The Scenes You Want to WriteComplications Ensue
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Thursday, August 16, 2007

John August has a post, somewhere, about starting your screenplay by writing the scenes that made you want to write the screenplay. I guess the idea is to defeat writer's block, and to jump into exactly the heart of the screenplay. It might be a climactic scene, I guess, or it might be something that revelatory about a character.

I don't usually write for the sake of a scene, I'm a story-driven kinda guy. I did write an adaptation of the Odyssey because of two scenes I particularly enjoy in the epic; and then there's another scene I'm particularly proud of. But that's not usually what pulls me in. And the approach August suggests is probably more useful for a drama than a suspense thriller -- the scenes of a thriller are more like building blocks for its all important structure.

But it sounds like another handy tool for the toolbox. If inspiration is flagging as you're writing your outline, what is to prevent you from jumping ahead to one of your Big Scenes? That will give you something to write towards, and might also take your screenplay off in an interesting new direction.

Now maybe some kind reader will spot the August post...?



another method I've heard of to beat the first draft blues is to open up your Final Draft and put in all your sluglines:

Hmmm...this scene goes first, then this one. Then this one... And here's where we twist the audience's expectations...

Having the scenes down (maybe with a line or two in there to tell you what is going on) gives you about 15-20 pages. Which is pretty substantial.

Then all you have to do is "fill them up."

This builds on your sense of accomplishment and you can work scene by scene, skipping around as necessary to keep the creativity flowing, and give yourself notes to "pay off" something you wrote in one scene in another.

You don't get bored.

By Blogger Cunningham, at 2:23 PM  

Bill, you mean like, write an outline?

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 2:25 PM  

hee hee hee

By Blogger DMc, at 3:30 PM  

Yes, but doing it in FD and not on MSWord or whatever word processing program you have separate from FD...

Your first draft and outline are the same doc...already in FD.

You know as well as I do that a ton of beginning writers spend more time on bios and outlines and scene cards and whatever else is in vogue instead of getting the words down in the script itself. They have notebooks of background and two pages of script.

To DMc:

"Keep it up, Fuzz Ball..."


By Blogger Cunningham, at 3:46 PM  

I think you mean "LAUGH it up, fuzzball."

I do like your idea, though.

By Blogger Unknown, at 4:37 PM  

Re" "Laugh it up..."

It's been about five years since I've seen the original trilogy. I bow to your geekery in this matter.


By Blogger Cunningham, at 5:26 PM  

I wrote up my extensive notes of Rockne O'Bannon's fabulous lecture at last year's Screenwriting Expo; one part of his lecture was called, "Six Steps to Jump Start Your Story". As a TV writer, he seemed to know a lot of tricks to write prolifically.

By Blogger Ross Pruden, at 7:06 PM  

Is this the post: Where to Begin a Script

By Blogger James Hull, at 7:21 PM  

The first screenplay I ever completed (though not the first I started) was a comedy that was generally episodic in its nature. I had come up with lots of gags and scenes that I wanted in there, and I did have a general structure, though my outline was relatively undetailed (I've subsequently begun making more and more detailed outlines with each successive script that I've written.)

Anyway, the first thing I wrote on that script was the opening scene, and then I wrote the climax. After that, I jumped around quite a bit. And while I will definitely say that the structure of the film was its greatest weakness, I attribute that more to the poor outlining than to the out of order writing.

So yeah, I'm a supporter of the technique for certain types of films as well, and comedy can be a geat one for this.

By Blogger Fun Joel, at 8:27 PM  

Gotta agree with Joel. Comedy scenes are linchpins, and good to write right away if you have them working in your head. Then fit them into the outline process. Which of course changes them.

So for comedies, I usually end up with a 'scriptment', meaning a treatment/outline with some scenes written out in rough draft form.

But the thrillers I've written? Had to outline first. Structure was primary, and scenes came out of that.

By Blogger chrisc, at 12:41 AM  

I jumped all over the place when I wrote the pilot for my show. I had loads of scenes ready to write, but no real idea of how they fit together until one theme took hold and a sensible storyline developed. Then I juggled them around, instered some new ones and it worked. Of course, no one with any money agrees with me yet...

By Blogger Trellick Tower, at 10:23 AM  

Hey everybody,

When you say that you 'write' scenes, do you mean a detailed scene with roughly the dialogue you envision and all the actions, etc? Or do you mean something rougher and simpler, like what characters are involved, what basically has to happen in the scene and how you see the scene ending?

I write the latter and only write the former when my entire screenplay outline is basically set. I find that committing that much effort to a scene too early in the process can lead to the entire scene being junked when I discover it doesn't really fit into my more-well-thought-out story.

By Blogger Unknown, at 11:12 AM  

"Re" "Laugh it up..."

It's been about five years since I've seen the original trilogy. I bow to your geekery in this matter. "

It's been even longer for me. I seem to have this innate ability to remember dialogue from movies decades after I've seen the movie. It also works with TV theme shows. I had the theme song to Eight Is Enough going through my head (including the words) 25 years after I'd seen the show. Of course that shows you the importance of good dialogue (and good TV show themes).

By Blogger Unknown, at 2:15 PM  

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