Saying more with less

The digital version of this is inevitable
The digital version of this is inevitable

Logline and synopsis update!

Just some minor tweaking of the logline, and the synopsis is “good, but too long.” Could I maybe tighten it up, and how about ending with a cliffhanger?

You mean after spending so much time delicately crafting everything so it all flowed smoothly, I’m supposed to just go in and hack it all up?

Exactly.  Streamline what I already have, cut the non-essentials, and focus solely on the main storyline.

This was challenging, but it had to be done (and could potentially help me get over my dislike of writing a synopsis in the first place)

I worked my way through it and ended up with a tighter, better version, including a double cliffhanger.

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever heard was during a workshop with UCLA’s Richard Walter:

Write as if ink costs a thousand dollars an ounce.

Which are you more likely to want to read? A script with lots of white space on the page, or one with big, black blocks of dialogue and action lines?

It’s not enough to have a well-crafted story. You want the words and pages to really move, and a minimal amount of text can help make that happen.

Go through that scene you just finished. Figure out how to shorten it, keeping only what’s necessary.

Don’t think anything can be cut? Look again. Adverbs and prepositional phrases are good places to start.

You want the reading experience to be a breeze, not a slog. Too many words can do that.

-Finally attempted the Great Baklava Experiment. Apart from somewhat time-consuming and working with phyllo dough, not as difficult as I thought.  Maybe a little too much sauce, which is probably better than not enough.

Overall, consider it a success.

Now to figure out what to make next.

So close I can taste it

Not my first choice for a celebratory meal

You know that feeling when you’ve been working on something for a very long time, and then you get to the last part? The little voice inside you saying, “Don’t stop! You’re almost there!”

That’s where I am with this edit/polish.

One scene remains to be rewritten. I did a lot of last-second rewriting throughout the whole thing over the past couple of days, but this one’s pretty important – wrapping up some minor subplots. It would be too easy to fall into the trap of putting too much into it, so this is going to take some planning.

It was a challenge to go through this as both writer and editor. Not only did I have to make sure everything was working in terms of the plot, story, character development, and that kind of thing, but also had to keep an eye out for spelling mistakes, overuse of prepositional phrases, repetitive dialogue, etc.  End result – leaner, tighter, faster-moving pages.  I hope.

Also nice – page total down 4 to 111, and I already know a few things here and there that could be taken out, or at least changed.  Part of that will also depend on the feedback and comments I get from the select few I’ll ask to read this latest draft. Count me among those who appreciate constructive criticism.

-Movie of the Moment – DARK SHADOWS (2012). Entertaining, but poorly written. Too much tell, not enough show. Lots of set-ups without payoffs, and vice versa. Characters disappear for 30+ minutes. Didn’t like the ending either.  Just because you like the guy who wrote PRIDE, PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES or ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER doesn’t mean you should have him write your movie. Incidentally, the trailer for the latter made K laugh harder than anything in the movie we came to see.

I thought Johnny Depp did a pretty good job as Barnabas, but I wonder how he would do in a non-quirky role. (Although I am interested to see the forthcoming LONE RANGER, but not because of Depp).

Not necessarily something I was looking forward to, but glad I only paid $6 to see it. Also – way too many trailers!  Ben Affleck’s ARGO looks really good. Adam Sandler’s THAT’S MY BOY looks like total shit.

-If you’re in the Westwood area of Los Angeles this summer and want to get really serious about writing a screenplay, you can’t go wrong by clicking here.

A decent wifi connection will set you free

I'm in the mid-upper left. Where are you?

I had a great conversation with Richard Walter on yesterday’s edition of The Script Adventurer!.  He was his usual entertaining, anecdote-filled self. (Missed it? Never fear – it’ll play again Sunday at 7PM PST on radioslot.com)

There were two things in particular he talked about I thought were extremely important for any screenwriter to keep in mind.

When asked what was the most important thing any writer should know, his answer was Move The Story Forward.  If you have an interesting story that really flows and holds the reader’s attention, then your script is already that much more ahead of others.

Scene A should lead into Scene B, which leads to Scene C, and so on and so on. But if Scene R can fit between B and C, and not disrupt the flow, then it shouldn’t have been Scene R in the first place, or maybe R needs a serious rewrite.

The other thing was that unless you want to be part of series television, it’s not absolutely necessary to live in Los Angeles to be a screenwriter.  In fact, he added that it may even be an advantage:  you’re not constantly surrounded by people in the industry.  I cited Nick Schenk of Minneapolis, who wrote GRAN TORINO.

A big reason for this shift in thinking is the internet.  Query letters by email. Scripts attached as a pdf.  A ton of resources and groups available online.  I’ve connected with writers around the world via Twitter, which at times seems completely mind-blowing.  I could ask for feedback on a script and get responses from just about anywhere.

With a solid script and an internet connection, there’s no stopping you.

Always room for improvement

Some minor fixes can make all the difference

When it rains, there are more problems out on the roadways, resulting in more work for us already heavily-burdened traffic reporters. End result – I’ve worked a lot of hours this week, so not as much time to write as I’d hoped.  A couple of pages a day at best.  Positive spin – nearing the end of Act Two.

Even though I’m working off an outline, sometimes a new approach to a scene will pop in.  Will this work? Does it impact the scene better than the original? Is there conflict? Does it move the story forward?  If it involves the main character, is he the one driving the action? (important questions all).  If I can say ‘yes’ to these questions, then I give it a try.  Lately, it’s been working out.

Case in point: the current sequence.  The way I had it was good, but thought it could be better.  I wanted to expand on it a little.  Keep the tension going.  What would be the most effective way to accomplish this?  I came up with a few different scenarios, finally picking the one I thought worked best. The reshuffling of and minor rewriting of the involved scenes wasn’t as bad as I expected, and I liked the end result.

-My guest on The Script Adventurer! this coming Monday will be UCLA Screenwriting Dept Head Richard Walter.  If you have a question you’d like to ask him, email it to me and I’ll try to ask it during the show.

-Movie of the Moment – JOHN CARTER (2012). This was not the debacle I’d been led to believe; it was actually pretty good. Although I didn’t see the need for the 3-D.

For the most part, I liked it, but some of the story details were a little confusing.  I remember that from the book as well.  If I really like a movie I see in the theatre, I’d consider planning ahead to get it on DVD. I didn’t get that vibe, but I’m more likely to read the book again.

I was surprised Michael Chabon had a hand in the script. I can see that, especially after the great job he did on SPIDER-MAN 2.

Disney’s marketing department completely messed up.  You’d think they’d know better.  A sci-fi adventure story with romantic elements.  How can you not sell that?

I thought Taylor Kitsch did an okay job in the title role, but he looks too generic. A character like this needs more than just a pretty face and muscles.