Friday, July 31, 2009

Back at last! With another installment of How I Do It

Sorry for leaving the blog unattended for so long, but I had a lot of urgent screenwriting to do!

That's done now, so I can finally spend some more time on the blog again.

So, with no further ado, a new practical (I hope) writing tip!

While writing the current script, there was one scene which gave me problems. Of course, it was the most crucial scene in the script.

During this scene, the protagonist of the episode, who has been a relentless womanizer and visitor of night clubs and expensive brothels all his life, has to realize that since he's always paid for love and affection, it's possible that most if not all of it has not been sincere. This is supposed to lead to the crisis of the entire episode and it's the final nail in his coffin, as all what he thougt to have accomplished in life is shown in previous scenes to be hollow and worthless (yes, it IS a comedy, folks).

The problem with the scene was that I knew what the emotional trajectory had to be, and I had a clear idea of the stops along the way. But when I started writing it, it just felt wrong. All the necessary elements were in the scene, but the order in which they showed up (the way I structured the scene) just didn't convince at all.

Looking back at what I got, one of the problems was that as I was building the main spine of the scene, I introduced a tangential element which was related to the spine (the most important love affair the character had had during the series), but which took over once it was introduced. And once that 'bit' was finished, it proved to be extremely hard to return to the original throughline.
On the other hand, just deleting the element wasn't a solution either, as it was something which had to be dealt with or the loyal fans in the audience would wonder why it hadn't been talked about.

So the way I finally cracked it was to go back to the beginning of the scene (again, as I'd tried several different versions already) and wrote a long version - a version which was deliberately too long for the finished script, but where I made sure that I put in every little step of the psychological process the protagonist had to go through.

As the context of the scene was an interview about the protagonist's love life, I also had to make sure that the character doing the interview managed to

I also made sure that the tangent wasn't introduced at a point where it derailed the scene, but at the moment where it amplified and complemented the main thrust of the scene.

Then, it was just a question of cutting back the excess dialogue and exposition. It's amazing to discover just how much material you can cut without losing the point you need to make. However, you usually do need to spell matters out first, before discovering the more concise version which is the right one.

No comments: