Thursday, January 07, 2010

Okay. It's 2010.  Let's write a short screenplay together.

Now if I may presume you already have a premise of a story, here's how you begin:


It's ALL CAPPED and Flush Left, followed directly by the obligatory colon.

Below that line is a space, and below that is a slug line that tells us where we are and whether it's night or day:


INT. = Interior.  If we're outside, then you write EXT. for exterior.  The Office location just happens to be where I am currently sitting, but you would use your imagination to place your characters wherever they may be: on the MOON, in a SUBMARINE, in an APARTMENT, etc.  Then cap it off with DAY or NIGHT.  Not EARLY MORNING or DUSK or any of the countless other descriptions for NIGHT or DAY.  A camera operator once thanked me for sharing this bit of advice with a workshop crowd at a film festival; he said, "the camera only knows light or dark, so night or day is what we need to make sure we capture the image correctly."  If you must convey first thing in the morning, do so with a simple prop like a Rooster CROWING or an alarm clock or a newspaper being delivered or what have you.

Next comes the action description line.  Keep your lines brief, with few or no adjectives or adverbs. And yes, sentence fragments are acceptable. Sometimes even encouraged. Here's an example:

The bereft beauty, SCARLET (30s), typed in the stillness of a house asleep.  Her eyes struggled to remain open as her fingers kept pounding the wrong keys.

If there's dialogue to be written, well, that's just another thing entirely, isn't it?  We'll tackle dialogue tomorrow.  That should give you time to conjure up a couple characters and to place them in a story.  Hmm, character development.  Guess we'll need to tackle that one too, eh?  For now, focus on a strong protagonist (or hero of your story) and an equally powerful and completely opposite antagonist.  Give your protagonist a do-or-die goal to achieve.  And place your antagonist squarely in your protagonist's way.  And to make it REALLY compelling, keep in mind that to the antagonist, he or she is the protagonist of the story.  That means that BOTH characters should be well defined and three dimensional.  (General rules here; always general rules.  And, as with all rules, they are of course able to be broken.  But first you must know the rule before you can artfully break it to achieve your goals.)

Make me the antagonist of your little drama if you must.  But remember that I'll always be the protagonist from my own point of view.

Good night, all!

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