. However, by my mildly dramatic action of grabbing the window and flinging it open, I caught my finger between the two panes, smashed it, and ripped it right underneath the cuticle. I'm fairly certain the nail will be black tomorrow.

Drama and difficulty work together in such wonderful ways.

I'm in a rewrite class this semester. It's one of the reasons that my uni has such an exceptional screenwriting program - they teach you how to rewrite, which is where the real writing gets done. Not many unis do that. One thing my screenwriting prof guaranteed us is that, without even reading our scripts, he knew that we didn't have enough conflict in them. He knew a lot of interesting stuff about our screenplays without even having read them yet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Please don't write this scene -

I watched part of What Happens in Vegas the other day. It was pretty predictable but funny. The thing was, it had that scene. That scene that happens in so many romantic comedies, especially ones where the guy and the girl aren't really acting like themselves (usually nastier or more outrageous) for some reason. But it's the scene that cinches the deal for them.

It's the family scene.

The introduction to the future in-laws. Which is funny, because I feel like the first meeting with the family is stressful and not the moment where one falls in love - at least not in real life. (What? This isn't real life?) It happened in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and in What Happens in Vegas and there's even an element in Failure to Launch (ok, I just threw that in there because it was on TV recently). But come on. Be a little more creative than - once I saw the way he coaches his niece at little league I knew he was actually sensitive and caring - or - once I saw her joking around with my weird relatives and winning at our family card game I knew she'd always make me feel at home. Gag. I know you're writing a rom com (and I love rom coms), but surprise us and be creative!

Sunday, September 07, 2008


I've had a lot on my mind recently that's been stressing me out. It's funny how suddenly neurotic you can become (and by you I mean me). Luckily, if things are on your mind, it means that you're thinking them through, and are hopefully making some sort of progress...

Tomorrow my screenwriting II class starts. I'm very excited. I'm a bit torn about which script I want to rewrite, the 4:05 or Collapse. I was a better writer when I wrote Collapse, but it's kinda depressing and the 4:05 is much more cheery and whimsical and needs more work. I'm still secretly planning on trying to rewrite both of them.

I was having a hard time thinking about my next script. Sometimes my anxiety level skyrockets, which just freaks me out even more because what would a real writer have to worry about? So as I struggled to come up with new ideas, I also tried to figure out what was bothering me so much. What was I afraid of? Failing? And with that my next story started to fall together.

Because this is what I realized. My best scripts, the ones that are the most well written, the ones that I love the best, come from questions and issues that I struggled with, and I will connect with them again and again because of what they mean to me. That's why I'm willing to rewrite the 4:05 as many times as it takes or return to Collapse for another semester. And just because the story is so closely connected to my life doesn't mean that it won't resonate with others. There's the screenwriting advice that says the more specific you make a story the more universal it becomes. Yes, the stories are particular to me and my life, but the issues of love and loss and fear, those belong to everyone. You have to find motivation for your story. You have to find a reason for it to be told and the fortitude to keep coming back to it again and again. Without a personal connection to a story, you're never going to be able to see it through satisfactorily.

So what's my new story going to be like? It's Atonement meets the Matrix meets the Old Testament. Come on now, who doesn't want to hear it?