Monday, October 10, 2005

[The Limit] How to write a scene

So I’m heading back from Gino’s tomorrow. There’ll be a period of just resettling into my life and then a day where I’m working on my 24 game for this month’s competition, and then maybe a day off.

At the moment The Limit’s going really well – I’ve worked through the big rewrites at the start of the movie & now I’m at the point where I can get through vast swathes in a day. However, last time I took a break I kinda … forgot how to write.

So, for my mind-prodding, here’s some thoughts (I may have written something like this already) …

To write a scene, I – repeat, ‘I’ – need to set some stakes (What’s the question this scene’s going to answer? What do we care about?).

Then know what’s the conflict (If the question has 2 possible answers, then I need 2 characters/forces fighting or advocating for each side). As soon as one side’s one, it’s time to wrap up the scene. If at all possible, the sides of the conflict have something to do with the thematic conflict at the heart of the story. In The Limit, that’s Law vs Vigilantism (vs. Criminality). It’s all very Story by Bob McKee (c.f. Adapatation by Charlie Kaufmann).

What does each character want? These motivations need to naturally come out of each character’s previous scene.

Next I either brainstorm 20 things that could happen in the scene – issues, cool moments, motivations, lines of dialogue, things I want to see, random oddball ideas – in no particular order. It’s just stuff to inspire me.

Then I reorder that stuff into rough chronological order.

Otherwise, if I’ve got a clear idea of where the scene’s going I brainstorm a starting point, and then brainstorm again – what’s the worst they could do, to trigger a response from the other person in the scene? I keep swapping through each character’s perspective, trying to continually increase the tension in the scene.

I brainstorm 20 things because I read a book that recommended doing that.

I am a drone.

Seriously, I’ve always brainstormed multiple options for moments in my script. Off my own back though, I used to only devise about 7 different options for things – like punchlines when I was writing eps of lovebites. With 7, I found I came up with something that worked.

But with 20, I start getting oddball and insightful ideas towards the end of the process. If I don’t, I take a break and then keep going. I want to get the 'right' idea by the end of this process. Not some idealised 'perfect idea' - just have a decent range of good options to choose from, so I can move on.

Finally, I need to know the resolution to the scene. That means at some point, there needs to be a turning point in the scene where things head towards that resolution. And I need to bear in mind that that has an affect on the person who didn’t get their way.

No comments: