Author Topic: Where do you write and what do you use?  (Read 32166 times)

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polkablues

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #105 on: May 12, 2011, 11:19:00 AM »
+1
I have a big corkboard on the wall behind my computer, and I just plot out the script on index cards, one scene at a time. I use different colored thumbtacks for each act, so I can see at a glance what the ratio is between the acts -- if my first act is running way too long and needs editing down, if my second act is anemic and needs more complications, it's easier to discover that with a row of index cards than with a regular outline. Plus, it makes it very easy to move scenes around and restructure your plot.

Right now I'm still in the middle of the first script that I've tried to write with this technique, but so far it's been a huge help. I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep using it from now on.
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socketlevel

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #106 on: May 12, 2011, 12:44:22 PM »
+1
I would say don't worry about plot. Just write out the story, when i ususally go back to my screenplay I notice the plotted stuff is the most forced.  Once i have my characters, and i know where i want the story to end up I just write until i get there and then cut later to make it tight.
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The Perineum Falcon

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #107 on: May 12, 2011, 12:58:17 PM »
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Has anyone read Mamet's On Directing Film? It's more than directing, and concerns the composition of the screenplay, as well as the shot-list. He simplifies the act of writing to practical effect, alleviating the burden of "how do i come up with all this shit" that has been plaguing much of what i do.

Likewise, his Three Uses of the Knife may come in handy as well.
We often went to the cinema, the screen would light up and we would tremble, but also, increasingly often, Madeleine and I were disappointed. The images had dated, they jittered, and Marilyn Monroe had gotten terribly old. We were sad, this wasn't the film we had dreamed of, this wasn't the total film that we all carried around inside us, this film that we would have wanted to make, or, more secretly, no doubt, that we would have wanted to live.

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #108 on: May 12, 2011, 01:05:06 PM »
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How do you plot out your story?

For me, that's always where I have the most trouble. It sounds ridiculous, I know. I have no problem coming up with ideas, imagining characters, their worlds, and the stories themselves. I understand structure, and I think I'm capable enough at feeling out the correct pace and rhythm for a screenplay. But I often seem to languish in making loads of notes, imagining the script, etc, and once I get into the writing I whip through the pages. It's the detailed plotting phases which always gets me. I've tried writing a detailed treatment, and I really didn't enjoy it. I've tried the Coen approach of having as much information on paper and in my head as possible and then just trying to write the screenplay - but found that unless you're pre-2002 Coens that's really not a good idea. Typically, once I have everything more or less mapped out in my mind I'll take the index card route, but it still doesn't fill out as detailed as it should to be the launching pad for a full-on script. So what tricks or techniques does everyone else use for this phase of their writing?

Correct me if I´m wrong: You find yourself having too many ideas for scenes/set-pieces/sequences and you don´t know how to fit them into the structure of screenplay, yes?
When I have that problem, I try to sit down and focus on how they could fit together, how to fill out the blanks.
If I have a shoot-out in a bank, a scene where a man tries to get down from a roof and a a woman going on a blind-date, but not necessarily in that order, I try to flip them around and see what it sparks of new ideas. Doing the "What if...?"-thing. What if it starts with the woman going on a blind-date and I want the next scene to be the roof-scene, then how do I get the man up on the roof? What if he finds out he´s been followed and needs to escape. What if a waiter comes over, "There´s a call for you, sir", then the waiter knocks him down and he is suddenly on the roof of the building...blah blah blah, you get the point.

Eventually, you will have changed, turned, flipped every idea to see if they fit and have created an organic process to the events.

Of course, this translates very well to dialogue-pieces, information that the audience needs to know, etc. If I´m writing a scene where a girl has to climb a hill and has a fear of heights, in order for that to work, I need to have established (even in the smallest detail) that the girl has a fear of heights somewhere in the first act. I presume you already know this, but the tricky thing is always how to slip that information in so that it seems like a natural thing to see.

Did any of this qualify as a correct answer?  :?

pete

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #109 on: May 12, 2011, 03:41:47 PM »
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editing. finding out the essence of your story and throwing away things you don't need. save information for later or for another story.
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socketlevel

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #110 on: May 12, 2011, 04:02:00 PM »
+1
I so agree Pete, I think we work the same way. Overwriting is a good thing. Nothing worse than adding something later with the desperate worry that it won't seem organic; authenticity's worst enemy. If you're concerned about plot, you're concerned about math. Your mind shouldn't be on the math. just write solid scenes and tell your story. overall pacing will come later as you reread it the million times. and you definitely will. eventually as you write more scripts, some of the editing will occur subconsciously as you're doing the first draft and your subsequent rounds of edits will require less work.

the thing i love about editing is you really discover fast what is good, if it's still funny/enlightening/exciting/dramatic then it was a good moment. If it isn't you were either reaching or caught up with momentary falsely inspired creativity.

I do start with an outline, but it's usually a huge outline that consists of everything that happens in a scene without the dialogue. of course if a line jumps out at me I'll write it down. then i go back and write in the dialogue, expanding my large paragraphs into smaller actions (usually comprised of the same text) while giving the characters' their voice. sometimes it's been months from when i made the outline and I'll just get a creative spark and finish the scene without the outline notes.

to my surprise, about 7 or so scenes in my new script i thought of a new way to end the scene before i had finished reading the outline, and i wrote it that way. when i went back to my outline, I saw that i ended it the same way; which i had totally forgot. It made me feel great because it was an indication I was on the right track both times. My mind went to the same resolution on two different encounters with the scene, 6 months apart. going with your gut and instinct is key in these first draft(s).

just remember: 1st draft from the heart, 2nd draft from the mind.
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polkablues

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #111 on: May 12, 2011, 04:37:22 PM »
+1
You can't look at plot as a dirty word, though; boiled down to its broth, all "plot" means is cause-and-effect.  It's the series of actions and reactions that drives your characters through the story.  You can't really say don't be concerned about plot, just write the story -- the plot IS the story.  Without it you just have a series of unrelated events in which characters do things that don't matter.  I've read (hell, written) enough aimless scripts that start nowhere and go nowhere to respect the importance of plot to story.  And I've used the same excuse that every writer who writes an aimless script uses: "It's about the characters."  Which is fine, but cinematically, the way you reveal character and develop character is through plot.  Characters start out in stasis, then events happen which move them out of that stasis, and how the characters respond to their new situation is the only way we know who they are as characters.  That's all plot is.  It's how we get the characters from point A to point B.
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Sleepless

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #112 on: May 12, 2011, 07:05:43 PM »
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Guys, wow, that was all actually really helpful. Generally, it stuff I already knew, but maybe the way you phrased, or the sequence of the post certainly sparked a revelation for me. You see, my scripts rarely suffer from over writing. I maybe do too much editing between the formulation of the ideas and the actual script writing. I like the idea of writing things down in screenplay format as I go, just scenes here and there, because that's essentially what I'm doing anyway. But doing it upfront as you seem to suggest would actually give me a lot of material going into my first draft, so that the process would become half creating new stuff, half sculpting what is already there. The index cards of course will play an important role in the shaping of it all.

I think I've always suffered from the misconception that having a complete outline down was essential in order to progress to a full write through, but I like this idea of the script itself actually being formed as part of the development process. I mean, why the hell shouldn't it be? It makes absolute sense. It's certainly a new perspective on the process for me, and I can see me now with script pages, scribbled notes and index cards all spread out across the floor to try and make sense of it all, but that seems to be a sensible way of getting that first draft completed, since different scenes and different aspects of the script all require different approaches and levels of pre-work before you get into the writing.

Thanks for the advice.

socketlevel

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #113 on: May 13, 2011, 12:56:03 PM »
+1
You can't look at plot as a dirty word, though; boiled down to its broth, all "plot" means is cause-and-effect.  It's the series of actions and reactions that drives your characters through the story.  You can't really say don't be concerned about plot, just write the story -- the plot IS the story.  Without it you just have a series of unrelated events in which characters do things that don't matter.  I've read (hell, written) enough aimless scripts that start nowhere and go nowhere to respect the importance of plot to story.  And I've used the same excuse that every writer who writes an aimless script uses: "It's about the characters."  Which is fine, but cinematically, the way you reveal character and develop character is through plot.  Characters start out in stasis, then events happen which move them out of that stasis, and how the characters respond to their new situation is the only way we know who they are as characters.  That's all plot is.  It's how we get the characters from point A to point B.

I guess I do find it to be a dirty word. And i disagree, the plot isn't the story; it's the story's design. Designing and crafting can come later. when people get too caught up with the design early it often leads to forced material and cliche elements. I agree it is cause and effect. so to make my point clear with your own definition, I personally find it very hard if i come up with the effect first and I am forced to infuse a cause to motivate it. It's pushing or pulling the moment. if you just write the story and go into it with more causes than effects, the story will work itself out. then in subsequent drafts you can fine tune it. getting caught up in "how do i make this happen" (which I have done on every script i've written, and can't help it) is the wrong approach.

You can also depict characters in point A, then point B without moving them along the way you suggest.
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polkablues

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #114 on: May 13, 2011, 01:15:50 PM »
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I'm not necessarily advocating plotting by starting at the end point and working backwards. I don't think that's a wrong way to go about it, but typically the way I prefer to work is simply to start with my characters at the beginning and go through a process of "what happens next". One event -- when I say "event", that can mean something as big as a planet exploding or as small as a wink -- leads to a change in the characters' state, which leads to the next event, which leads to another change in the characters' state, on and on through the story.

I'm not really clear on what you're writing if you're not concerning yourself with plot. What happens to your characters? How do they progress through the story if not through things happening?
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Reelist

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #115 on: May 13, 2011, 02:50:08 PM »
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you sound like Robert Mckee up in this bitch. I don't mean to sound all Donald in Adaptation but what about Robert Mckee? Do you guys use him?

Sleepless

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #116 on: May 13, 2011, 03:51:03 PM »
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I broke down and read Story years ago. To be honest, I've forgotten most of it, but it basically just hammers 3 act structure the same as any other cheap screenwriting book.

polkablues

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #117 on: May 13, 2011, 04:54:44 PM »
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I broke down and read Story years ago. To be honest, I've forgotten most of it, but it basically just hammers 3 act structure the same as any other cheap screenwriting book.

From that description, I would say you've forgotten more than most of it.  McKee's been given a bad reputation as a simple purveyor of formula screenwriting, akin to Syd Field, and certainly if you're reading Story with basic commercial 3-act structure as your goal, you can learn that from it, but he actually goes far beyond that.  The book is far more theoretical than Field's approach of fill-in-the-blanks template screenplays.  It's not so much about learning how to write a story as it is learning what makes a story a story.  Breaking down the elements of storytelling and applying them practically to the screenplay form.  

Not that I would ever recommend someone only read Story and suddenly consider themselves a master screenwriter, but there's a lot to be gleaned from that book, which, like I said, has been given a very undeserved level of disrepute.
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Sleepless

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #118 on: May 13, 2011, 05:32:07 PM »
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Oh, I definitely have forgotten more than most of it. I wonder if you could recommend a particular section which I should go back to which would convince me that the whole thing is worth another look? From what I recall it was all about the base formula, however layered and academic it was dressed up to be.

For what it's worth, I don't mean what I just wrote to sound like an attack or anything, but you obviously were able to take away more from the book than I did. I think that while there is certainly a lot of criticism for McKee, there is also a large group of people (yourself included) that feel there is a great worth in the book. When I read it, I didn't get it. Sell me on it, and I'll give it another go.

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Re: Where do you write and what do you use?
« Reply #119 on: May 13, 2011, 05:38:23 PM »
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cinematically, the way you reveal character and develop character is through plot.  

Inside Story by Dara Marks is by far the best screenwriting book I've read, and is very much about this...plot being action and subplot being reaction. Her book is unpretentious and after reading it for the first time I felt like I'd finally been relieved of a terrible hangover - ideas I had about writing that were hazy and disconnected before finally fell into place. I highly recommend it to anyone having trouble with their script.

http://daramarks.com/inside.php

"...process that helps identify your thematic intention—what your story is really about—and teaches you how to turn that intention into the driving force behind all your creative choices. The result is a profound relationship between the movement of the plot and the internal development of character, which is the foundation for the transformational arc. The transformational arc is the deeper line of structure found inside the story."

 

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