Warning... Do Not Read

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  • #16
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by Mr Scribble View Post
    As the OP of the recent pacing thread that went off track, I'm not sure if this is directed at me, but just for the record...

    I've been trying my hand at screenwriting for almost three years now. I haven't read any screenwriting books, or taken any classes, but from web resources I'm familiar with the various approaches, philosophies and (supposed) rules out there. I supplement this with watching a bucketload of movies, and reading as many scripts as I can. I've been absorbing good, bad and ugly advice on forums, blogs, from interviews etc.

    What happened was that I internalized so many screenwriting "tips" that it paralyzed my writing for a long time. Ie. I'd write an outline/scene/act and hit on all things that I thought were important, but then realize that [insert any "rule", piece of advice, pro suggestion, Snyder/Field-ism etc] was missing, scrap it and try again. Rinse, repeat ad nauseum.

    One day (admittedly not too long ago), I got fed up and said FCUK IT, I'm doing it my way. Since then my writing has improved dramatically. I can see it on the page. In the process I also discovered the method of story development that works for me. I'm still aware of the "do's and don'ts" of screenwriting 101, but I'm not hung up on them anymore.

    And another thing (while I'm sitting in an airport, ranting away)... don't assume we're all in the same screenwriting boat. Internet aside, I live in a screenwriting vacuum (ie. currently, a tiny island nation in the north Pacific; previously a slightly larger island-nation in the south Pacific) so there's noone to bounce ideas off or just ask questions. Places like DDP offer a connection to the screenwriting world that I can't get otherwise - whether it's the pro's commenting on three pages, or a question about pacing, it's all part of the process of becoming a better writer.

    For me, screenwriting is a journey and I'm happy just to be moving forward.

    [Sorry for the biblical length post]
    No problem. I'm glad to hear you're plugging along and doing the writing. Glad to have you aboard. Keep asking questions. We'll answer them.

    Your thread was a spring board for this thread. There have been a number of threads here in this forum that started from even more basic questions or concerns related to rules and techniques than the one you stated. So forgive me that your thread is the one that started this. Actually it was the Chinatown thread that kicked this into high gear.

    I've long held and long suppressed my belief that as far as screenwriting, there's been a suppression, if you will, of storytelling telling instincts in favor of the various, numerous theories, formulae, techniques that are out there. Also, the trades, what is selling, what is "hot" as far as genres etc all imo help complicate things. I think that the writing process becomes a little unnatural. So that was the reason I posted that thread.

    So you're serious about the Micronesia... I could easily picture myself using Micronesia as a humorous phony location. If you take note a number of DDPers use the location section to express their humor. I could also, I think, picture myself in Micronesia and writing.
    #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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    • #17
      Re: Warning... Do Not Read

      Originally posted by Pardack View Post
      A well deserved smile and thumbs up for Little Known Codicil. A great thread and delivered in style.

      Thanks, Ire. I needed a smile today.
      Glad someone caught that. And you're welcome.
      #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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      • #18
        Re: Warning... Do Not Read

        Originally posted by Ire View Post
        The books say this. Save The Cat says this. Linda Seger says this. John Truby says this. Chinatown is a classic so that book is right. Read the book because you spent money on it and then PUT IT ON THE SHELF.

        GET THE BOOKS OUT OF YOUR HEAD. Except for Aristotle's Poetics. He's Greek and he wrote that so long ago he has to be right. Otherwise,.. STOP IT STOP IT. STOP IT.

        You've watched a thousand movies. You've read a hundred novels. You've read just as many screenplays.

        You have a logline.
        Write your outline.
        Write your script.

        Develop your natural instinct for storytelling if you want to be a storyteller and vice versa.
        In my experience, the people who said "f_ck all the so-called 'rules', I'm writing MY WAY!" really suck balls. But when they begin to understand what the purpose of the so-called 'rules' are and how stories told and why they work in one way and not another, it's only then that they write something that doesn't completely suck balls.

        Weird.

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        • #19
          Re: Warning... Do Not Read

          From my daughter's gradeschool years when they were learning how to tell stories...

          "_____ wants _____ but can't have it because _____, so he/she______"

          That pretty much sums it up, I think.

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          • #20
            Re: Warning... Do Not Read

            Originally posted by Biohazard View Post
            In my experience, the people who said "f_ck all the so-called 'rules', I'm writing MY WAY!" really suck balls. But when they begin to understand what the purpose of the so-called 'rules' are and how stories told and why they work in one way and not another, it's only then that they write something that doesn't completely suck balls.

            Weird.
            Good. I was waiting for this reply.

            Not saying eff the rules. Aristotle's Poetics is a book I suggest keeping at one's side. I'm saying eff the ocd dependence on the theories and the templates.

            Some people need to follow the rules to properly focus their stories and or conform their ideas to the rules otherwise they'll write meandering unfocused non-compelling stories.

            My sense or intuition of the newer DDP members is they're in the "ocd on the rules" category.





            The rules, the books are there.
            Last edited by Ire; 03-09-2012, 06:32 AM.
            #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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            • #21
              Re: Warning... Do Not Read

              One thing missing here is that screenwriting is unlike any other type ofwriting. Anyone with an understanding of grammar can write a short story or novel. Some people do without even knowing that. But you have to know more to write a script.

              First of all, you have to learn format. Slug lines. Action. Dialogue. Youcan't do that by watching movies. Even reading screenplays won't necessarilyteach you everything you need to know. Hollywood readers will be able to tellright off the bat if you are unfamiliar with the format, and even if you havethe greatest story in the world, varying from it too far will get you stuckwith a pass.

              Second, screenplays are mostly about structure. Whether or not you agreewith three act structure, that's how audience are trained to recognize movies.If you wait until page 60 to find out what the major conflict of your story is, you've probably lost most of your viewers/readers.

              Third, character. The protagonist in a film doesn't have all the options ofa protagonist in other forms of writing. Catcher in the Rye is an amazing book,but how many movies can center around a character with no motivation or drive?I'm sure people will jump on me and give dozens of responses to this, butcompare that to the thousands of movies out there. ChadStrohl's example fromhis daughter's grade school is right. You have to have motivation and obstacles.

              I used to teach improv comedy. It also has tons of rules (no questions, don't go for the joke, etc.), but if you go watch the greatest improvisers, they break those rules all the time. The rules are like training wheels. You can only break them once you've leared why they exist.

              I think anyone who is serious about screenwriting needs some level of training, whether a class or a book or research on the internet, but only to get you started on the right path. There are tons of books out there about screenwriting because they sell. People want the hints and cheats to success, even though there aren't any. Once you have the basics of screenwriting down, the more you read is just time you're taking away from writing.

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              • #22
                Re: Warning... Do Not Read

                Originally posted by Biohazard View Post
                In my experience, the people who said "f_ck all the so-called 'rules', I'm writing MY WAY!" really suck balls. But when they begin to understand what the purpose of the so-called 'rules' are and how stories told and why they work in one way and not another, it's only then that they write something that doesn't completely suck balls.

                Weird.
                I agree with this.

                I think people who don't see the film in their head are just people who are trying to justify why they don't outline or plan ahead...

                They can't do it.

                So they say "f_ck all the rules"

                Jeff Shurtleff
                "Some men see things the way they are and say why? I see things that never were and say, why not?"

                http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?...4669871&v=info

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                • #23
                  Re: Warning... Do Not Read

                  I should have just titled this thread a rant.
                  #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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                  • #24
                    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

                    Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
                    One thing missing here is that screenwriting is unlike any other type ofwriting. Anyone with an understanding of grammar can write a short story or novel. Some people do without even knowing that. But you have to know more to write a script.

                    First of all, you have to learn format. Slug lines. Action. Dialogue. Youcan't do that by watching movies. Even reading screenplays won't necessarilyteach you everything you need to know. Hollywood readers will be able to tellright off the bat if you are unfamiliar with the format, and even if you havethe greatest story in the world, varying from it too far will get you stuckwith a pass.

                    Second, screenplays are mostly about structure. Whether or not you agreewith three act structure, that's how audience are trained to recognize movies.If you wait until page 60 to find out what the major conflict of your story is, you've probably lost most of your viewers/readers.

                    Third, character. The protagonist in a film doesn't have all the options ofa protagonist in other forms of writing. Catcher in the Rye is an amazing book,but how many movies can center around a character with no motivation or drive?I'm sure people will jump on me and give dozens of responses to this, butcompare that to the thousands of movies out there. ChadStrohl's example fromhis daughter's grade school is right. You have to have motivation and obstacles.

                    I used to teach improv comedy. It also has tons of rules (no questions, don't go for the joke, etc.), but if you go watch the greatest improvisers, they break those rules all the time. The rules are like training wheels. You can only break them once you've leared why they exist.

                    I think anyone who is serious about screenwriting needs some level of training, whether a class or a book or research on the internet, but only to get you started on the right path. There are tons of books out there about screenwriting because they sell. People want the hints and cheats to success, even though there aren't any. Once you have the basics of screenwriting down, the more you read is just time you're taking away from writing.
                    Couldn't agree more. The Don't Read was accompanied by a caveat.

                    I wouldn't talk anyone out of taking classes or reading books.

                    This thread is intended for folks who have done the due diligence to learn screenwriting by reading books and or taking classes and who have written a script or two. Maybe I should have put that in the caveat.

                    There is an overabundance of information about screenwriting , from how to write and what to write, and in the end I think it serves to dilute the creative process and suppress creative instincts. Just because I've written a script according to John Smith's How To Write A Kick Ass Screenplay doesn't mean I know how to tell a compelling story.

                    I do I believe more writers need to listen to their guts, their natural storytelling instincts either in the story development process or during the actual writing of the script. I think it could help them develop something fresh, something different.

                    The one thing I do have on my side is there were at least 50 years of movies created prior to Syd Field's first book. Some great ones, in those years. Sure it came from talented writers. Maybe it's just that, it comes down to talent. It's the naturally gifted and talented writers who know the rules and have the confidence to know when to bend them or break them.
                    Last edited by Ire; 03-10-2012, 08:55 AM. Reason: had to edit my "rant grammar"
                    #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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                    • #25
                      Re: Warning... Do Not Read

                      Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
                      One thing missing here is that screenwriting is unlike any other type ofwriting. Anyone with an understanding of grammar can write a short story or novel. Some people do without even knowing that. But you have to know more to write a script.
                      I wouldn't say anyone who understands grammar can write a short story. I spent a long couple years trying to be a small press magazine editor with a small press magazine that actually paid by the word, so we got a LOT of submissions -- and believe me -- a lot of people who have a grasp of grammar don't understand how to write a short story.

                      First of all, you have to learn format. Slug lines. Action. Dialogue. Youcan't do that by watching movies. Even reading screenplays won't necessarilyteach you everything you need to know. Hollywood readers will be able to tellright off the bat if you are unfamiliar with the format, and even if you havethe greatest story in the world, varying from it too far will get you stuckwith a pass.
                      I think formatting used to be intimidating to new writers, but now with free or cheap screenplay formatting software everywhere, formatting should be pretty much automatic. At least you can easily make your screenplay *look* like a screenplay.

                      Second, screenplays are mostly about structure. Whether or not you agreewith three act structure, that's how audience are trained to recognize movies.If you wait until page 60 to find out what the major conflict of your story is, you've probably lost most of your viewers/readers.
                      Well, here I would have to disagree with you. Screenplays are mostly about the story, you just trim it to fit into screenplay structure. There's a certain shorthand to writing scripts, but if you don't have a compelling story and interesting characters, it won't draw the reader in, no matter how well structured.

                      I think anyone who is serious about screenwriting needs some level of training, whether a class or a book or research on the internet, but only to get you started on the right path. There are tons of books out there about screenwriting because they sell. People want the hints and cheats to success, even though there aren't any. Once you have the basics of screenwriting down, the more you read is just time you're taking away from writing.
                      What you have to be careful about is worrying so much about structure and the "rules" that it kills your voice and straight jackets your story into some bland formula some guru tells you is the "ultimate" script format. You've got to be careful of the kind of books you read. Some, like Bill Martell's Action Screenwriting book, give you good tips, not specific "rules," that others try to bind you with -- and most of these other "experts" have never, and will never, sell anything.

                      When I started playing around with writing scripts, I wrote hundreds of shorts and snippets and posted them on a newsgroup. Some people liked my writing style and gave me good advice. Then I started getting advice from the "follow the rules" crowd. I tried to follow this advice for a year or so -- and my stuff started getting more and more bland, stilted and mechanical. I had to go through the process of unlearning the "rules" but I don't think I ever got back to the level where I started.

                      That's partly why I post here (and at other sites) -- to try to keep talented newbies from getting a lot of bad "follow these rules" advice. People who can write stories, can write stories -- in any format. Sure screenplays are more restrictive (show don't tell) but once you get the knack for the "shorthand," it's still just another form of story telling. The really mechanical part comes in the shooting script and that's not the spec writer's concern. You don't want to worry so much about the format that you leave out everything that makes the story compelling and interesting.

                      And, BTW, I'm pretty sure you understand all of this -- I'm just "ranting" in general -- kind of like the homeless junkie on the corner, shouting at anyone who passes by.
                      Last edited by Centos; 03-10-2012, 02:57 AM.
                      STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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                      • #26
                        Re: Warning... Do Not Read

                        Originally posted by wcmartell View Post

                        Oh, and don't fear failure - you have to fail a lot to succeed.

                        - Bill
                        This is a huge lesson to learn and I wish I had learned it earlier.

                        I hate failing. I hate sucking. Man, do I hate sucking.

                        And that aversion kept me from writing the crap I needed to write in order to get better.

                        So listen to Uncle Bill, kiddies... it's OK to suck at first. Everyone does.

                        Just keep writing. You'll get better.

                        "Trust your stuff." -- Dave Righetti, Pitching Coach

                        ( Formerly "stvnlra" )

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                        • #27
                          Re: Warning... Do Not Read

                          Bill is the Uncle Bill I've never had.


                          And + 1 on Centos' reply. I think he stole the corner where I was standing and yelling. I'm the guy with the steel colander helmet, talking into the wooden spoon.
                          #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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                          • #28
                            Re: Warning... Do Not Read

                            Originally posted by Centos View Post
                            Well, here I would have to disagree with you. Screenplays are mostly about the story, you just trim it to fit into screenplay structure. There's a certain shorthand to writing scripts, but if you don't have a compelling story and interesting characters, it won't draw the reader in, no matter how well structured.
                            And I would have to disagree with you. Of course story and character are important to screenplays, but not any more than any other genre or writing.

                            Though screenplays are much more dependent on structure. What happens when. What scenes come after each other. When you introduce characters and how. Editors and screenwriters are on the opposite sides of productions, but their responsibilities are very similar.

                            I would (and I guess am) arguing that when it comes to a screenplay, how you structure your story is more important than the story itself.

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                            • #29
                              Re: Warning... Do Not Read

                              Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
                              I would (and I guess am) arguing that when it comes to a screenplay, how you structure your story is more important than the story itself.
                              Can you elaborate? Or, give an example if possible.
                              Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                              • #30
                                Re: Warning... Do Not Read

                                Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
                                I would (and I guess am) arguing that when it comes to a screenplay, how you structure your story is more important than the story itself.
                                Not to be a monotonous drip, but I don't agree. The best structure in the world won't sell a flawed story. But I agree with SC111, I would like to see your elaboration or an example.
                                Last edited by Centos; 03-12-2012, 09:32 PM.
                                STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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