This week was entirely devoted to prepping a proposal for the Canadian government. I’m hoping to receive funds for two short film ideas I have. If I’m successful I will blog about them and tell you about my proposal process, which is fundamental in filmmaking. For now, I’ve decided to create a series of writing blogs to help out first time authors and screenwriters fulfill their writing dreams.
Part 1: I WANT TO WRITE
You have this great idea about an astronaut who converts a spacesuit into a time machine so he can go back and fix his past to get a better future, sound familiar, but one problem his spacesuit has issues every time he time travels.
How do you turn this idea into a script?
#1 Firstly, let me tell you that everyone has their own process and I will share my process with you, but ultimately you must find what feels right for you.
Some will say you must write your outline, others will say no, no, no, just write and the story will come together and then you fix it. Christopher Nolan and his brother basically wrote a whole bunch of sequences on pieces of paper and literally pulled them out one by one from a hat and that became their sequence for the film. They just made it fit.
Tolkien started writing Lord of the Rings without a clear outline, which could explain the ending with the ghosts … How do you defeat such a powerful army if the elves barely did it the first time, but I digress still a masterpiece. Please don’t hate on me for that moment of doubt.
I myself, when I have an idea, I have tried and tried to put together an outline and I just can’t. The idea comes and I start to frantically write.
I write everything that comes into my mind in story form and put it in the computer. It’s sloppy, more or less readable, and I put every single idea over the course of a few weeks into this birth until I get to the ending. It can be two pages or ten or twenty, it’s not important.
It doesn’t matter that the story flows or not, as long as all your ideas are extracted from your head so you get to resume your sleep at night. Oh, how I’ve stayed awake re-hashing the same scene over and over trying to get to the next and move forward. Ugh! It doesn’t work, it must be put to paper.
Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black of the film “Milk” is very organized and so are his thoughts. He is very methodological. He will start with research, which of course makes sense with any period piece, you need to know what you are writing about, but still I’d argue if you know what direction your character is going in than by all means map it out. The details you can research after.
For example, when I wrote my historical drama about a lumberjack in early 19 Century Canada, I knew certain events had taken place, such as when my protagonist rams into a bar on horseback and gets shot in the eye. I knew I wanted that scene, so in my ramblings I included that in there. Afterward, I did extensive research to understand what actually went down that night and why?
So how does all this help you?
Well if you have an idea and you’re serious about turning it into a screenplay or book, then, sit down, grab some writing tool, and flesh it out. Either you ramble on, have arrows pointing back and forth, and add ins here and there and a sequence you see it happening. Or, you are very methodological and start researching, pulling out different cool ideas that you find interesting until you see a picture forming and start mapping that out.
In other words, see it happening in your mind’s eye. At this point in the brainstorming you don’t need for everything to be perfectly sequential, you might have scenes or chapters that are much more thought out and others rather bare. Usually we tend to have the beginning and the ending thoroughly detailed, it’s the middle part that’s more troubling. 😉
Go… go and write! Next part of the series will be research. Not everyone likes it, but it’s fundamental even to fiction.