Synopses - Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I have two screenplays going into the various Canadian and Quebec funding agencies for rewrite funding this round, which means I'm writing a whole bunch of auxiliary material for the applications: long synopses, short synopses, dramatis personae (!), "author's vision."

It's odd to write an "author's vision" of a screenplay; I mean, read the screenplay, eh? And if the author's vision doesn't come through, then it's not a very good one. And anyway, who cares what the author's vision is; it's what comes through in the screenplay that counts. On the other hand, this is for a rewrite funding application, so by definition the author's vision isn't coming through perfectly if the thing needs a rewrite. So the document helps the funders figure out what you are going for.

I hate writing synopses of a completed script. Just hate it. But I've found two ways to make the process work for me.

The first is to try to write the synopsis off the top of my head, without looking at the script. This gives me a shorter, snappier, clearer synopsis. It also tells me if the story is holding together. If there are spots where I can't remember what comes next, then the plot isn't as strong as it could be.

The second is to write the synopsis for the rewrite, not the synopsis for the current draft. I spent a couple of hours driving over the mountains to New York talking over a thriller synopsis with Lisa. We talked over what made sense and what didn't make sense. Some character motivations got changed. Some scenes got dropped. Some got changed. One may get added.

(There's really nothing like a long drive for working on screenwriting stuff, I've found. We've created a lot of our TV ideas in the car.)

I know it's easier to write a synopsis by blitzing through the pages and writing down what you see. That's certainly faster. But if you use every opportunity to come at your script from a different direction creatively, you'll see room for improvement. A synopsis can be a chance to strip your script back down to its story. Often, problems that weren't apparent when you're looking at the pages become obvious when you retell it as a story. You realize that once scene doesn't follow, or it's framed wrong, or it needs to be completely switched around.

I wonder what we'll do on the road to East Hampton?

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1 Comments:

I like to write a synopsis before I go back and read something I haven't looked at in a while, but I have one problem with that -- when I was working on a script, I concentrated so hard on the problems, that those are the things I remember.

I don't know how many times I wrote a new synopsis, and worked out all kinds of problems, only to find that I had already worked those problems out in a better way in the existing draft. I'm just remembering the struggle with the earlier draft.

By Blogger Pitchlady, at 12:55 PM  

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