Plan of attack

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  • Plan of attack

    Some write off the bat - with nothing more than a concept. Others have a beginning and an end and let their imagination fly inbetween. And there are those who have it all figured out, detailed beat sheets, and transcribe into script form. My post is aimed at the latter. How do you guys go about it? I've been through the other two stages and am now a bit more prepared. Now I have the concept, a basic plot line and the act breaks and midpoint.

    Eg: If I wrote Jaws my notes would be:

    Act I
    Girl goes night swim - eaten. Bf reports the death, Brody looks into it. Show chief is alien to Amity. An outsider - hates the sea. Body found, Brody: "shark attack". Mayor furious. Second person killed and into...


    Act II
    Town crazy. Brody hires marine expert. Shark caught but not the right one. Quint says he'll catch shark. Boy's mum blames Brody even though not his fault. All 3 go out to sea (MIDPOINT). Personalities clash. Bait shark, see how it acts etc. Into...


    Act III
    Shark is tougher than expected. Hooper eaten. Quint eaten. Brody must face external/internal fears alone. Shark lunges as boat finally sinks - brody kills it.


    It's a very rough template. The plus side is I get to let my creative juices flow but the downside is I stare at a blank page for hours. Do you guys sit down and think and it all flows out of you in one sitting? Which is amazing. Or do you mull over it for days/weeks, sizing up potential plot turns, dialogue, scenes and then commit to a detailed plan that is later conveted into a script?
    Last edited by 1mper1um; 05-12-2011, 05:36 AM.

  • #2
    Re: Plan of attack

    It's 9 a.m. so I'm about to make my break from DDP till this evening. Also, previously I've written about my "system" (if anybody cares) so I refuse to write about it again.

    However, I'll throw one idea out here, when I'm composing my initial storyline which is, yes, detailed "outline" (not blank page one of the script).

    Many times, as I come up to a point that has "stereotype" in it, I do the opposite.

    So if the first idea of a hero is John McLane (a male) then I swap genders. If the hero's about to save a cat, have the cat bite him (or her) instead. Throw in oddities, such as making it a downpour instead of sunny weather for a dialogue scene in a park.

    So long as it serves the story, let your creativity on these small things rip!

    And I'm not saying your creativity will be appreciated, but it can help free your mind and take you to new and potentially wonderful places.

    Let the producers/set designers/directors etc. worry about the budget. It can all be changed.

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    • #3
      Re: Plan of attack

      I always start out with the concept. I have to make sure it's worth writing. I'll type out a simple logline for my own use.

      Then I'll go into characters. What kind of people I want in it and who needs to be in it. I write small paragraphs of their background, personalities, looks, etc. But I already have an idea of what my story is about and where it'll go.

      After this, I'll write out major plot points and what I plan to happen at those major beats.

      The last part I vary it. I either do a detailed scene by scene type outline. Or I'll fill in the gaps with vague story sequences. This last script though I wrote a fairly detailed treatment.

      As long as I have some kind of road map for what I'm going to write, it doesn't matter to me what form it's in. Usually it depends on how I feel that day.
      Quack.

      Writer on a cable drama.

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      • #4
        Re: Plan of attack

        But do you do this in one sitting or do you let it percolate over days whilst you try on and test new approaches, plot elements, characters?

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Plan of attack

          I start thinking about the next script while I'm finishing whatever script I'm on. By the time I'm finished with the current project I have a firm grasp on the plot of the next script. I take months of thinking before I write anything down.

          A lot of times I freewrite some info about the characters. I do it differently every time, but this time I wrote up a stream of consciousness from the point of view of my protag as she stared at herself in the mirror. Then I did a bio of all the other major characters, then I wrote up an outline of the plot, then I edited it, then I printed it out and tacked it to the board and started writing.

          I follow it mostly, but it's a loose enough outline that when the characters take over I let them.
          Chicks Who Script podcast

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          • #6
            Re: Plan of attack

            Originally posted by 1mper1um View Post
            Some write off the bat - with nothing more than a concept. Others have a beginning and an end and let their imagination fly inbetween. And there are those who have it all figured out, detailed beat sheets, and transcribe into script form. My post is aimed at the latter. How do you guys go about it? I've been through the other two stages and am now a bit more prepared. Now I have the concept, a basic plot line and the act breaks and midpoint.

            Eg: If I wrote Jaws my notes would be:

            Act I
            Girl goes night swim - eaten. Bf reports the death, Brody looks into it. Show chief is alien to Amity. An outsider - hates the sea. Body found, Brody: "shark attack". Mayor furious. Second person killed and into...


            Act II
            Town crazy. Brody hires marine expert. Shark caught but not the right one. Quint says he'll catch shark. Boy's mum blames Brody even though not his fault. All 3 go out to sea (MIDPOINT). Personalities clash. Bait shark, see how it acts etc. Into...


            Act III
            Shark is tougher than expected. Hooper eaten. Quint eaten. Brody must face external/internal fears alone. Shark lunges as boat finally sinks - brody kills it.

            It's a very rough template. The plus side is I get to let my creative juices flow but the downside is I stare at a blank page for hours. Do you guys sit down and think and it all flows out of you in one sitting? Which is amazing. Or do you mull over it for days/weeks, sizing up potential plot turns, dialogue, scenes and then commit to a detailed plan that is later conveted into a script?
            When I type FADE IN: and launch into a first draft I want to feel confident that I know my story and its characters and many of its events and its ending, who wins, who loses, and why and how. I want to know the point of the whole thing. I want to know what I'm intending my story to say about the human condition and about human nature and about whatever's at stake in this particular story.

            It sometimes takes months of cogitation to work through all this and gain the degree of familiarity I need to be confident, other times less than that, sometimes even a lot less. But it's never zero. I used to document this (what I call pre-scripting story crafting) in outlines, beat sheets, or a treatment, but not anymore.

            Now it's all done in my head. I think the experience of having written a goodly number of screenplays and done lots of pre-scripting story crafting for them has trained my brain to do the documenting itself, I dunno. Has it become intuitive? Maybe. It has worked out well on the last half-dozen scripts.

            I think on it and think on it and think on it until I'm swept by the feeling that it's ready to be written, at which point a team of 40 mules couldn't keep me from launching into a first draft. I am ready. I know enough. Let's go!

            And interestingly, the last five or six have all fallen right round 108-112 pages without hardly thinking about length much at all.

            The takeaway is I think we have to be ready and to get ready we have to do lots of story crafting first, including whatever research may be necessary ... and the degree to which one documents this is an individual choice that will vary from me to you to the other guy so that we all end up finding our comfort zone ... and will eventually get hit with the feeling that we're ready to launch, and then we will launch, and there will be no stopping us until we're done.

            I'll also say that half the stories I've written have been pure fiction and the other half have some actual person or persons or event at their root. I don't know that one is easier to write than the other, they seem not to be, they seem equally challenging.

            They're all hard, none are easy, but at least if you're well prepped the "hard" will involve the story and its writing as opposed to anxious concerns or worries over whether you'll actualy get to the end and finish something.

            HTH!

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Plan of attack

              When I first think of a concept I'll write out the basic idea, maybe some character notes if something comes to mind, and then set it aside. If the idea excites me and I can't stop thinking about it I'll pick it up again the same day and write out a loose outline (no beats or acts, just a rough start-to-finish story).

              I try to let every idea sit for a few days, just to think it through and see if the excitement lasts. If I can let it go then it's not worth pursuing. For the ones I go back to I'll add new notes and write more detail into the outline. I'll spend at least a week just writing notes, fleshing out the premise and characters, world-building if necessary. Sometimes I'll spend months going back to it until I'm comfortable enough to begin writing. (Bear in mind, I work full time and have a family, so I write in my spare time which lengthens the process considerably).

              I'll almost always have a few pages of detailed notes and a two- to three-page outline before I start my script. If the outline is detailed enough to break into beats I'll do that, but usually I start without a beat sheet. I will have act breaks worked out though, and a mid-point, to keep me on track. Sometimes I'll write the entire first draft without beats, then use a beat-sheet for the re-write.
              Vancouver Screenwriters Meetup Group

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Plan of attack

                I spend a fair amount of time brainstorming, because I've found that it's usually a major derailment if I get stuck once I'm already writing. I want to be able to get momentum going and keep it going, so I try to do as much of the heavy lifting early.

                So I'll brainstorm a lot, writing down scene ideas. Usually I have a couple already. I use OmniOutliner during this phase because it makes it really easy to re-order and nest stuff, so I'm constantly shuffling stuff around, trying to find the causal connections.

                At some point in this process I figure out what my second act is. That helps me organize everything more. Then I usually spend some time thinking about how to connect it all together - I make a point of thinking about the connective stuff. Major turning points.

                AT the end of all of this, I usually have a document that's 2-3 pages long. Then I start writing.

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                • #9
                  Re: Plan of attack

                  For me, after concept, must have key moments in the story as well as the ending. Fill in the gaps by working it out on the page. Along the way new ideas form and characters take shape. I'm also prepared to lose the good stuff for the sake of congruency.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Plan of attack

                    Originally posted by 1mper1um View Post
                    But do you do this in one sitting or do you let it percolate over days whilst you try on and test new approaches, plot elements, characters?
                    One sitting? Days?

                    Try months.

                    I think most newer writers start writing before they've done the adequate prep work necessary to really execute well. It's understandable; young writers think that actually writing the script is the thing, whereas writers who've done it for awhile understand that writing the screenplay is 30% of the gig.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Plan of attack

                      Originally posted by jcgary View Post
                      It's understandable; young writers think that actually writing the script is the thing, whereas writers who've done it for awhile understand that writing the screenplay is 30% of the gig.
                      +1

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                      • #12
                        Re: Plan of attack

                        Originally posted by 1mper1um View Post
                        But do you do this in one sitting or do you let it percolate over days whilst you try on and test new approaches, plot elements, characters?
                        Over a few weeks. Depending on how much I write at a time, or how much time I have period. I usually mull plot possibilities in my head and pick the best route before I start into the outlining and so on.
                        Quack.

                        Writer on a cable drama.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Plan of attack

                          * Ideas/concepts/questions explored
                          - Must pick and idea that excites you and "clicks!"

                          * Write for 8min straight about what "you already know" about your story

                          * Think of the story, colorful characters, exciting scenes, new locations

                          * Create an ironic, original, exciting LOGLINE (many revisions here!)

                          * Create a "Blake Snyder" beat sheet outline key points
                          - Think of it as creating a blueprint for a building, you need to have a plan

                          * Freewrite the first 10 pages - first pg must hook - next 9 must set up
                          - Rewrites are crucial here

                          * Write the spec as FAST AS YOU CAN while keeping cinematic value, pacing at the right speed and making sure EVERY scene relates to the story or is a major component of creating sympathy for the character and/or setup

                          That's how I do it.


                          Getting a good script noticed is really easy, but writing a good script takes years of work. And like said before, finishing a script is 30% of the work... the rest is navigating the murky, shark infest waters of Hollywood...

                          But an interesting article was pointed out to me a long time ago. Completely changed the way I approached everything.

                          Never ever worry or waste time thinking about how to get your script noticed. The most important thing you can do is become a master of your craft, of STORY! Know how to be better than 99% of everyone out there by being able to create memorable characters, dialogue crammed with sub-text, relevant and exciting action scenes, powerful pacing that is an emotion roller coaster of all colors... learn that, write that, master that... then the rest will come easier.
                          "Born Lucky"

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                          • #14
                            Re: Plan of attack

                            I get an idea for a scene, 6 months later it turns into a film, 6 months after that I write said film. I know where it starts, I know some bits in between, and I know the end, the fun is finding out how they connect.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Plan of attack

                              Thanks one and all. Nice to know it isn't as easy as sitting down and being able to make up every aspect, every key bit of dialogue, arcs and relationships.

                              A few q's though:



                              Originally posted by jcgary View Post
                              One sitting? Days? Try months.
                              And what do you do here - come up with a plot idea and try and develop it fully,then do it again and again and select the best version?

                              And what about those who knock up a script from zero to finish in 6 weeks? Or the pro who is hired by a studio and has 6 weeks to turn in a first draft?


                              Originally posted by Ronaldinho
                              I spend a fair amount of time brainstorming, because I've found that it's usually a major derailment if I get stuck once I'm already writing. I want to be able to get momentum going and keep it going, so I try to do as much of the heavy lifting early.
                              Which is what I want to do. I mix my thinking in with the writing at the mo which means we both probably finish at the same time but yours will seem faster as when you start writing, you keep on whereas I can start at the same page for hours - which gives the impression of getting nowhere.

                              The problem is I don't start to connect with the characters fully until I immerse myself in the writing. This is understandable as my only attempts at pre planning has been 30 minutes before I get frustrated. I just find it hard to get creative without actually writing. But I want to change.

                              The good thing i(I like to think) s that I'm pretty good at pacing and identifying breaks and what should happen at those breaks. The other week there was a discussion about the breaks in Jaws and just by running the film through my head knew where they were. And when I typed them up in my previous message I doubel checked on the internet and was happy to be proved right


                              Originally posted by ducky1288 View Post
                              Over a few weeks. Depending on how much I write at a time, or how much time I have period. I usually mull plot possibilities in my head and pick the best route before I start into the outlining and so on.
                              A few of you have said the same and what I want to know is how do you know what's the best route? Currently I figure my basic route (the start, midpoint and the act breaks) within minutes and then run with that. I probably have enough for a trailer: cool line of dialogue, a set piece or two etc. Thing is, unless I am supernaturally gifted in this respect (and I'm not!) your first ideas are very rarely the best. And this concerns me.

                              Like how do you know a certain plot line isn't working? Or isn't the best? Look at Transformers and it's sequel. Of all the strong storylines from the comic book, of all the ideas great screenwriters can come up with, they settled on the uber lame idea of the All Spark and that it's location is imprinted on an old pair of glasses. What the...!?!?!?!

                              At what point in your deliberation will you realise a plot idea isn't working? Do you write 60 pages and then go "naah!"?
                              Last edited by 1mper1um; 05-13-2011, 02:10 PM.

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