I promised a post on screenwriting so here it is.
My friend Holly (mentioned two posts ago in Sharing the Spotlight) got me interested in screenwriting. It was always an idea I never entertained (except for when Hollywood bought the rights to my book and then I and no one else would write the screenplay of course). Anyway, since Holly is a screenwriter it just heightened my curiosity and eventually drove me to enroll in a screenwriting class for my last semester of undergrad.
Am I glad I did it? Yes. Was it hell? Yes.
Why, you ask, did I not enjoy a class dedicated to sharpening writing skills and nurturing new ideas in a format I had never previously encountered?
Because the whole damn thing sucked that’s why!
A rational explanation informs readers who are still bearing with me that for the first month of class, I could not follow the terminology. I, being the only non-media major, had absolutely no clue what the rest of the class knew every little detail about. I spent hours pouring over my textbook memorizing (WHICH I HATE) terms which did not make sense to my literary brain. Eventually it just became too frustrating.
The other rational reason is that Fairfield deceived me. I thought I was signing up for a film class when really I signed up for a television class. This was not mentioned in the course book. The description went something like this: “A course designed to guide students through the beginnings of writing their first SCREENPLAY.” Nowhere did it say TELEVISION screenplay. Fix this, Fairfield, for other unsuspecting stags!
So calm down, Miss Rosemary, you say, this is not a big deal. TV is an extremely popular thing these days. Writing a show could be fun.
Yes. It could. If I was writing my own show. The syllabus required us to write two screenplays for two EXISTING shows. I had to write characters I didn’t know (watching a show is much different from writing a show) like True Blood (which I enjoy but writing for it made me feel positively vile).
I’m not a quitter, so I stuck with the class and powered through, got an A (go me) and was rewarded with the opportunity to write my own short film as a final project.
I WILL POST THAT SHORT WHEN I GET 15,500 HITS. TELL YOUR FRIENDS.
Writing the it was an absolute joy. But I never thought that writing a screenplay would be from writing a story or novel. First it was great because I am generally better at dialogue than description (for that I
blame thank my large, crazy family) and screenplays do generally rely on dialogue more than description. However, there is more description involved than I thought. Everything relies on the visual. There is no need for eloquent descriptions of novel/story prose. It’s cut and dry writing. “The walls are gray and the floor has a matching rug,” as opposed to: “Tired gray paint coated the walls as if it wanted nothing more than to chip away onto the equally dreary rug.” Details of characters’ movements are both critical and not critical. They count if they move the action along and have specific importance to the script, but otherwise they would be at the actor’s discretion. I tend to put little actions in my prose to let hints of the character’s personality peek through or to emphasize an awkward moment. “Laura shifted her weight from foot to foot,” works so much better than “awkward silence.” Just “awkward silence” for the screenwriter.
Writing the screenplay forced me to think about these things. If I don’t necessarily change/stop using them in my prose, I’m now more aware of their purpose. I won’t just use a technique for the sake of using a technique.
Conclusion: I like writing screenplays. I enjoy the challenge and exercising a part of my craft I have not paid much attention to before. I’m going to try it again. Whether it would be a short or feature, I don’t know. I don’t have an idea yet, but I’m sure one will come to me eventually. I’m definitely taking a crack at it when it does instead of trying to force it into a novel.
Are any of you screenwriters? If you are not, have you ever thought about it? Would you ever reach out of your comfort zone and try a writing venue you are not comfortable with?
Writing updates: Miscarriage sequence taking longer than I thought, but once I get through it Laura’s Letters is … *gulp* ALMOST DONE!! Woot, woot!