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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

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This week's question: 

I like to write screenplays.  You know:  dialogue and action and all.  But putting the whole story together seems to take so much energy and time.  Do you have any words of advice?

Theo from the Bronx

This week's Answer: 

Be A "Developer"

Just a second, Theo.  I have quite a bit to tell you (dialogue to you), but, first...................................................................................................................  Sorry.  I had to think about what I was going to say, then outline it, and then make a beat sheet before I was ready to actually write it down in this E-mail table.  It took me about a month before I was prepared to properly answer you, hoping that the E-mail Oscars Award Committee (EOAC) would perchance visit, read this e-mail, and nominate me for the category of Best Script Consultant's Reply To An E-mail From A Screenwriter.  I've been wanting this ever since I started my script consulting career in kindergarten when Carl Gander needed some help on his "I Saw Tom Run With Dick Who Ran With Sally And Spot Wasn't Anywhere To Be Seen" book report.  

Actually, that's not exactly true.  There was no outline or beat sheet or even any time at all between seeing your e-mail and starting to write down my reply, which I'm still doing now.  Isn't that amazing!?  Here I am typing a reply to you and I don't really know what I'm going to write or where any of this is going.  Ever.  More like scary than amazing.  But that's the only way I know how to do it.  I know it sounds odd, but my answer to you, Theo, is to just


Right?  That's all.  Don't second-guess yourself.  Or third-guess (which can end you right back where you started:  single-guessing yourself.  And you can guess what that would be like.  I guess.)   Don't edit yourself before you let yourself gush it all out like a geyser.  Think of yourself as Old Faithful and you're just spewing out your creativity, your imaginings, your brilliance.  It sparkles in the sunlight.  It fluidly utters its own existence.  It gets tourists wet.  Even your mist revives all that it touches.  I ask you:  Does Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in this land, spend time thinking about spraying before it sprays?  No, I say to you.  No and no again.  (I may have overdone it with the "no's."  But at least I'm not just some "yes" man.)

Now what this all has to do with your question escapes me at the moment, but I'm sure you'll see a connection if you look hard enough.  Don't think of the story development as tedious.  Instead, think of your story coming forth like a geyser that--  Sorry.  We already used that metaphor.  But you know what I mean.  And if you don't, you will eventually.  Or not.  Either way, you get my point.  Or you don't.  But I get my point and that's what really counts.  What counts is that screenwriters, all writers -- all artists -- all the inhabitants of this lovely planet whirling through the cosmos -- get their own points.  You have to enjoy letting your story, your characters, your style, your "you" come through.  As enjoyable as writing dialogue may be (although some screenwriters can't stand that process and would much rather have all their characters be mimes -- Marcel Marceau, for one), it's the story that is the backbone, the very foundation of your screenplay.  As one well-know producer once told me and I quote:  "Don't ever tell anybody that I talk to you."  No, not that quote..  This one.  He told me, and I paraphrase here -- because I don't choose to directly quote him because I don't want to be sued...

Once you have the story, the screenplay writes itself.  

Think how wonderful that is!  Once you work out your story, know who your characters are, their unique traits and voices; recognize your premise; establish your theme; prepare your structure, the act breaks, the inciting incident, the mid-second act moment, the third-act confrontation and denouement; locate your emotional and thematic resolutions; make sure your...  You know, on second thought, you might just consider forgetting the whole thing.

Or... I like the well-known producer's (I purposely am not going to drop a name here -- because he said he'd drive me to Mulholland Drive and personally toss me over the edge if I ever mentioned it) encouraging words better.  So this is what I advise:

Once you have your general story, one night, type it in your computer and leave the computer on when you go to bed.  When you wake in the morning, the first thing you do is run with all your hope and dreams to that computer, and look at that monitor...

and see if the screenplay wrote itself.



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