Monday, June 15, 2015

My Personal Writing Class--Screenwriting

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

The fun has begun. I picked the books I’m using as textbooks and I’ve read the two books I’m using as reference guides.

I read Story by Robert McKee a while ago so I could review it. It’s inspiring so in the back of my mind I decided I would try screenwriting at some point. I have it on my desk for reference along with The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby which I read recently. The overview information from these books helps clarify my thoughts as I complete the exercises in my textbooks.

I started my personal screenwriting class with 90-Day Screenplay: A day-by-day guide through the process of getting your screenplay onto the page by Alan Watt. (I enjoyed following his 90-Day Novel workshop even though I’m not a novelist.) He makes writing entertaining and challenging. All the questions he lists makes you dig deep and discover surprising things about your characters.

As Watt points out on Day 7 on page 39: We are less interested in our protagonist getting what he wants than we are in seeing how he gets what he needs.

The exercises on page 42 ask you to write as your protagonist from six different points. If you let yourself go, your character will “speak” telling you things you didn’t know, hadn’t considered, and/or that explain his/her motivation.

One of the prompts is “The last time I cried was when…” Well I had never considered my protagonist crying. As I started to complete the exercise, I realized he had teared up while driving on the main road back into his hometown after almost a decade away which is at the beginning of my screenplay, but he had cried when he left suddenly without explanation to some important people in his life then, people he wanted back in his life now. I may or may not put that he cried in the screenplay, but it gives me insight into a vulnerability of my character.

I will be honest and share that sometimes I do the 90-Day exercises for two or three days at a time in the beginning because they are short (20-30 minutes) and engaging. This makes me feel I’m immersed in my project quickly. As the exercises take more time, I may only complete the exercises for that day.

I have a notebook dedicated to this book so I can see my progression. It also makes it easy to refer back to my answers as I move forward.

I’m alternating reading chapters from Now Write! Screenwriting with Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson and Writing the Romantic Comedy: From “Cute Meet” to “Joyous Defeat”: How to Write Screenplays That Sell by Billy Mernit.

I’m using one notebook for the exercises in these two books. Each entry is headed by the initials of the book and the page number of the exercise. I’m also using blue ink for the exercises in Now Write! and black ink for Writing the Romantic Comedy. This makes referring back to answers a bit easier.

My favorite section so far (I’m on page 38 on May 31st when I wrote this post) from Now Write! is on pages 3-5. Mardik Martin, who wrote Raging Bull, discusses that audiences identify more with the conflict than the character. Observe people around you as they deal with conflicts. Collect anecdotes. But he also states on page 5: Remember, you can only steal so much from real life. The great writer uses ingenuity to combine characters and their situations.

On page 25 of Now Write!, Paula C. Brancato, who wrote Subterfuge, discusses that writers have many more ideas than they use. I enjoyed the exercise on page 27. There is a story setup then you are asked to jot down as quickly as possible 20 possibilities of what happens next. Find out how creative and clever you can be.

Writing the Romantic Comedy is more of a big picture viewpoint of your screenplay at the beginning. Lots of details and examples about screenplays: Point of View, Characters, Plot & Structure, Dialogue, Settings, etc.

Exercises start on page 29 and they are all about your screenplay so you need to have a good idea of your plot and characters by this page.

My screenplay plot and characters are taking shape.

I hope your projects are going well, too!

A few weeks after I wrote this post, I discovered Screenplay: Writing the Picture by Robin U. Russin and William Missouri Downs. This is the book you need for this class. See post dated 8/10/15.

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