An extremely important part of the writing process!

(Why this clip? Because it’s funny.)

*Thanks to Dave Trottier, author of THE SCREENWRITER’S BIBLE, for inspiring this post.

When you go to the movies or watch something at home, you want to be entertained. Goes without saying, right? If it’s a dull story, then you’re going to be bored out of your skull. Who wants that?

Certainly not the person who wrote the script. They want you to have a good time! To care about what happens next! To find the travails of these characters so fascinating you focus all your attention on what’s transpiring on the screen in front of you!

As always, it starts with the script. Is it lively and colorful, or drab and sluggish? Do scenes zip along, keeping things interesting, or do they just sit there and nothing happens?

It’s not just about what’s happening in the story, but how the story is told. Think about how you’d tell a joke. Not in a flat monotone, but animated with hand gestures and facial expressions.  Your job as a screenwriter is to do the same thing, but with words.

“But I can’t do that!,” you might say. Sure you can. Look at the last thing you wrote. Does it make you want to keep reading? If not, how could you change it so you’d want to?

One of the most important things a writer should do is NOT see writing as a chore. If that’s the case, then you shouldn’t be writing in the first place.  You write because you like (or even love) to.  So enjoy it.

Enjoy yourself. Have fun.  And when you’re done, it’ll be right there on the page for everybody else to see.

Not necessarily the slog I was expecting

On the plus side, I’m that much closer to being finished

I didn’t consider how much work was in store for me when I started this edit/polish. Not to say I thought it would be easy, but I was ready to jump in feet-first and charge ahead.  At first it was extremely daunting. “This is gonna take forever!”

Fortunately, it got a little easier. Change this. Move this around. Words, phrases, chunks of scenes were being tossed aside. Doesn’t serve a purpose? Out it goes. Why is this scene even here? Why did I even write that? Is this fixable? Yikes! How can I rewrite this so it still fits?  Could I introduce a character here, rather than 8 pages from now?  All this and more over the past few days.

But it hasn’t all been stress and cartoony sweat drops.

Reading through the pages with a more critical eye has really helped me get a better idea of how to put a scene together. It’s getting easier to see what works and what doesn’t. Simply put, it comes down to “What’s the best way to get the point of the scene across?”

It’s also been surprising how I’ve become a bit more adept at figuring my way out of a progress-halting situation. Rather than fret and worry about how this is messing up my progress, something in my brain activates and helps me work my way through it.

I’m happy to say it hasn’t been as strenuous as I thought.  Then I think about whether any agents, managers or producers will like it

Now THAT’S stressful.

Getting left and right brain to work together

It’s like they’re looking inside my head!

I have a deadline in place. I’m striving towards being completely done with the edit/polish by the end of the month, so I work on it when I can.  A scene or two here, a few pages there.  It’s coming together.

A key part of this is making sure each scene does what it’s supposed to and fits where it’s supposed to. A member of my old writing group used to say, “Each scene should advance the plot, the theme and the character.” A reliable chestnut, indeed.

It’s also been a good exercise to look at the components of each scene and figure out if there’s a way to do it more effectively. Do I need a stronger verb? Can the character say this in one sentence, rather than two? Does it fit within the framework of the story? (I’ve written before about the economy of the scenes in STAR WARS. Lucas was able to say a lot with a minimal amount of words. I need to work on that.)

We watched ATTACK THE BLOCK over the weekend (an unexpected absolute blast – smart and original, but watch it with subtitles on). One thing that really stuck with me were the character arcs, especially for the leads. This was done in a very subtle, non-in-your-face way. Very impressive.  This reminded me that I need to make sure this happens with my characters as well.

-Another great interview on The Script Adventurer! yesterday. Talked with writer Shawna Benson about her background, as well as some of her current exploits. Really interesting stuff. The show will play again here Sunday at 7pm PST.  Don’t mind the occasional technical difficulties.

-Apart from ATTACK THE BLOCK, other Movies of the Moment include: THE AVENGERS. Wow. The closest we’ve come to a live-action comic book. Further proof that Joss Whedon can do no wrong. We saw it as a family at a small 2-screen neighborhood theatre. Perfect setting. Everybody liked it, even to the point I may even seek it out on DVD.

The other movie was THE MUPPETS. It was okay, but a little disappointing. It felt like they were relying on the nostalgia factor almost as much as the script. Too many jokes were aimed squarely at adults (a reference to the TV show BENSON? Really?), which didn’t help. V watched it with a friend, and both seemed bored.  Apparently there’s a sequel in the works. Hopefully they can get back on track.

Roll, roll! Roll in ze hay!

Chances are you immediately knew what this meant. But just in case…

I read this earlier today, and it reminded me of a deal I made about ten years ago.

I had a co-worker at the time who thought Adam Sandler’s BILLY MADISON and HAPPY GILMORE were the funniest movies she’d ever seen.

“Whaaaaa?”  I have nothing against Adam Sandler.  I just don’t think he’s funny. “Haven’t you ever seen YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN or SOME LIKE IT HOT?”

“No. Are they funny?” OOF! The verbal equivalent of a kick to the balls.

After the impact of that question wore off, we made a deal: she’d watch my two and I’d watch hers.

Jump to the present. I’ve yet to uphold my end of the deal, and she left years ago, and I doubt she’s followed through.  Which is fine by me.

The above quote also reminded me I haven’t watched YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN or SOME LIKE IT HOT in years. The more I think about them, the more I realize how incredibly well-written each one is.  Comedy that’s still fresh and hilarious years later.  Even nicer, it’s smart-funny. Granted, YF can be a bit…bawdy at times, but that’s Mel Brooks for you.

What’s also so impressive is that the jokes are organic. They don’t feel forced. Each one fits the situation perfectly.

“Why would a guy want to marry a guy?” “Security!”

“Igor, will you help with the bags?” “Soitenly. You take the blonde, I’ll take the one in the turban.”

They just keep coming, one after another.  While a lot of dialogue today comes across as plain old snark, it’s the opposite here. And not just funny – double entendres, plays  on words,  etc., etc. Again – smart writing.

Count me among the writers out there who would love to be able write like this.  Believe me – it ain’t easy.

Could movies like those be made today? Hard to say.  If anything, the modern equivalent would be more like the writing on 30 ROCK or the still-missed ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.

What not-recent comedy do you think still holds up, and why?

-Incidentally, this is blogpost #300. In honor of that, go enjoy a piece of pie. Tell ’em I sent you.

Thrillingly terrifying, or possibly terrifyingly thrilling

Yeah. Kind of like that...

My mind is racing at a faster rate than usual these days. There are a zillion things I need/want to do with DREAMSHIP over the next few weeks. Finish the edit. Polish where necessary. Research potential script analysts. Create and fine-tune a list of potential managers, agents and production companies. Compose a persuasive query letter.

I kinda/sorta knew this all along, but it didn’t really hit me until I started price-checking different services like Done Deal Pro and IMDB Pro:  this is like me officially entering the field of battle, and not entirely sure I’m armed and ready.

I hate self-doubt.

I know my script is good, but there’s still that little voice in the back of my head saying “But is it good enough?” There are literally thousands, probably even tens of  thousands of people just like me trying to accomplish the exact same thing.  It’s me against them. Every man for himself.

My script not only has to be a solid piece of work, it has to have that certain something that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.  Once you start reading, you don’t want to stop. You NEED to keep going.  You are COMPELLED to know what happens next. That’s the impact I want.

I can only hope that’s what actually happens.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t have time to worry. I’ve worked too hard to let that stand in my way. I may be nervous about what’s coming next, but I won’t let that stop me.

Besides, this is what it’s all been about.

-In case you missed the most recent installment of The Script Adventurer!, my guest this week was Gordon McAlpin, the mind behind the webcomic Multiplex.  Apart from some technical difficulties, it was great talking to him. The fine folks at Radioslot have added an additional replay, so now you can catch the show live at 1PM on Monday, or hear it again 7AM on Wednesday or 7PM on Sunday (all times Pacific Standard Time).