GREAT NOTES FROM A FRIEND - Complications Ensue
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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Our producer liked our draft of the second script, and thought it was ready to go to the network.

But even better, one of my bestest writing friends took the time to read the draft, and gave us great notes. They were great because they were structural. They addressed not the symptoms but the ways in which the stories were not as strong as they could be structurally.

By structurally I mean how the story is told; how you'd describe the story before you even got to the scenes and the dialog. A character had betrayed our heroine in the past. My friend thought it would be stronger if the character's betrayal was a secret that came out at the climax of the story, rather than being backstory we referred to. Then our heroine has much further to go emotionally: instead of from old hurt to new hurt, from old friendship to new hurt.

Another story, he felt, didn't have enough jeopardy.

Some structural comments mean you have to rip up all your scenes and rewrite them. Some mean you just have to tweak a climactic scene. Regardless, they are the most valuable comments. You wind up with a stronger story, not just better dialog in your weak story.

When you give notes, try not to quibble with the dialog or the scenecraft until you've thought about the story and how it can be structured better. ... And treasure those friends of yours who can criticize your work structurally.

4 Comments:

I hate to quibble but 'regardly'? Wouldn't a 'however' have worked just as well? Regardly is just jarring first thing in the morning;)

By Blogger Hawise, at 7:33 AM  

I just FIXED that!

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 8:27 AM  

Nothing to do with this post, and probably answered many times before:
When will those of us in the U.S. be able to see Charlie Jade, on TV, DVD, or otherwise?

By Blogger Dave Fogerson, at 11:28 AM  

On the subject of structure, I've just finished the first draft of a feature screenplay and I'm struggling with act structure: when the act should end as concerns page count. This draft runs 130 pages -- yes, too long.

Lew Hunter is a stickler for precise act breaks: Act 1 should end on page 17, etc. Other script gurus take a more organic approach, saying the story should dictate the structure as long as there is rising action and it grips the audience.

My Act 1 runs 35 pages and I'm really trying to avoid "killing my babies" because what happens there is crucial to the rest of the story -- bet you've heard that one before. I can blame trying to make the script vertical for adding 5 or so pages to that act. The rest I can blame on me not being able to find a more succinct way to set up my protagonist's journey into Act 2.

I know there are certain screenplay conventions I have to follow. I also know that there are writers out there such as Charlie Kaufman, Paul Haggis and Christopher Nolan who push the envelope. I'm just trying to tell a linear story but I am concerned that I'm blurring the rules.

What are your thoughts on this and how do you deal with it?

Note: I'm new to the Scribosphere and haven't had the opportunity to benefit from older posts where you may have already covered the subject. Hope you don't mind, but I will be asking the same question to several other pro screenwriters whose blogs I read regularly. Is that a no-no re blog etiquette?

By Blogger Vince DC, at 11:37 AM  

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