Working on the part of my book about going from beat sheet to pages -- outline to script. Not sure exactly what to say about that. "That's the easy part!" quoth Moira Kirland, Supervising Producer for "Medium." And it is easy ... for those for whom it's easy. I have no trouble cranking out ten pages in an afternoon. The most I've written in a day is probably 27 pages. (Not claiming they were brilliant pages, just finished pages.) But if it's not easy ... what do you tell someone?
Oh, sure. "Get in late, get out early" is one.
And, "the end of your scene has to pop. Far more than the end of a scene in a movie, the end of a TV scene has to propel you into the next scene, assuming it's not already an act out, in which case it has to propel you so hard you're still going when the show comes back from commercial."
But how do you tell someone how
to button a scene, or make it pop?
That's what I'd like to know.
Consider close-reading some scripts to get the idea for how other writers have done it. (Or if you don't have other people's scripts on hand, you can use your own scripts. Or just watch a show and make note of the specific ways of buttoning a scene.) "Making it pop" might be hard to find a script, but there should be plenty of buttons, and specific examples might help.
This is coming from the perspective of a fiction writer and teacher who's dabbling in screen, so take it for what it's worth. Positive and negative examples would help--scenes that pop well, and scenes that spectacularly fail to pop.
I've been drilling my fiction students on two aspects I call texture and position. Perhaps screenwriters would call them something else. Texture comes from little touches that make the fictional world real for us--characters' habits, perspectives, favorites, the color of the couch she's sitting on, whether he eats Chinese food off a plate or directly from the takeout container. Position is the character's proximity to their goals and the nature of the obstacles in the way. A change in position gets the reader/viewer invested in knowing the ending.
The difficulty here is that writers (tend to) fall in love with texture. We love knowing our characters inside and out. But if you expect a reader/viewer to care about your characters, either the texture has to be unbelievably memorable, or there has to be a change in position. Seinfeld got away with all texture and no change in position, but few others do.
Most writers, people who love to write, will err on the side of not enough emphasis on position. If we have an outline, a list of the positional changes that will occur in the script, we'll probably tend to write this way: A scene starts, we learn about a change in position, then we spend the rest of the scene with texture, seeing how the character reacts and how the change fits into their world. If we have better instincts for the screen, though, we'll write more like this: A scene starts with a reminder of the character's current position. We see the texture of how the character is currently dealing with that position. Then something happens that obviously changes the position. We see the character's look of shock or surprise--then cut to commercial.
Or maybe that's just the way it happens in Buffy.
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