Our weary screenwriter sits at her L-shaped desk, her ever faithful cat, Bones, curled up on the floor near her. She opens up her laptop and starts up her MovieMagic screenwriting program.
She skims, only for a few seconds, the previous pages she’s written. Satisfied that she’s caught up, she cracks her knuckles, places her fingers on the keyboard like a pianist ready for rehearsal to start, and tap tap taps away.
Two pages later, she realizes – the opening is too long.
She pushes back from her laptop and leans back in her chair, stares at the last things she’s written, and decides…she must blog about it.
Listen, we all know that writing is rewriting. I’m also aware that it’s probably not the best idea ever to rewrite as I go along. The more I look at this screenplay the more I realize…this opening doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. It’s taking way too long to get to the story. I’m at page 10, and I should be at the moment THE BIG THING happens that brings us into the premise.
I really have to decide at this moment. Scrap it and start over? Create a better outline? Or, do I keep going along and do what I’m supposed to do later which would be rewrite it to fix things?
So, I signed up for ScreenCraft’s 60 Day Screenplay thing. After a bizarre snafu of not receiving emails and getting that cleared up by the wonderfully helpful staff at SC, I’m up and running and starting Day 3.
Days 1 and 2 were pretty simple as it just tasked us with coming up with films/tv shows that we love. Then we write a few short one sentence (loglines, essentially) ideas for what we might want to write.
The idea is to see what draws you to your favorite films. Is there a specific genre, style, idea that particularly speaks to you? If so, it’s probably a good idea to write stories within the parameters of those…write what you know, ya know?
I know, I know…it’s cliche! Venture out! Try something new and different. Which is all well and good BUT, sometimes it’s also good to stick to what you know and explore what you can do within that to make it new and different so that it stands out.
It’s hard for me to pick a top anything as my tastes change and expand as I get older. I did a short list anyway…I tried not to overthink it and just wrote the first 10 that came to mind and in no particular order of favorites (though I know exactly which order they would be if I really sat down and worked it out):
- Rebel Without a Cause
- Notes on a Scandal
- Leon: The Professional
- The New Girl
- American History X
- There Will Be Blood
- The Color Purple
- Just Friends
- Pulp Fiction
- Me, Myself, and Irene
A pretty all over the place type of list, right?! One TV show is tossed in there. I think I can see where my tastes are and what draws me to a story. Even in my own writing I can see where I’m influenced. I love a character driven drama. I love some action, some blood and grit. I also have an off-beat sense of humor. My heart though…belongs to strong character driven stories.
The Day 3 assignment calls for me to apply that knowledge to the 13 one sentence ideas I’ve come up with and dig a bit deeper into the premise.
Already killing off my little darlings, so-to-speak.
I had an idea creep up on me. I lowered that plastic tray off the back of the seat in front of me, pulled out my notebook and pen, and began writing. I hand wrote only a few scenes but really may have stumbled upon a good story. The story came to me while listening to a Lucinda Williams song called “Get Right With God.”
I’m not a religious person, far from it. Perhaps that’s why the scene came to me and is severely so far from getting right from God that a character could get. Opening scene is a character living in a desolate area, obviously not having a pot to piss in so to speak, who is confronted by his past in the form of a pistol at the back of his head. We know not what he has done, we know not of what the person holding the pistol is there for exactly…but I can see this scene so clearly in my head playing with this song kicking off the opening credits after the short open.
I’m piecing together my handwritten story now and I’ll transfer it soon to MM and post it here. Maybe I’ll get lucky and get a comment on the style and the story and see if this thing could have legs.
No matter what size the validation is…it’s enough to get me going again. I recently found out that my screenplay was selected as a finalist for the Virginia Screenwriting Competition. The short bit of notes I received for the submission were spot on and now I can’t wait to tackle a re-write of the script. I’m not sure if I will do a page one re-write, but I know that there’s quite a bit of room for the story to grow some more for at least two characters that could really add to the overall story at hand.
I’ve been neglectful of writing in general. I have recently found some strong footing in life that I’m more hopeful about the future and what it holds…and getting this email just piled up on top off all the good fortunes being tossed my way that I absolutely can’t ignore it. I can’t ignore what it could possibly mean. That maybe I really CAN do this screenwriting thing.
So here’s to attempt number 198274124970746…hopefully I can make it count.