What about the STORY?

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  • What about the STORY?

    Forgive the rant, but I need to know if I'm the only one who feels this way.

    We spend so much time talking about formatting, and outlines, and beats, and acts, blah blah blah... and I have to say, I just hate it. I can't stand any of it. All this mechanical/technical mumbo jumbo. When it comes to writing, and I have all this nonsense on my mind, I just become paralyzed. I'm so worried about getting this done by page 10, and that by page 25, etc etc, that I find myself squeezing my square story and my square characters into this round hole and before long I don't even recognize my idea anymore. I start to hate it. And I start to hate the entire act of screenwriting because, in a way, it's destroying my story and everything I love about it.

    When that happens, I just want to drop everything and write a novel. Or, more perhaps more realistically, I want to take my idea and write a short story, and base my screenplay off of that. The point is, I don't want to be encumbered by all these rules and all this structure. I feel trapped by it. I just want to be left in peace so I can write my story.

    Am I alone?

  • #2
    Re: What about the STORY?

    There's a place for technical craft discussions. But it's not the kind of thing you should worry about when you're just trying to get the story on its legs. So go ahead and ignore it if you find it fogs your head.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: What about the STORY?

      I'll just use the cliche just ****ing write and calculate less.
      If you have a structure problem that's so dire you can't continue on, then google the problem, fix it and then continue writing.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: What about the STORY?

        Yes; you are alone At least to a degree bc there should come a point and soon where you embrace structure and it simply becomes instinctual. It's just the beginning of a multi leveled craft that is so vast it's important to come to terms with the foundational level of it. The idea of forget the rules, forget what you're told, doesn't apply to structure in its purest form and hopefully a certain freedom will come with the mastery of the "mathematics" of screenwriting.

        But if you're already to that point-- I'm sure there are ppl who would respond to a thread regarding the beauty of what makes a great story great, which is quite different from the mechanics of the craft.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: What about the STORY?

          Grab a copy of Writer's Marketplace. Pick 5 random publishers and look at their requirements. You will find *exact* word counts, specifics about protagonists (age, sex, often even type of home they live in), specifics about genre and just about everything else. One of the listings I found when I picked 5 at random a few years back had a list of about 100 things that the publisher required - even a list of character names the writer should *never* use! Same thing when it comes to short stories.

          Being a professional writer means being a professional. Not doing it as a hobby. Do you think a cardiovascular surgeon should just start cutting people open without all of those rules? Without knowing how things work and why one method works and another does not?

          Once you learn all of that stuff, it becomes second nature - like the surgeon, it's just something you do by habit (and the specifics may pop up when you need them). But all of those things are there to serve story. All of the technical stuff is *about* story.

          - Bill
          Free Script Tips:
          http://www.scriptsecrets.net

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: What about the STORY?

            It is possible that you're working with a story unsuited to this medium.

            Go and write a novel. Really. You will find, however, that while you have more breathing room in fiction, successful works of fiction also pay close attention to structure because it affects pacing. And you will find that "pantsers" (do y'all screenwriters use that term for people who eschew outlines and write by the seat of their pants?) take years and years to find that good draft that they can bring out into the light of day, because in ignoring the architecture and skipping the planning stages, they have to rediscover building codes others (their more successful peers) have honed for years because they work.

            If you have trouble landing the big point of no return around page 30 of a 2-hr screenplay, take a long look at why. It could be that you either don't have that point pegged correctly (have you misidentified it? do the characters need/want something else to be that point?), or you really have too much going on for this visual medium with length conventions (idk about you, but my butt starts to hurt after about 2 hours in a theater seat; I'm not watching The Hobbit until I have a Bluray so I can use my handy dandy pause button). There's a reason screen adaptations so often piss off the fanboys.

            /ramble
            "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
            Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: What about the STORY?

              Boy, Big Bad, I know just how you feel...

              I wrote away on my script long long before I ever knew about the Beat Sheet/BS2 paradigm. Had I known, I'd have certainly planned better. But then again, it may have intimidated me as well before I just started typing away.

              But either way, since I've learned of it and watched movies/read scripts, it eally makes alot of sense in engaging the me as a viewer/reader. Better put, it seems when it's not followed, it's really noticeable. And, more often than not, pretty boring.

              Hopefully this helps some.
              " Don't really like writing. But I do like having written." Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: What about the STORY?

                Originally posted by Big Bad View Post
                Am I alone?
                No. You've watched enough movies (and read enough scripts) to know instinctively how this works. Just write the story and ignore the page numbers. If there are structure issues, worry about those in the rewrite.

                But even worse than obsessing about the formatting are those folks who just started writing screenplays last week, and are now they're obsessed with marketing the damn thing. They write five freaking pages and they're coming up here (and on forums all over the Internet) to ask if it's too "big budget" to sell?

                Argh. (And you thought you were ranting.)
                STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: What about the STORY?

                  Originally posted by Hecky View Post
                  There's a place for technical craft discussions. But it's not the kind of thing you should worry about when you're just trying to get the story on its legs. So go ahead and ignore it if you find it fogs your head.
                  Exactly.
                  STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: What about the STORY?

                    Originally posted by Alyssa Runswithwolves View Post
                    But if you're already to that point-- I'm sure there are ppl who would respond to a thread regarding the beauty of what makes a great story great, which is quite different from the mechanics of the craft.
                    Mechanics of the craft can be learned. Writing stories is innate. (My opinion.)
                    STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: What about the STORY?

                      Originally posted by Alyssa Runswithwolves View Post
                      there should come a point and soon where you embrace structure and it simply becomes instinctual. It's just the beginning of a multi leveled craft that is so vast it's important to come to terms with the foundational level of it. The idea of forget the rules, forget what you're told, doesn't apply to structure in its purest form and hopefully a certain freedom will come with the mastery of the "mathematics" of screenwriting.
                      Fighting through this phase is probably the root of your problem right now.

                      When it comes to initially crafting the STORY I want to write and be unfettered, I find it helpful (in many ways besides creatively) to not even think about format, structure or "rules". I simply think about the story I want to see in my mind's eye and see it through to completion. It's only after that that I begin to ascribe any rules of storytelling or structure to it. The material then dictates what I have - short story, short avante garde film, novel, big budget sci-fi actioner, parable, etc.

                      Once I've identified what kind of medium best suits my story I can start working within the parameters of that medium if I want to move forward with it, but the CREATIVE part of my story came about without said "rules".

                      PS: if my idea doesn't fit any story medium sufficiently, that tells me it's probably not a good story. The rules aren't arbitrary, they've risen organically.
                      12 Angry Men is proof that all you need is a bunch of good actors, good characters, clear motivations and a table. -- Ben Odgren; Go into the Story

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: What about the STORY?

                        OP, I've had this bookmarked for ages and I think you might find it helpful and/or interesting for multiple reasons.

                        http://writerunboxed.com/2011/06/29/...first-draft-2/
                        "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
                        Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: What about the STORY?

                          Originally posted by wcmartell View Post
                          all of those things are there to serve story. All of the technical stuff is *about* story.

                          - Bill
                          +1
                          Story Structure 1
                          Story Structure 2
                          Story Structure 3

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: What about the STORY?

                            Originally posted by Big Bad View Post
                            I'm so worried about getting this done by page 10, and that by page 25, etc etc, that I find myself squeezing my square story and my square characters into this round hole and before long I don't even recognize my idea anymore. I start to hate it. And I start to hate the entire act of screenwriting because, in a way, it's destroying my story and everything I love about it.

                            When that happens, I just want to drop everything and write a novel. Or, more perhaps more realistically, I want to take my idea and write a short story, and base my screenplay off of that. The point is, I don't want to be encumbered by all these rules and all this structure. I feel trapped by it. I just want to be left in peace so I can write my story.

                            Am I alone?
                            Every medium has a certain structure to it.

                            What you're doing is looking at screenwriting structure as a formula. For example making the best chocolate cake you would use these exact same ingredients and instructions, where everyone has the same looking and tasting chocolate cake. Nothing unique or original.

                            I suggest you look at structure as a shape, a vessel, to hold your ingredients (creative choices). It's your creative choices inside this structure that'll make your story unique, compelling and entertaining.

                            When it comes to creativity, there are no rules where you must have the Inciting Incident happen within the first ten pages. There's a general guideline based on thousands of years of stories that having the Inciting Incident happening within the first ten pages where it changes the hero's status quo and kicks off the story ("A- storyline) works well in hooking and entertaining the audience.

                            It comes down to whatever works best for your story. If you have a story that requires the II not to happen until the end of Act One, then that's where you'll structure it to happen.

                            If you believe the II in your story is best to happen towards the end of Act Two, well, then I feel there may be a problem with holding your audiences' attention unless there are some kick ass "B- and "C- storylines, but then it may turn out that one of these may actually be your "A- storyline and you didn't realize it.

                            Don't get frustrated about the craft. There are valid reasons for the screenplay structure that are based on past success that were proven to work to hold and entertain an audience.

                            It sounds to me you don't like to outline. This is cool. There are writers who don't like to outline. They like to find their story as they write. It's a process that'll take more time and energy, where you'll find yourself writing a lot of stuff where you'll realize it doesn't work and have to start over, but if this is a process that works for you that's all that matters.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: What about the STORY?

                              When I get frustrated or overloaded by all the training and research that you need to do in order to write halfway decently, I try to think of how these "rules" originated.

                              While it's incredibly valuable to read what the pros write and follow their lead, I think amateurs can teach you a lot as well. And don't just read snippets or skim over amateur stuff. Read it as if you have been hired to make the damn thing into a movie. And then analyze the crap out of it and come up with reasons that it's going to be nearly impossible to make, or why few people would want to see it, or what needs to be entirely rewritten. Once you've read enough of the kinds of amateur scripts that try to change the "rules" or just don't know that they exist, you'll start to see why the "rules" came about and why they shouldn't be ignored.

                              I still see the whole process of learning screenwriting to be very similar to learning poker. Other things that you have to "master" are probably the same way (painting comes to mind).
                              • Stage One: You don't know crap.
                              • Stage Two: You know how to play your game (you find your voice).
                              • Stage Three: You learn how others are successful and incorporate some of those things into your game.
                              • Stage Four: You fully understand the risks involved in going against the rules or trying something different and when you get called out on it or caught with your pants down, you can at least justify why you were trying an unorthodoxed play.
                              • Stage Five: You win more than one big tournament
                              Stage Four is the highest level most of us will ever achieve. Getting to Stage Four doesn't make you a pro screenwriter any more than Stage Four would make you a pro poker player. It just means you are allowed into the tournament where you still won't win 99% of the time because of any number of reasons that have nothing to do with your technical skill. It could be you just don't get the cards, or you take a risk at the wrong time, or you're just not as good as the other players.
                              On Twitter @DeadManSkipping

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