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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

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This week's question: 

I don't mean to be a bother, but I agree with your last guy, Don.  There's so much to writing a screenplay.  I've written many, but it always seems so hard to put everything together just right.  Do you have any advice, DcH?

Sarah W. from Portland

This week's Answer: 

Getting It Together

Sarah, I appreciate your words.  You and Don aren't a couple, are you?  You're not ganging up on me, are you?  Not that I'm paranoid or anything at all like that.  My therapist has finally got me convinced that I'm not paranoid.  Although... between you and me, I think she just wants me to think that way.  But back to your question, Sarah (if you really are Sarah.  If it's you, Don, one day I'll find out and hunt you down like the...)  Where was I?  Oh, yes.

Commercial screenplays do require a certain pattern for them to work as movies.  (That's why they call them screenplays and not "novelplays," for instance).  You're right about everything needing to be "put together just right."  And that requires knowledge of the format and how stories for the screen work.  There are setups, payoffs, character arcs, thematic and emotional resolutions, plot points, twists, and reverses (sounds like gymnastics, huh?), climaxes (and not just in erotic thrillers), anti-climaxes, denouements, tone changes, false scares, false endings (who says Hollywood is false?), resurrections, calls to adventure (it's like being called to the phone, but you can't find your cell), shape-shifters (or is it shift-shapers?), allies, enemies, villains, protagonists (and amateur tagonists).  The list goes on and on, Sarah and my dear screenwriting friends who might no longer be such if I hadn't ended my list when I did.  And we didn't even cover premise insertions (which resembles alien probing too much to mention here) and let's not forget the causal scene timeline.  (Even I'm not sure what that is.)  

My God, is there no end to this Hell known as Screenwriting!!

Actually, it's not all that bad once you get the hang of it.  And look on the bright side.

At least you're not writing a novel.



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