Writing for the screen

Before I discovered Lois Duncan in grade 9 (at which point I decided I wanted to become a novelist) I wanted to write movies. I had always had ideas for stories, but thought I would never be disciplined enough to be able to write full sized novels, so to me it seemed that screenplays were the easier option.

Skip forward a few decades and I’ve completed two novels, have another five over half-finished, and about 20 in the first-five-chapters space (where I always hit a wall). I’ve completed exactly zero movie-length screenplays. I’ve written or co-written two pilot TV shows, each about 45 minutes long, and both nearly killed me. Screenwriting is hard.

I like writing flash fiction; short, sharp and shiny prose, get the story across and cut out all the guff. I thought screenwriting would be the same. It really is not. It is so much more.

Over the years I’ve bought and borrowed many books about how to write screenplays. They haven’t helped. They talk about story arcs, ‘finding’ ideas and making believable characters –all stuff I feel pretty comfortable with, but rendering and action scene on the page in a believable and understandable way for the director, they don’t touch on that. How that Int. Nat’s House – Night bit should be configured, they gloss over. I was ready to give up.

Then I started reading ‘The Da Vinci Code’ screenplay. I picked it up from the second hand books shop for $4. It opens with a forward from the novelist, the director, the producer and the screenwriter. I learned more in those 14 pages than I have in the equivalent number of ‘how to’ screenwriting books. The screenplay itself is fascinating, with extracts from the storyboards interspersed with the text.

Finally, I feel like I know what the end goal is! Suddenly it all makes sense. I want to hug the people who produced this book, it is like it was written to answer my questions. So I’m going to dust off my movie ideas (and some simply are movies, they never felt like novels) and try my hand at my first career choice.

That is my project for WriMoFoFo.

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