I'm rewriting one of the episodes of the pay cable series I'm developing. I have some excellent notes on it from the guys in my brief writing room; and I have several months of perspective. The episode seems kind of fragmented now; I'm trying to get it back on track.
I went straight at it, first, but got lost in the scenes. Then I tried making an outline out of the script -- leaving the sluglines but replacing all the scenes with thumbnail descriptions of those scenes. Still felt lost.
What I'm doing now is boiling the whole episode back down to elemental stories. What does this character want? What are the obstacles to her getting it? Then I'm breaking those stories again, from first principles. What are the essential steps of this story? Which act does each step belong in?
When I've got stories and steps that make sense, I'll weave them together back into a new outline. Only then will I go to pages.
And only then will I consult my old draft. Probably many or most of the steps in the new draft will be scenes I've already got in the old draft. They may be in new places but they may only need tweaking. Some of the scenes will be new. Some of the old scenes won't make it into the new draft.
I don't usually take a script apart like this; I don't usually have to. (If I'd structured the script properly in the first place, I wouldn't
have to.) But when I feel I've lost the thread, tinkering and tweaking will only waste time. Walking a script back to first principles, though hard, is a great way to get back on track.
Labels: blog fu, craft, five act structure