A screenplay is not just black words on white paper, for a screenplay to really become a story you need inspiration. Many screenplays are inspired by a writers crazy flight of fancy. The writer just gets a crazy rush of images or emotions and can almost see it in his minds eye. A massive monster rises from a crowded beach stomping and bashing beach goers with no apparent goal. And that is maybe where the rush of creativity stops. Now a good writer will sit and flush out the details, what is the monster, why is the monster and who is the monster. What, Why and Who are the 3 most important questions to ask when writing a screenplay. If you know what, why and who you will see underneath your mammoth sea beast and delve right into its soul, and in the end your THEME.
Now please read my WRITERS BLOCK piece to learn more about theme. Also you will probably get stuck somewhere and suffer from writers block at some point, my article can help.
Back to the baby bashing human trashing monster…Always as a writer ask WHY must this monster act a certain why, what must it make the audience see, what must the audience learn after I force them to sit through 2 hours of dying beach goers? This is the THEME. Perhaps the theme is that life is short, and skin cancer is not the biggest threat at the beach. Perhaps a mother needs to learn to appreciate her husband or children more. Whatever your theme is, please make sure there is a theme! NO SNAKES ON A PLANE was a terrible idea, really it was, theme? Don’t put snakes on a plane? If your theme is so stupid and plain right common sense then please give it a skip, no matter how UNIQUE you think the plot is.
Unique and crazy plots do not override good old classic story telling. In my next post I’ll cover Archetypes and the 3 act story structure, so you can plan out your characters and story with more detail and with a sense of purpose. I will not leave you in the dungeon of writing alone!
Till next time, keep writing, if you can’t write you should be reading. You are a writer, not a watcher!
The first thing new writers ask me is, “how long should it take to write a screenplay?”, I don’t answer right away as I know that the next sentence will be some form of explanation from their part of why they still haven’t finished their own masterpiece.
One of the biggest problems writers talk about it called “Writers Block”. Writers block is an inability to continue writing your story, or to start a new story. I have had this illness many times before. It normally strikes me at the end of act 2, as our characters need to develop into new ones, having learnt a great deal after their confrontations with the antagonist.
But I found a cure, or at least for one of my “blocked” screenplays. I believe writers block is caused by dilemma in story, not dilemma in life. Yes you are probably stuck because you don’t know your characters well enough, or you don’t understand the theme of your film.
Theme is the most important part of a story, be it a screenplay or a novel or a web series. Web series make this mistake regularly, they forget theme for punchlines. But a very successful use of theme and comedy was done in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog” by Joss Whedon. Go check it out.
If you struggle to continue writing you are probably struggling with theme or character. I was stuck on my screenplay for almost 10 months! Yes I had written 72 pages and just couldn’t end it off. Yes I had planned it on paper, cue cards, software but I was stuck.
So then one day I went back to the very small town in rural, South Africa where I had lived as a young child. It suddenly dawned on me! This was my story, I was telling it about the fear or returning to that small, backwater, scary, religious, conservative trap of a town. I couldn’t wait to get home. As soon as I got back from that trip my laptop was burning as I typed my fingers raw. I wrote 32 pages that night and it was done!
Ok, it wasn’t done, I then went back and redrafted the whole story with my new revised, focused theme. And everything improved so much with my focused theme. Characters had more depth, I knew what they would do next, I could see them alive and doing stuff in my fictional world. I no longer wondered about the next step, cause I knew the theme and the point I wanted to get across to my audience. Most importantly I knew what the character wanted and feared.
So writers say this a lot but “Write what you know”. I finally got what they meant. Yes you can write the next STAR WARS without having lived in space, but the themes and characters must have a real life basis or inspiration for it to feel real. Theme should push your writing forward, it should make you challenge your fictional characters into new situations that push them to develop as characters.
And this is where art imitates life. If I didn’t go back to that town to confront my fear of failure and desolation I would never have scene the theme of my story so clearly. I believe most directors tell one story over and over again as they deal with that issue in their life. Look at Steven Spielberg’s films. E.T. is about a boy that discovers something magical and out of this world, but needs to hide it to keep it. Jurassic Park, a scientist discovers his life work but must keep it secret or else greedy people will want to steel it. In “Hook” Robin Williams goes back to the magical world where you never age, but no one believes him, and if he tells the secret it will be lost forever. Similar themes are all over the Indiana Jones movies and even in Schindler’s List a man must hide people, in a way he hides innocence from evil. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is also about a man that discovers something amazing, but no one believes him at first, they make him out as a loony, but it the end they come to see their mistake. So this is my 5 cents, Spielberg deals in his stories with childhood fear of rejection, of being called a fool for believing in something different.
So find YOUR theme, your story, your dilemma in life, and write the living text out of it. As Spielberg has shown you can write about anything but still have the same underlying theme. It doesn’t have to be your main theme but make sure you work your dilemma in there, the audience will love you for it.
If you are a writer please leave comments about your thoughts on writers block below. Have an amazingly creative day!
When my friend Niel asked me to take some pictures and video for his awesome band “The Parlor Vinyls” I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Niel’s band is a mix of oldschool rock / blues with heavy guitar riffs and hard hitting drum beats.
It’s a clash between Gaslight Anthem and old school Foo-Fighters. The Parlor Vinyls was rocking so hard they actually caused a power surge that blew some generators at the Cape Town Blues Summit on 30th of November 2012.
I went for a subdued warm style for the photography, I rammed op the focus to make it crisp and give it a magazine style look. Also used white bars to create poster effect. Hope you like the pics.
We got internet in 1995, I remember it took 30 mins for a small picture of Warcraft to download to my PC, I was 9 years old, I sat there looking at the pixels load thinking this was the best thing ever, now I get mad if my ADSL line doesn’t get at least 4mbs, it eeks me to rage if an HD 1080p YouTube video has LAG or buffers!
So being no stranger to the internet I only today, the 8th of December 2012 got my first WordPress blog. I have blogged on other platforms but they just felt dead and stuck.
As a selfproclaimed control freak I have researched WordPress for years and other means of internet expression. But now I finally made the jump to WordPress. Why? Well I had a myspace…and I have Facebook pages but all those sites kinda rely on you forcing your poor friends and family to read your crappy thoughts and ideas.
Given some thoughts on Facebook or twitter might be genuis, but your gran and aunt from rural no where might have missed that episode of “The Real L World” or “New Normal, even stuff like True Blood or Lady Gaga might make them sick to their conservative stomach.
So WordPress allows me to blog to the WHOLE WORLD. Yes now Billions can see my cr@p and roll their eyes at my pretentious self deceiving image of myself and my abilities.
Ok, so this blog will focus on Movies, TV, Film making, Directing, Video Editing, Cameras and other movie tech. Also scriptwriting, and storytelling in general.
Each post will cover one or more of those topics. And I will also give links to awesome utilities and sites I have found on the internet. And maybe I’ll even sell you some books online, that I’ve read and find AWESOME!
Another SO: I write kinda sarcastically and very blasphemosly, don’t take offence, or do take offense, whatever.
I will not SWEAR, but these words will replace them:
FRAK (see Battlestar Galactica)
BLERG (See 30 Rock)
Gosh (AKA Jaweh)
So any other harsh words only seem harsh cuase your probably a conservative internet trolling child molester.
Love you. Working on my first storytelling post as you read. Cheers (that means goodbye in South African, Cape Town
This is me! Well with some help from Airbrush in photoshop., slang)