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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

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This week's question: 

I appreciate your last answer about developing the script and just writing.  I'm want to write a new script, but I don't know where to begin.  Do I have to write the outline before the screenplay?  If I do as you say, will I really end up with a screenplay or are you just trying to make us all feel better?


This week's Answer: 

Don't "Fade Out" Before The Miracle Happens

Edward, you must not have read my mission statement somewhere in this ever-expanding website:

DcH's Mission Statement:  To Do All I Can To Make You Feel As Bad As You Want About Your Screenwriting

It's always good to have a mission statement (especially if you want to found a mission.  You'll really need a mission statement then!  Although, these days, it isn't easy to find a mission.  There aren't that many left at least out here in California.)

That really isn't my mission statement.  I really don't have one.  They seem so corporate and so "look at me and my important mission statement."  

Edward and those who care an iota about this subject... you CAN wind up with a screenplay.  Do you realize that if you only wrote one word a day, you could have a full screenplay by... I think 2009?  Think of that.  And using an Oriental reference...

A Screenplay of 120 pages starts with the first Word

Which, as we all know, is...


That's right:  "FADE."  And following this mysterious and deep line of thinking (Number One Son), what does this first word of a screenplay, "FADE" tell us?  Of course, that we have only written one word and we've got to agonizingly come up with 120 pages more.  No.  It tells us much more (Grasshopper).  Screenplays fade us in.  There is always something else on the screen before the first image (usually somebody's popcorn or maybe, as "CSI" folk call it, their "biological."  I really don't want to know.  That's why I never get too close to any screen.)  Of course, the "FADE IN:" reference is basically an editing direction and, along with "FADE OUT:", is the only obvious one the screenwriter is allowed without him being hunted down by the film editors' union, which hires ex-Navy SEAL's for that very position, SADOCSW (Search And Destroy Over-Controlling  Screenwriters).  

There's a reasoning behind my apparently oblique allusion (which is oblique in itself).  The idea is to, in a sense, fade into your script when you want to.  And fade out when you want to.  And fade in again when and -- this is very important -- WHERE you want to.  And HOW you want to.  Notice that the common word in the last four sentences is "want."  It's up to you.  It's your choice.  So many times, writers (and many other types of artists) run into problems with their creations because of their resistance to what they believe is a dictatorial voice that is rigidly setting down rules, applying pressure on them, demanding perfection, etc.  But the real problem is that ...

This Dictatorial Voice Is Not Real

(unless you have some idiot standing next to you and screaming at you.  In that case, I suggest you get a new roommate.)  *see this week's cartoon

The problem is that the resistance is.  

If you, Edward, and all your screenwriters extraordinaire (I italicized you to make you look even more extraordinary -- which you are, regardless how many so-called and self-named and even successful producers may not recognize this fact or have the ability for this recognition), can write as you choose to write, write what you want to write and HOW you want to write it, bypassing the Phantom Rules Maker (whoever that is), and live in your writer's world, always recalling that you are doing so only by CHOICE, then your channel for creativity will be wide open.

Edward, write your screenplay any way you want, any way you choose.  Now some Screenplay Sticklers may not agree with me, but I tell you that you don't have to create your screenplay in any particular manner.  No, you DON'T have to write an outline before you write your screenplay.  You may run into some challenges if you don't layout the story beforehand, but you can overcome them.  You might even want to write a few scenes that "call to you" and then find yourself thinking of the overall story and find yourself WANTING to develop the overview for it.  The HOW is always up to you.  

Before I became a story analyst, I did write several screenplays without any outlines.  I trusted that my muse, my creative subconscious, knew where it was going -- even though often I didn't have the foggiest (England's version of "clue").  And, somehow, it took me on some exhilaratingly and joyous creative journeys, and always left me off, fully rewarded and grateful, at...




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