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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions (often with a humorous eye) about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

Dch, I am slowly coming to the realization that I am writing myself into a corner.  This script has so very far to go, and I don't think I can make it even in 150 to 180 pages. My characters are becoming very complex and I need help to get back on track.


This week's answer: 

"Cornering" The Script Market

Well, Bob, one thing you can be thankful for is that you're coming to the realization slowly and not quickly. Those quick realizations can really knock your socks off.  And us screenwriters need our socks (unless we need authenticity and are writing a sequel to "Barefoot in the Park" -- which Neil Simon might not take too kindly to -- or a sequel to "The Barefoot Contessa" (and, as far as I'm concerned, contessas need their socks, too. But don't get me started on that subject.)

And, since we started with the one thing, the second thing, Bob is that, like many, you seem to have a prejudice about corners.  Corners so often get a bad rap. They're very important in a room so we know that we're in one (a room, that is).  How else would two walls know they were meeting at a right angle? Personally, I do some of my best writing in corners (or on corners -- street ones, that is, while I'm standing there, watching the girls go by.  But, when I sing about it with a bunch of other guys there, it draws a little too much attention since guys who spend a lot of time watching girls go by usually don't sing about it.)

And a third thing is that there is nothing wrong with a 150- or 180-page script.  Of course, a story analyst (or "reader" as they are often called, even though "story analyst" sounds a lot more important) might tear out his or her hair when they feel the weight of your screenplay and look around for a place to burn it before the producer sees it. Also, they, 180 or 200-page screenplays, make good doorstops and even bookends -- for other screenplays.  And if you don't like the length of your script, just tear out sixty or so pages.  Nobody will know.

And, as Frankenstein would so aptly put it:  Simple characters... bad. Complex characters... good. 

Or, another way of addressing the subject would be (and I'm centering the following section to make it look stylish and sort of like a long haiku -- even though I don't think there is such a thing -- so it looks like I know what I'm talking about):

I know that feeling of being overwhelmed or confused when your story seems to keep expanding before your eyes and you're not sure how to "contain" it all.
TV is harder to break into, not that it can't be done.  My advice is "seek and employ" your best storyline, work with that, and know that you can always write a sequel or a television show that develops the original, including the characters.
It's a good sign when a screenplay keeps calling out for more.
It's a sign that the author (you) are equipped to embrace what's next.

(I even changed the font to make the above seem like ancient wisdom -- which is quite a trick when one uses words such as "storyline" and "television." But I think I pulled it off and nobody noticed.  Don't you like how "TV" looks like in this font?  I think I'll use it every time I write a TV spec script and want to impress studio people when I pitch it.)

And don't worry about getting off track.  Soon there won't even be any tracks and we'll all be hovering above the ground in our crafts... still stuck in hover traffic.

Which will give you plenty of time to write another 250-page script.

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