Friday, July 22, 2005

K.I.S.S. this...

If you look at the comments in the previous post, we were discussing my outlining technique when it comes to rewrites. My whole philosophy of writing my movies - the technique, the structure, the characters, etc... can be summed up with this:

Keep
It
Simple
Stupid


I'm not a Ferrari, I'm Mopar.
When you step on the gas, I go and you can hear me around the block. I'm clean, simple and have a hemi under the hood. I get the job done, and like other mopar - you can keep me stock or you can customize me. Either way - I got muscle.

I think that most screenwriters, especially beginners, agonize over every detail, often losing the big picture because they're hung up on the idea they have to make it "perfect". I know one person who considers herself a screenwriter even though she's only been working on one script for the past four years (And it's not finished). She thinks if she gets that perfect script out, then everything else will fall into place. She has beat sheets, and character bios and maps and all this stuff...In the time that I've known her (about a year) I wrote THREE scripts, a live event, and tons of PR.

Screenwriters are too worried about the style of the interior on their script, when they should be worried about the engine that drives the story.

Between terms like Beat sheet, Character arc, Act One turning point, ad infinitum... people get stuck in the mud and it sucks them under. My thought on this is to always ask - Is this something I can use? Is it workable? Most of you already know these terms, but under a different name. Why complicate things with added terms and, well...crap?

So let's get a few things straight right now, about this screenwriting process:

1. A BEAT SHEET is an outline. Calling it a beat sheet may make you feel more important, but it's still JUST AN OUTLINE. It's like when you're in a nice restaurant and you order the chopped steak sandwich and they bring you a cheeseburger.

So simply write an outline. Keep writing so that you have a clean two pages of story with a beginning, middle and end (Three Act Structure! Yes, it's that simple). If that small amount of writing can hold someone's attention - THEN you can write the script knowing you have something.

There's a lot to be said for simplicity. It's harder than you think, but it pays off by allowing you to write quickly and efficiently.

2. A CHARACTER ARC is a fancy way of saying - How does the hero change to deal with what's happening to him and the other characters around him? He starts off at point A, and ends up changed by point Z. Yes, it's that simple.

3. A "great script" is one that gets made and you get paid for - not necessarily in that order. Great scripts come from writing a lot of scripts. So don't overthink it. Write, take what you learned and move on to the next script. The more scripts you write the better and more confident with the process you will become. Everyone has one great script in them - unfortunately it's blocked by about fifteen crappy scripts. Get those fifteen out as quickly as possible so you can tap that ass called "greatness."

4. Shakespeare was a pulpster. Dickens too. As is/was Stephen King, Mario Puzo, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, et al... They are all prolific, because they set about writing and then rewriting, and they didn't let terminology and overthinking get in their way.

They spun a good yarn. We should all do the same.

Stay tuned...I'm going to do some more exploring in the land of simplicity.

2 comments:

Vampos Vulgar said...

Bill,

In a previous post you mentioned how different the writting is in your final draft of a script compared to the first version what sprung from your sweating brow.

I wonder, would you post a scene, or even just a few lines, from a final draft and the corresponding text from the first draft?

It would be cool to see how your work evolves. Kind of like having a glass window into your skull and being able to see the meat gears turning.

Except, you know, not as creepy as that example...

Bill Cunningham said...

Oh believe me...it is as creepy as that example...

Let me see if I can dig up some appropriate writing sample.