Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pulp (Screen) Writing...

Pulp screenwriting is dependent upon so many things that are beyond the writer's ability to control - the production's talent, organization, vision - that when it comes to delivering a screenplay to your producer you always have to remember to a) make it entertaining, and b) make it bulletproof.

Now the first one is easy if you have talent and storytelling chops -- the craft of it all.

But the latter is where many new screenwriters get hung up. They want to jam pack their story with so many - characters, ideas, FX, locations, you name it - that they paint their script with a target and hold it up for the producer to take shotgun blasts at it.

I've always been an advocate of keeping it simple. One idea taken to its logical extreme rather than 50 ideas all crying out for attention in the "script-nursery." One of the areas where I think writers tend to shortchange themselves is in thinking that way - that they have to generate a ton of ideas in order to make the world they've built within the script "real" enough.

What they are really doing is drawing attention away from what should be the focus of your script - that one idea that is so cool it carries the story on its shoulders through that marathon of 96+ pages. So forget the "mosaic" or "cornucopia of ideas" approach to writing and stick with what works, what makes your story better.

In pulp storytelling - comics, prose or film - the story you are telling doesn't have to be "real." It just has to be real within the context of the story you are telling. That gives you a lot of room to explore that one idea you have that sparked the story in the first place. It gives you a lot of room to stylize and enhance that one idea rather than having to stylize and enhance 50 ideas, some of which are probably working at cross-purposes from one another.

In pulp storytelling - you want clarity and entertainment value. Again, that one idea that is turned on its side and looked at from a new perspective. That one idea that will resonate like the single note held by an opera singer's voice, instead of the crashing din of a thousand singers each singing a different tune. Each trying desperately to be heard above the rest - but to no effect.

But really - don't just listen to me about this. Go read Steven Grant's latest column at Comic Book Resources. He discusses the comics of "Mad Ideas" but really it's all the same thing - pulp.

If you want to amp up the value of your screenwriting - that is, get it sold - then switch up your strategy and start focusing on one idea you can explore instead of twenty ideas you can jam into your script because they are cool.

Because a producer is going to be able to shoot a script that explores one idea really well, and he's going to reject anything else.

No comments: