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Old 11-16-2015, 02:31 PM   #181
Yaso
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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In Gravity, it does not. And to claim it is, you have to stretch the concept of "want" to the breaking point. You've just made THAT word mean nothing in an attempt to force Gravity to fit your model.

It feels like you're building a church to the concept that the antagonist has to want something, which first had you stretching the definition of "antagonist" and now has you breaking the definition of "want" to try to fix your definition of antagonist; facts inconsistent with theology must be discarded.
Okay, you caught me. I made a mistake there. Please don't hold it against me. Nature is just standing in the character's way -- in that story. But Again: What I described is still the pattern in every story, what differentiates a story from everything that isn't a story. Nature is the antagonist. Without it, there would be no external conflict in GRAVITY.

You are deliberately looking for exceptions, because you can't seem to accept the fact that screenwriting is not magic. It only looks like that for the audience -- when it works.

Yes, it is hard, yes the process is highly creative, and yes, a script is much more complex than this simple pattern. But if you don't have a good story, the richest characters, the sharpest dialogue and the finest scene description won't save your script.

@sc111: It helps me to see the story in my idea.

I started writing short stories and novellas 15 years ago, short films 9 years ago and features 6 years ago.

Last edited by Yaso : 11-16-2015 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 11-16-2015, 03:31 PM   #182
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Two questions:

1) What is this tool helping you do?

2) How much writing had you done (short stories, poems, or even essays) before you tried your hand at screenwriting?

And I'm not asking to be a biotch. I'm asking because I do respect everyone's desire to write. Even a fledgling desire to write comes from a deep place. What I object to is instruction (because all these lists, formulas and templates are really instructions) that sends people down blind alleys with a false sense of confidence only to stifle or kill any budding talent they may actually have and set them up for failure.
Not speaking to Yaso's story model (which seems really vague), but I will say that when I switched to screenplays from stage plays and pilots from screenplays, I looked at beat sheets and structure breakdowns and the like just to get a feel for the differences in the forms. Of course, I had a pretty good narrative and dramatic sense from my background in playwriting (which I went to school for), so I knew to discard things. But particularly when I wrote my first procedural pilot spec, I remember looking up quite a few pilots that were similar in tone and doing the kind of forensic analysis these beat sheets are based on - I outlined them, noted the different major beats and where they landed, noted how long scenes were and how many were in each act, etc. I found it tremendously helpful to have as a guideline in refining and structuring my story.

The problem is when people don't distinguish between guidelines and hard rules. I would bet that the majority of major studio releases do adhere fairly closely to Save The Cat. Does that mean that every screenplay has to hit those exact beats at those exact times? No, of course not! But it can be helpful to see what tends to work, at least for the type of story you're trying to tell. Again, as a tool and a jumping-off point, not a stencil.

I think this is where that kind of story sense we've been talking about comes in. For some people it's not so much an innate, instinctual understanding of form that comes to them whole cloth; it's more about knowing how and when to break from the established norm.
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Old 11-16-2015, 04:19 PM   #183
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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@sc111: It helps me to see the story in my idea.

I started writing short stories and novellas 15 years ago, short films 9 years ago and features 6 years ago.

Well, with that much background I'm surprised you indicated your punch-list still helps you a lot. It's so broad I can't see it as useful. And -- for someone writing as long as you have --at best, it's like using training wheels on a bike you've been riding for 15 years.
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Last edited by sc111 : 11-16-2015 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 11-16-2015, 04:44 PM   #184
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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You are deliberately looking for exceptions, because you can't seem to accept the fact that screenwriting is not magic. It only looks like that for the audience -- when it works.
No, I'm not deliberately looking for exceptions because I "can't seem to accept the fact that screenwriting is not magic." I'm looking at films I love and noticing that they don't happen to fit your model.

In any event, I would suggest that in nearly any field, studying the messy, unconventional examples is more interesting and educational than regurgitating basic plot points. The magic is in the messiness, not the formula. As I've said many times: I think the models are useful learning tools so long as you test them against the movies you love.

And I honestly think the worst thing you can do from a learning standpoint is put so much weight in the theory that you ignore the practice. Theories are great, but they become dogma when counter-examples are wished out of existence.

Quote:
But if you don't have a good story, the richest characters, the sharpest dialogue and the finest scene description won't save your script.
Here you're arguing a proposition that I've never made. I've never argued against "a good story."

I'm only arguing against your reductionist definition of "a good story."

Not the same thing.
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Old 11-16-2015, 05:07 PM   #185
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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I understand your aversion to the screenwriting cottage industry. There are a lot of useful resources. But there are also a lot of charlatans.

That said -- instruction of some kind is necessary for any kind of craft. That's why we have school for various trades. And books. That's what separates a craft from a hobby. Screenwriting is no different. It's how people use the instruction that matters.
If you see screenwriting as a "trade" like plumbing or a "craft" life carpentry then I respectfully say you're moving down a blind alley to no where.

I took a 4-year concentration in writing courses in college. There was no instruction of any kind.

There was only writing, reading your pages aloud in class, getting feedback and notes, them rewriting. Once a month you had a private meeting with the prof who gave you deeper notes. That was it.All four years. No one gave instructions on how to write a story.

As I said up thread, to gain entry into the program you had to present fiction you worked on in high school to be reviewed by a panel of professors. They expected you to know how to write a story to begin with.
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Old 11-16-2015, 05:35 PM   #186
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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If you see screenwriting as a "trade" like plumbing or a "craft" life carpentry then I respectfully say you're moving down a blind alley to no where.

I took a 4-year concentration in writing courses in college. There was no instruction of any kind.

There was only writing, reading your pages aloud in class, getting feedback and notes, them rewriting. Once a month you had a private meeting with the prof who gave you deeper notes. That was it.All four years. No one gave instructions on how to write a story.

As I said up thread, to gain entry into the program you had to present fiction you worked on in high school to be reviewed by a panel of professors. They expected you to know how to write a story to begin with.
Really? No instruction of any kind? That's...surprising. My program did a mix of workshopping type classes, feedback and notes, and yes, some lecture-style instruction. Studying written scripts, talking about different genres, general notes about what makes for a good act break, what goes where on the page, all that good stuff. There was a ton of practice and feedback involved in that, but especially in the lower-level practical classes we were mostly focusing on particular techniques and exercises - eavesdrop and transcribe a real conversation, cut down an overwritten script, write a scene in which nobody answers any questions, etc. I'm assuming you got some kind of formal instruction in writing at some point, even if it was in your primary school education.

I would actually bet that some of the notes and private meetings you had included instruction, just not given in a formal setting like a science class might.

What is screenwriting, exactly, if it's not at least partially craft? There are skills involved; it's not just a matter of walking up to a piece of paper one day and magicking up a script. You just happened to learn yours in more of a practical, on-the-job way. Other people are more into the theoretical. It's a lot like acting, which I've also studied quite a bit. Mainly in that nobody really cares whether you lean more heavily on technique or theory or in-the-moment inspiration - it's the end result that you get judged on.
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Old 11-16-2015, 05:42 PM   #187
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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If you see screenwriting as a "trade" like plumbing or a "craft" life carpentry then I respectfully say you're moving down a blind alley to no where.

I took a 4-year concentration in writing courses in college. There was no instruction of any kind.

There was only writing, reading your pages aloud in class, getting feedback and notes, them rewriting. Once a month you had a private meeting with the prof who gave you deeper notes. That was it.All four years. No one gave instructions on how to write a story.

As I said up thread, to gain entry into the program you had to present fiction you worked on in high school to be reviewed by a panel of professors. They expected you to know how to write a story to begin with.
Okay. Maybe trade school wasn't the best direct analogy. I meant school in general.

I was simply trying to convey the fact that if you want to write a screenplay that sells to a studio -- then there are certain strategies that greatly improve your chance of that happening. Let's call them "techniques".

There are techniques you can use to show your character is changing (e.g., having him/her approach the same situation in a different way the second time around).

There are techniques you can use to make your dialogue realistic (subtext, variation in styles between people, etc.).

There are techniques you can use to make your story move faster (have major events happen with a certain frequency -- not saying they have to happen by a certain page).

There are techniques you can use to maintain the reader's interest in the plot (e.g., intertwining it with subplots, raising the stakes).

These things are not instructions. They're not requirements. But they are useful tools for making your story feel more commercial. And they aren't something that everyone just naturally gets by absorbing stories in movies or their everyday lives. For many people, it helps if they are actually receiving formal -- wait for it -- instruction on these techniques. I know the classes I've taken and the books I've read have certainly added some knowledge that watching movies didn't do alone.

Writers don't have to follow any of these techniques. They can write whatever they want; no one's stopping them. But following certain basics certainly increases your chances of breaking into the industry and getting a sale. We're not talking about passing a college writing course here. We're talking about trying to garner the interest of producers and studios for something that will be a multi-million dollar investment.

P.S. Last time I checked, "feedback" and "notes" represent a form of instruction, however informal they may be. They may not tell you how to do something, but they can inform you of the best way to do something.
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Last edited by UpandComing : 11-16-2015 at 06:01 PM.
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Old 11-16-2015, 06:02 PM   #188
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Really? No instruction of any kind? That's...surprising. My program did a mix of workshopping type classes, feedback and notes, and yes, some lecture-style instruction. Studying written scripts, talking about different genres, general notes about what makes for a good act break, what goes where on the page, all that good stuff. There was a ton of practice and feedback involved in that, but especially in the lower-level practical classes we were mostly focusing on particular techniques and exercises - eavesdrop and transcribe a real conversation, cut down an overwritten script, write a scene in which nobody answers any questions, etc. I'm assuming you got some kind of formal instruction in writing at some point, even if it was in your primary school education.

I would actually bet that some of the notes and private meetings you had included instruction, just not given in a formal setting like a science class might.

What is screenwriting, exactly, if it's not at least partially craft? There are skills involved; it's not just a matter of walking up to a piece of paper one day and magicking up a script. You just happened to learn yours in more of a practical, on-the-job way. Other people are more into the theoretical. It's a lot like acting, which I've also studied quite a bit. Mainly in that nobody really cares whether you lean more heavily on technique or theory or in-the-moment inspiration - it's the end result that you get judged on.
First, let me say straight up I haven't sold a script. Currently, I'm focusing on a novella. My day job is writing for advertising and marketing. And, frankly, story writing talents help me in this work, too.

As for college, mine was a creative writing program (within the English Department); it was not a screenwriting program. There was one 2-part screenwriting elective you could take and at the time I was focused on prose fiction so I didn't take it.

As for deconstructing the work of published writers, that was done in Lit classes not in writing classes. Because you had to be an English major to get into the writing program. So it was a given that you were analyzing novels in your other classes. In the writing classes it was: write/get critiqued/rewrite, over and over. There were no assignments or exercises. You wprked on your own stuff and brought it to class.

This is a clear giveaway that I graduated way before colleges were offering entire degree programs in film making and screenwriting.
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Last edited by sc111 : 11-16-2015 at 06:25 PM.
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Old 11-16-2015, 06:23 PM   #189
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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P.S. Last time I checked, "feedback" and "notes" represent a form of instruction, however informal they may be. They may not tell you how to do something, but they can inform you of the best way to do something.
The program employed the Socratic method. Professor notes were in question form:

"What do you want the reader to feel here?"
"What purpose does this exchange serve?"
"Why are you employing internal monologue here?"
(And the big one) "Why does this story need to be told?"

They didn't tell you how to write a story, they forced you to think deeper about why you were writing the story at all.

As for feedback from other students, this was not instructive either. Sometimes you were hit with both barrels:

No offense but this sucks.
I'm utterly lost.
I love this because....
I hate this because....

No one told ever attempted to, as you say, "inform you of the best way to do something," ever.
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Old 11-16-2015, 06:27 PM   #190
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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The program employed the Socratic method. Professor notes were in question form:

"What do you want the reader to feel here?"
"What purpose does this exchange serve?"
"Why are you employing internal monologue here?"
(And the big one) "Why does this story need to be told?"

They didn't tell you how to write a story, they forced you to think deeper about why you were writing the story at all.

As for feedback from other students, this was not instructive either. Sometimes you were hit with both barrels:

No offense but this sucks.
I'm utterly lost.
I love this because....
I hate this because....

No one told ever attempted to "inform you of the best way to do something," ever.
Really? So there were no exams? And on what criteria were you graded?
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