Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Writing Process

Every writer is different, of course, though there are always features in common - like prevaricating (an important part of the process).

I've been toying with a feature idea after I failed to meet someone at SWF - we'd arranged to meet up but never quite managed it. He has a production company and is looking for scripts based around specific concepts. It's a collaborative thing = no upfront money. But that's okay, after all I haven't exactly proved myself in the writing arena as yet.

So, I've been toying. And prevaricating. But the prevaricating time is now over because the idea was finally beginning to take shape and had got to the point where active participation on my part had become necessary.

Off and on I mention Jeff Kitchen and his "Writing a Great Movie" book which is one of only two screenwriting books I'd personally recommend (the other being "How not to write a screenplay" by Denny Martin Flinn). I recommend them because I have found them very useful.

Jeff Kitchen's book contains tools for screenwriting. It's practical. Like hammers and screwdrivers.

Some people don't like screenwriting books because they feel they are too prescriptive (you must do this only) and/or proscriptive (you mustn't do that ever). Perhaps some are. This one isn't.

Merely owning a tool doesn't dictate what you make with it.

One of the tools in Jeff Kitchen's book is the "36 Dramatic Situations", this is not a proscriptive list of the only dramatic situations you're allowed to have; it's just a list of 36 Dramatic Situations (plus a lot of sub-categories). It originated in the 1700s and was expanded and expounded on by Georges Polti in his 1916 book.

(None of the tools in the book have been devised by Jeff Kitchen, he has collected useful ones together for you to use from excellent sources like Aristotle, Carlo Gozzi and others.)

On this occasion I had some characters and a basic idea for a plot but no real meat. So I pulled out the 36 Dramatic Situations and brainstormed using them, seeing how they might be used in my story. In doing so my characters became fleshed out because I had situations they could get into like "An Enemy Loved".

It's a tool for creating new ideas and new possibilities in your script. You don't have to use any of them, or you might use all of them. And how you actually get the ideas into the script is entirely up to you ... well, me, in this case. The process gave me ideas I hadn't previously entertained that would wring every last piece of emotion out of the story.

It's just a tool and, as with any tool, its effectiveness depends on the wielder's skill.

What's on the turntable? "Three Part Thing" by Pentangle from their "Light Flight" double CD compilation.

Pentangle are a folk-rock-jazz-blues combo using mainly acoustic instruments who started life in the late 60s. I was introduced to their music when their "Light Flight" track was used as the theme to the BBC TV series "Take Three Girls" in the 70s (and one of my sisters bought their "Basket of Light" album). They recently reformed and I saw them, totally unexpectedly, on Jools Holland's "Later..." show a short while ago. Fantastic.

No comments: