Darabont on Screenwriting

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  • Darabont on Screenwriting

    On Friday's episode of Dinner For Five, Frank Darabont gave some interesting insight into his writing process. He said that he's done everything from starting with a treatment/outline to using the notecard approach. But he prefers not doing any prep before starting a script. As he put it, he usually doesn't know what's going to happen in Act 2 until he gets there. He says it can be very scary to write a screenplay this way, but he likes the organic approach.

    I threw my hands up in the air and said hallelujah! I hate working on an outline or a treatment before I sit down to hammer out a script. But whenever I start something without a hard outline, I feel like I'm not being professional. To hear Darabont say this made me feel so much better about my writing habits.

    I'm getting ready to start a new script. I've got the basic structure worked out in my head, but when I sit down to try and put it down on paper, frankly I get bored. That does not mean my idea sucks, I just hate putting my ideas down on paper. I like to feel like the script has a life of its own while I'm writing, and if I hit a dead end along the way, I relish the challenge of finding my way out. But if I'm following an outline, I feel like the answer has already been pre-determined, and the script doesn't have a chance to breathe.

    I know many of you on this board swear by the treatment, but I wanted to pass on Darabont's comments to see what you think.

  • #2
    Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

    Man, that's a whole can of worms! I like to identify five or six key points that I have to get to in order to make the story work, that takes maybe a couple of pages of outline. Then I start writing. As I go, I'll then map out the acts as I write them, in broad terms of what I have to do to get to those key points. That way I feel I'm leaving room for the organic growth you talk about. Works for me - probably not everyone's cup of tea.
    http://wasitsomethingiwrote.blogspot.com/

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    • #3
      Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

      Writing with outlines does feel more like homework than fun. I might try the more organic approach, which I use to do when I was younger. Scripts flew out back then, and if all else fails, there's always rewriting.

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      • #4
        Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

        *shrug* just another of those "Whatever works for you" scenarios.

        Certainly don't do it a specific way 'cos it's the way people say it should be done.
        Everyone has their own way. Long as it works who gives a fvck?
        twitter.com/leespatterson

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        • #5
          Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

          i sometimes write very brief outlines after i let a story develop and have a big mess on my hands. like three or four hundred pages of a story. but i need that big mess first. never had luck trying to construct a story. they don't turn out right. so i try to let them develop taking the long way around the barn.

          some stories develop, some stay ornery. the ornery ones i pick at now and then seeing if they're ready to talk.

          whatever works, works.

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          • #6
            Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

            that mess is your script though. i do that, and i did that. but i had no clue how to write a script.

            and it's about apptitude, what types of decompartmentalizing are you proficient at, and how does that lend to writing a script, hinder the script.
            and i think the better you are with understanding structure, the easier it is to pound out a first draft, casue you are generically putting in scenes that you remember from the movies that you liked or saw whiich automatically transfers the idea of writing what you want to see. it maifests itself.

            that's why rewrites are critical. the rewrites are brainstorming sessions to add reality to the script, and it's unqiuness.

            rewriting is like getting ten minutes to answer questions on jeopardy, while having the acces to the internet.

            vig
            vig

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            • #7
              Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

              I write my novels that way, but would get in big trouble doing scripts with that method. With all the limitations that are built into writing screenplays, it's best, I find, to have a number of landmarks along the way.

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              • #8
                Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

                I felt the same way when I started. I didn't want to waste time with the outline, I wanted to dive right in and start writing.

                The problem with that, for me, is that by the second act I was at a serious disadvantage. The inmates were in control of the asylum, as it were. I was writing scripts like I wrote my novels, letting the story grow and develop as I wrote instead of me directing it. Interesting note: characters do not understand script structure.

                If you were to read all my scripts now I believe you could definitely identify which ones were written without a "roadmap".

                Does that mean I write professionally? I consider writing professionally when I can put my script side by side with a produced script and you couldn't tell the difference.

                How it gets there, well like XL said - whatever works.

                But if anyone asked my opinion, I'd say embrace the outline. It saves so much over the long run.
                "So I guess big parts of our youth are supposed to suck. Otherwise we'd get too attached and wake up one day trapped on a hamster wheel that used to look like a merri-go-round." - Hal Sparks

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                • #9
                  Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

                  vig, that mess i speak of isn't my script. it's a story being developed.

                  jake, agree landmarks are nice to know, old pard.

                  geevie, couldn't disagree with this more-

                  "But if anyone asked my opinion, I'd say embrace the outline. It saves so much over the long run."

                  really...

                  saves so much what?

                  but if it's good for you and other writers, it's good for you and other writers.

                  best of luck to all.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

                    that's what i'm saying ancon, i have 300 pages of a mess i call a script as well.
                    but it becomes a 100 page script faster than it used to, with or without an outlne.

                    maybe know it only becomes a 150 page mess, which gets whitted down to 98.

                    vig

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                    • #11
                      Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

                      You say potato....

                      I'm just saying that before I used an outline I ended up in Second Act hell where I had to rewrite my way out of all the corners I wrote myself into.

                      Not so much when I have an outline... I'm able to circumvent these problems before I ever type fade in.

                      Which makes it easier and quicker to get the first draft completed.

                      Which is why I say it saves a lot in the long run.
                      "So I guess big parts of our youth are supposed to suck. Otherwise we'd get too attached and wake up one day trapped on a hamster wheel that used to look like a merri-go-round." - Hal Sparks

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                      • #12
                        Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

                        vig, gotcha.

                        geevie, understand what you're saying, but writing yourself into a corner is a good place to be.

                        you're uncomfortable.

                        time stops.

                        your fingers don't know what to do on the keyboard.

                        sometimes that's where really good stuff happens.

                        yes?

                        sometimes not. sometimes, you're just lost. time to rewrite yourself out of the corner you've written yourself into.

                        but the story went that way for a reason. for some reason it went that way.

                        i don't think outlining saves time or anything else. some do it because it helps writing a story that works, some don't.

                        potato...tomato
                        Last edited by AnconRanger; 05-22-2005, 09:16 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

                          I do it because it saves time and aggrevation for me.

                          That's why I recommend it.

                          If there are others who can do it well without it, then kudos to them.

                          I prefer to have the roadmap.
                          "So I guess big parts of our youth are supposed to suck. Otherwise we'd get too attached and wake up one day trapped on a hamster wheel that used to look like a merri-go-round." - Hal Sparks

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                          • #14
                            Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

                            i prefer to just hit the road.

                            it's all good like you say.

                            i like aggravation and don't wear a watch.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Darabont on Screenwriting

                              Just curious.

                              Have you ever tried outlining?
                              "So I guess big parts of our youth are supposed to suck. Otherwise we'd get too attached and wake up one day trapped on a hamster wheel that used to look like a merri-go-round." - Hal Sparks

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