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Old 11-16-2015, 02:10 AM   #161
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
I've never used a template.

I've never heard of one of my friends doing it. I'm not saying there aren't pros that do, but I strongly believe they're in the minority.
Maybe "template" isn't the right word. As if it were a stencil placed over a blank page where you fill in the gaps. Judging from the sheer amount of HW scripts that follow it, maybe "genre-specific, generalized beat sheet" is a better term.
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Old 11-16-2015, 03:00 AM   #162
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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This is why templates are hot to begin with. Most people (me included) know they can never pen a story as good as Forrest Gump because they don't understand how it works or even what it is. Heck, the original author may not. He wanted John Goodman to play Forrest FFS.

So an amateur has no choice but to use a template. It's the "most probable" way to construct a good script. If you're already a pro, and asked to write a Star Trek in 6 months, the template is mandatory. You don't have time to invent some revolutionary "Gump story" no one has ever seen before. Which is why the last two ST films are so formulaic.
I don't buy this. If you don't understand what a story is, templates aren't going to teach you. I know that I keep going back to this example, but I think it illustrates the point perfectly. If I'm not an artist (and I'm not) then I'm not going to learn to be an artist by coloring in paint by number pictures. If I don't have talent for painting, I simply don't have talent for painting. No template is going to teach me, even though it "kind of" looks like a picture if you look at it from far enough away.

Ditto for writing. If you don't have talent for it, no template or formula is going to help. This template/formula screenwriting industry is making a killing off of folks who can't write and who will never be able to write, but who produce something that LOOKS like a screenplay by following the step-by-step instructions and force fed formulas. It's a con game.

Now I'm not saying that a writer -- someone with talent, someone who instinctively understands what a story is, won't need to study, to practice, to learn his craft. I'm just saying that if you don't have the talent to start with you will NEVER be a successful writer -- especially not a screenplay writer (where the field is much more limited). This may not be the "PC" thing to say, but it's just the way it is.

I know I can never be an artist. I know I could never be a musician -- I have almost zero talent for both fields -- I even tried to do both at one point. I might have been a half-assed writer had I ever worked at it. But even if I had put in the time, I probably would have never sold a script. That's just reality, I'm not good enough. There are pros and there is everyone else, like in any artistic (or athletic) field.

I'm not saying this to discourage anyone. I'm just telling you that you either instinctively know what a story is, or you don't. If you have writing talent, these templates and rules are not going to help you, they're going to harm you. They're going to fill your head full of BS and limit what you to the point that you're producing total and complete trite crap. I know, I went through this. I had written some fairly decent stuff when I first started trying to write screenplays (raw, but it flowed) and then I got hold of "guru" advice and some of these template/formula horse crap rule books (no "ing" verbs, no passive verbs, no "we see," be sure to hit the right page numbers, blah, blah, blah) and guess what? My stuff turned into totally stilted crap, without any pacing, without any mood, without any reason to be read. It took a long time (a year or two) to unlearn this stupidity.

If you've got talent, write. Write some more, then write some more. Don't give a crap about selling your scripts until you've written several. You've got to hone your craft and you're not going to do it if you're worried about stuff completely out of your control (like, can I put this song in the script? or will this shot be too expensive?) Post snippets, or short scripts and ask for specific advice. You'll be amazed at how helpful real writers -- those who have actually sold movies -- can be. The reason they come here is try to keep you away from the formula/template crap. I'll say it one more time ... learning to fill in templates is NEVER going to make you writer. If you don't have talent nothing will make you a writer. If you DO have talent, these formulas will, AT BEST, stunt your writing growth -- but, more than likely, will destroy any chance at all that you might -- eventually -- have sold something.

But if you won't listen to Jeff Lowell, Neal Stevens and all the other pros who post here, why in the hell would you listen to me?

Sorry. Rant over.
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Old 11-16-2015, 03:19 AM   #163
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

  • If there's no need/weakness in your story, it has no reason for existence. If one character is perfect, the story is driven by at least one other character's need/weakness.
  • If there's no goal, the scenes won't connect to each other.
  • If there are no antagonists, there's no conflict.
  • If there's no strategy, the characters won't do anything, just stand around waiting.
  • If there's no finale, we won't know whether the main character reached his goal or not.
  • If there's no epiphany, that's the point of the story.
  • If there's no ending (Happy, Bittersweet, Uplifting, Downer), we won't know whether the main character overcame his weakness and fulfilled his need or not.

It's not a template, it's the pattern of story, whether you know it consciously or subconsciously. It can be simple or complex, depending on the story. Stories will always be about characters and have two tracks, the inner and the outer "journey" (need/weakness and goal), the character arc and the story arc.

Forrest Gump is obviously one of the more complex stories, because the writer is telling a story that his character is telling within the story.

Last edited by Yaso : 11-16-2015 at 04:53 AM.
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Old 11-16-2015, 08:15 AM   #164
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

I think the point that is not being stated here is that at some point any principles or theory you have learned goes away and the process is a lot less technical and a lot more inspirational/creative.

The problem is that a vast majority of the active posters are not ready by any means to let the so called rules go. They don't know them well enough and don't have the execution experience of them. And they shouldn't at this point.

It's like love making, what ever positions or locations in end up in is not technical at all, it just flows and happens naturally.

On a side note, while Messianic stories often do have a central character of some divinity, or a central character with some kind of special power, I still feel Forrest Gump has a lot of characteristics of one and his slowness was his special power that's the irony of it that makes it a such an incredible story.
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Old 11-16-2015, 08:49 AM   #165
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

While I was ragging on all the analogies in this thread Cyfress' post is pretty spot on.
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Old 11-16-2015, 09:42 AM   #166
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by Yaso View Post
It's not a template, it's the pattern of story, whether you know it consciously or subconsciously.
That's what I meant by obvious and a "A story has to be a story to be a story."

If, as a story teller, you don't have innate sense of what a story is, I don't really know how much good a laundry list is going to do for you.

It's sort of like trying to give instructions for walking, or breathing in and breathing out.

How many of the great story tellers, throughout history looked at that list before they told their story? I guess the real challenge would be to try to tell a story without all that obvious stuff.

"Once upon a time"
<a story gets told>
"And they lived happily ever after"
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Last edited by StoryWriter : 11-16-2015 at 09:57 AM.
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Old 11-16-2015, 10:46 AM   #167
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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If there's no epiphany, that's the point of the story.
The "point of the story" and an "epiphany" are not the same thing.

You don't have to have an epiphany to reveal the point of the story.

Unless there's some other definition of epiphany that I don't know about.
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Old 11-16-2015, 10:50 AM   #168
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by Yaso View Post
  • If there's no need/weakness in your story, it has no reason for existence. If one character is perfect, the story is driven by at least one other character's need/weakness.
  • If there's no goal, the scenes won't connect to each other.
  • If there are no antagonists, there's no conflict.
  • If there's no strategy, the characters won't do anything, just stand around waiting.
  • If there's no finale, we won't know whether the main character reached his goal or not.
  • If there's no epiphany, that's the point of the story.
  • If there's no ending (Happy, Bittersweet, Uplifting, Downer), we won't know whether the main character overcame his weakness and fulfilled his need or not.
Well, here's the thing:

In order for these things to be true, you need to define them so broadly as to be useless.

For example, let's talk about antagonists. Notice how compared to the discussion earlier, you've already pluralized it. But what if the hero is his or her own primary obstacle? There are a lot of stories where that's the case. Or what if nature is? I mean, is "physics" the antagonist of Gravity?

And yeah, sure, you can expand the definition of antagonist so that it's not necessarily a person, but a thing, or even a concept, but when you've done that, you've gotten to the point where the term itself becomes meaningless.

Similarly, you talk about if there's no ending, we won't know etc etc - but lots of films have intentionally ambiguous endings. So you can expand the definition of ending so that any time the movie stops it's "an ending" - but again, you've just defined the term so broadly that it's not useful in any way. It's become a tautology: well, the DVD ends, so the movie has an ending. That is not useful for a writer in any way, shape, or form.
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Old 11-16-2015, 11:08 AM   #169
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by Cyfress View Post
I think the point that is not being stated here is that at some point any principles or theory you have learned goes away and the process is a lot less technical and a lot more inspirational/creative.

The problem is that a vast majority of the active posters are not ready by any means to let the so called rules go. They don't know them well enough and don't have the execution experience of them. And they shouldn't at this point.

It's like love making, what ever positions or locations in end up in is not technical at all, it just flows and happens naturally.
I would say it's 50/50.

Some writers are afraid of letting their analytical tools go. Some writers are afraid of stifling their creativity. What all writers have in common is that they are afraid.

In any case, there's little sense to withdraw into the homoeopathy of screenwriting, a.k.a. the "LOL, just write" school of thought.

There's a video by John Cleese, one of the Monty Python's, where he talks about the open and closed mode ... It helped me a lot:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qby0ed4aVpo

Quote:
That's what I meant by obvious and a "A story has to be a story to be a story."

If, as a story teller, you don't have innate sense of what a story is, I don't really know how much good a laundry list is going to do for you.

It's sort of like trying to give instructions for walking, or breathing in and breathing out.
It might be obvious to you, but most scripts I read don't have a good story. It's either not original, or it doesn't work. The truth is, most writers are not the greatest storytellers in the world. Especially those in training. So consider this just a tool in the tool box. You don't need to use it.

Quote:
For example, let's talk about antagonists. Notice how compared to the discussion earlier, you've already pluralized it. But what if the hero is his or her own primary obstacle? There are a lot of stories where that's the case. Or what if nature is? I mean, is "physics" the antagonist of Gravity?

And yeah, sure, you can expand the definition of antagonist so that it's not necessarily a person, but a thing, or even a concept, but when you've done that, you've gotten to the point where the term itself becomes meaningless.

Similarly, you talk about if there's no ending, we won't know etc etc - but lots of films have intentionally ambiguous endings. So you can expand the definition of ending so that any time the movie stops it's "an ending" - but again, you've just defined the term so broadly that it's not useful in any way. It's become a tautology: well, the DVD ends, so the movie has an ending. That is not useful for a writer in any way, shape, or form.
If the hero is his own obstacle, that's an internal conflict, not an antagonist. The antagonist is always external.

In GRAVITY nature is the antagonist ("who wants to stop the main character from reaching his goal?"), but that doesn't give you a deep conflict. It's a very simple story, designed to bring out the best of the 3D-effect.

About the ending. There are four basic versions:
  1. Happy Ending (MC reaches goal and overcomes weakness)
  2. Bittersweet ending (MC reaches goal, but doesn't overcome weakness)
  3. Uplifting Ending (MC doesn't reach goal, but overcomes weakness)
  4. Downer Ending (MC doesn't reach goal and doesn't overcome weakness)
Take a movie like THE WRESTLER. While the ending might seem ambiguous, the audience knows what's going to happen. For an "open ending" to work, the audience always needs to have a clue. If they really don't know, the audience will be pissed.
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Old 11-16-2015, 11:58 AM   #170
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

I think part of the problem is that people jump into screenwriting with the idea that it doesn't require the skills one would need to write a novel. No long descriptive passages with metaphors and similes, no inner monologues, no worries about first, second and third person narratives.

They develop the misconception that screenwriting stands outside the realm and required skills of other fiction writing because the end user (the movie audience) doesn't read what they've written:

Gee, look at this, I can be a writer without actually being a writer!

Then someone like Snyder (or whoever Yaso got that list from) comes along with a template or formula and the misconception gets further entrenched:

Gee, look at this, all I have to do to be successful is follow this formula that all those other films followed! I'm well on my way to winning an Oscar!

Alas, the misconception then becomes further entrenched to the exclusion of common sense. Even when pros tell them otherwise, they cling to this false idea because to believe otherwise they would have to concede they don't know what the hell they're doing. Why else would Yaso and Save The Cat devotees cling so tightly and defensively to their formulas?

The truth is, not only do screenwriters require all the storytelling skills of a good novelist (character development, dialogue, plot and theme) they have the added ability to crystallize and craft stories for a visual medium.

This became brutally clear to me with my first screenplay which was an adaptation of my own unfinished novel. Huge swaths of narrative had to be thrown out. Others had to be boiled down to, at times, a single image, or line of dialogue. And new scenes and one new character had to be created to boil down and transform inner dialogue and narrative for the screen.

As an exercise, try to adapt an exiting novel or short story for the screen and you'll see how much you've been misled by gurus selling formulas, formats and templates.
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