A writing exercise and revelation



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  • A writing exercise and revelation

    Screenwritings essence is brevity.

    40 or so scenes, basically snapshots.

    Imagine a photo album. Through the pages we see CAPTIONS.

    Underneath these captions are words waiting to be written, but you only have a small space to write.

    This is your screenplay.

    Try to say only the bare minimum. Are you skilled enough to tell a story with images and dialogue.

    This exercise has helped me finish scripts.

    It's hard to take away those 'cool words', but when you start doing it, everything cleans up. Then you have the STORY.

    And that's all you are really trying to tell.


  • #2

    Cool exercise. Thanks for sharing.



    • #3
      This is a good exercise and I've done variations on it as "practice", using any interesting photos or series of photos that inspired me (one was a set of photographs of the fires and devastation of the 1906 S.F. earthquake in an album that my grandma gave me -- truly haunting)...

      Oddly enough, one of the best examples of this that I've seen recently (or at least the one that struck me) is in a 2002 National Geographics Expedition Travelogue, where the captions under many of the pictures are beautiful examples of *effective* brevity (not vague). Short, sweet, accurately describing what's in the picture but with few words that have punch, vibrancy and life...

      Here are some examples:

      1. Alert puffins perch on a grassy outcrop.

      2. Historic buildings rim the shores of Old Havana.

      3. California sea lions bask on a rocky outcrop.

      4. Alert to danger, an iguana suns itself on a log.

      5. A lone humpback whale displays a dramatic fluke.

      6. Dawn breaks over the sunken road...

      Just translate those to humans doing human things (providing you're writing about humans) and I think, in many ways, you'd have the beginnings of an effective filmic writing style, HOWEVER...

      And this is the big however...

      Film is a moving, not a stationary, medium and this exercise (and variations), while good at developing brevity of language in description/action lines, is limited and I think could become problematic to some degree when you're trying to write an actual screenplay. At some point, a natural and necessary extension of this exercise is to think in terms of moving visuals. Perhaps, as an example, watch a scene from a favorite film and transcribe what you're seeing as if you were "inventing" the action in your mind and writing *your* screenplay.
      And then when you actually are writing your own screenplay, close your eyes, place yourself in a movie theater and imagine, in vivid detail, the scene you're working on playing out beat by beat, shot by shot (over and over again, as many times as you need to) and, as Lawrence Kasdan has said, "write what you see." And I would add, "what you hear".




      • #4
        Tony -

        Your lenghty post indicates you don't use this writing technique enough.

        It was informative though.

        I'd definatley write a screenplay around your grandparents photo album of the earthquake.


        • #5
          Re: Tony -


          Screenplays and posts on a message board, for me anyway, are two very different beasts, jasper. (though my screenwriting prose could ALWAYS use a little trimming)...

          However, for wonderfully long, informative posts I shall defer to a man who is both the King of Long Posts and the Lord of Emoticons (for now)... He knows who he is.

          And yes, the photo album is inspiring and I may do something with it someday.




          • #6
            Re: Tony -

            A king who vacates the throne for too long runs the risk of losing the crown... :evil

            Besides, if we are referring to the same Ard Rie, he's done one-liners before, too.


            • #7
              Re: Tony -

              He has indeed.


              • #8
                Re: Tony -

                Kosk, that is not possible. Your crown is safe.


                • #9
                  Re: Tony -

                  Shhhhh...! Nem don't wanna hear that (even though he can't make his own...)!

                  (whisper-voice) We were talking 'bout Lord Nemmie Wemmie...

                  But thanks for the vote of confidence!

                  Every crown and throne needs a good Jester... :lol


                  • #10
                    Kosk -

                    I ain't talking about those stickin' emoticons. I'm talking about post length. Post lenght boy- yo.

                    Though, nem is a long winded fella too.

                    long winded in a fact filled way.

                    This is not a bare to arms just a warning shot.


                    • #11
                      Re: Kosk -

                      What's a "bare to arms"?

                      I've heard of a "call to arms", but the other one is new...


                      • #12

                        "What's a "bare to arms"?

                        I've heard of a "call to arms", but the other one is new..."

                        Well I'm amazed. I thought you knew every phrase, even ones that dont exist.

                        I dont know if your ever in chat but...

                        /me sits slack jawed in shock

                        BTW it's about damn time you took care of that broken image. I was at my breaking point staring at that little "X" in all your posts.


                        The above paragraph is no longer funny seeing as how someone was seemingly sick of staring at the little "X" in all of MY posts and went ahead and fixed it for me. So just pretend I'm still linking a broken image and it'll still be...oh well I tried.

                        /me waves goodnight.


                        • #13
                          Re: ...

                          Actually, Godfree, if you go back to the post of yours in which you first complained about the broken image (many many days ago), and check my reply, you'll see that I fixed it less than 2 hours after your posting the complaint.

                          I'm just considerate that way. :lol

                          As for the phrases, I'll bet you that "bare to arms" doesn't exist. "Call to arms" yes, "bare arms" yes, but there's such a thing as a malapropism.

                          A word that's been in the dictionary for over a hundred years.

                          Maybe I'm an old fart, but I'm assuming that the ol' Merriam Webster is still used in high school.

                          And none of the phrases I've used here are "made-up/don't exist". They just sometimes exist outside the geography of the USA and Canada.

                          But no matter what tag you wanna lay at my table, I don't mind. Know why?

                          WCM likes you.

                          And that inspires a whole lotta rope, man.