Speaking of interruptions…

Sometimes, it’s just good to be “real” here in a blog.  You know, I could go into a full dissertation on the elements of craft, but, I thought I would just rap with you a bit about writing.

Writing takes a lot of effort and time.  It doesn’t really matter what kind of writing you do; if you want to write well, it’s going to take a lot of discipline and some sacrifice.  By sacrifice I mean, giving up certain things to make time to write, and it’s something that should be done daily. Truthfully, the more I have given myself over to writing, the less social I have become.  In addition to time well spent, learning the tools of the trade are essential to good writing.  I know, I know… us “creative” brains want to believe that everything we write is birthed from a place of extreme imagination–that there is no preconceived outline…no regimentation, which might disrupt our creative flow.  We want to soar like an eagle in an open sky without having any road-map and/or destination.  No planning, just ascending to the highest creative place.

But…

The truth is… good writers do plan, and they do have a keen grasp on the fundamentals of craft, whether self-taught by reading books on writing, or from going to school.  Good writers take whatever time is necessary to develop their creative muscles, and that includes a daily dose of structure and formatting supplements.  The result:  Stronger and sharper writing.

Another very crucial element is time management.  OUCH!  Time management is an issue for many of us, myself included.  I’ve found one of the ways I curtail time is to stay away from the Internet when I am working on a script, or any other piece of writing that doesn’t require immediate research.  I love this quote by the late Nora Ephron.  “I have on my computer something called Freedom.  You put in however minutes of freedom you want, and for that period of time your computer does not allow you to go on the Internet.”  While that shows discipline, Ephron also admitted that she doesn’t have much of a writing routine.  “I don’t have much of a routine.  I go through periods where I work a great deal at all hours of the day whenever I’m around a typewriter (obviously this is an OLD quote), and then I go through spells where I don’t do anything.  I just sort of have lunch–all day.  I have never been able to stick to a schedule. I work when there is something due, or when I’m really excited about a piece.”

Of course, “due” is the operative word, because obviously when Ephron said that, she was at a place in her writing career when she had things due.  When I am working on a project, whatever kind of writing it may be… if there is a due date, I do tend to schedule my day more.  I have to, or I’ll procrastinate.  This is where Ephron’s idea of “Freedom” comes in handy.  Scheduling time where I just write and leave the Internet off.

Life can be a big distraction too.  You know, you might be “in the moment,” writing the next best seller when suddenly you remember that lunch you planned with so-in-so, or you have to take the dog to the vet.  Life has a way of interrupting the creative process.

Speaking of interruptions… My son just called and we’re going to grab a bite to eat.  See what I mean?  I have some revisions to work on, but darn it anyway… my stomach is growling, and after all… it’s my son…

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. BOATHOUSE RESTAURANT, SANTA BARBARA – CONTINUOUS

Carla and RYAN, a handsome guy in his early 30’s  sit on the deck, eating halibut, drinking white wine, while enjoying the ocean view.  The sun is out, but it’s breezy.

FADE OUT.

Advertisements

What do you mean I don’t have a good story?

It’s amazing.  Wherever I go, when it’s found out that I’m a screenwriter, I will get approached by someone who says, “Oh my God!  You write screenplays?  I have the BEST idea for a screenplay…” In fact, this happened to me about a month ago at a coffee shop that I frequent.  I was working on a screenplay, and the woman at the table behind me started talking with me, wanting to know what I was writing.  After she learned that I write screenplays, she said, “I have the best story ever for a comedy.” Without hesitation she began to share.  Of course, she was not too pleased with my response. I said, “You know, that’s a really funny scene, but I’m not sure it’s an actual story.  You will need to develop a story-line in order for it to work as a screenplay.”

The nub of it…you cannot build a story on a scene.  I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work.

Whaaaaaa?

Another factor to consider when writing your screenplay:  You cannot just cram together various scenes, that have no connection with each other.  That is like trying to squash a square peg in a round hole; it will never work. They must be cohesive.  Like building blocks–they need each other to stand.  So, a good story needs to promise something from the beginning.  There must be a hook, and everything that you write from the first word to “The End” must lead to a final goal. Every sentence, every stitch of dialogue, the scenes, the descriptions all connect, and an audience or reader is magically drawn in.

So, the elements that you provide for the audience or reader actually draws them in, and keeps them engaged with the story and the characters.  Good stories are made up of various elements.  There are guidelines, not hard-fast rules, but structure and strategy is paramount.

Aristotle claimed, “the ability to plot, or to create a powerful structure, is the most important aspect of writing.  Good writers serve their stories; bad writers serve their own agendas.”

A story is evolving, not static.  It is LIVING–alive with anticipation, and that anticipation holds an audience/reader to the premise like glue.

There are reasons that films like: A Beautiful Mind (2001), Dances With Wolves (1990), How Green Was My Valley (1941), Zorba The Greek (1964), Norma Rae (1979), Crazy Heart (2009), The Silence of the Lambs (1995), The Sound of Music (1965), Lord of the Rings (2000-2010), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), Whale Rider (2003), Gangs of New York (2002), La Vie En Rose ( 2007), Finding Nemo (2003), Inception (2010), Toy Story 3 (2010), Fahrenheit  911 (2004), Atonement (2007), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), to name a few, have won Oscars.

For screenplay coaching and/or editing:  carlaiacovetti.com

Other references: ReadThrough.com – where screenwriters and actors collaborate online to help bring scripts to life!

Effective Monologues: What’s the Secret?

Writing Effective Monologues

You may discover that the most informative, provocative, emotional or dramatic scenes in a play, movie or T.V. show were monologues. That’s because monologues are the lifeblood of characters. Through monologues we learn the most about whom a character is, what their thought process is and what they plan to do to change their current circumstances.

EXAMPLE:  Good Will Hunting

http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Good-Will-Hunting.html

If we break the word down phonetically, mono means one or single and -logue means to speak, or voice. So a monologue is simply one voice. I compare a monologue in a play to an instrument solo in an orchestra. All the instruments play together to create a composition but one instrument may be used to give voice to the most intricate, moving or interesting part of it.

Flowing language is one part of making a monologue effective. However, if the language flows together well and within the language, there is no emotional stimulus the monologue ends up being flat. Effective monologues may flow, be choppy, or may be very scattered. The fact is writing effective monologues has very little to do with writing grammatically correct sentences. Effective monologues speak through language and use the tendencies of people to bend words and phrases to their will rather than the rules of language construction. Therefore a writer needs to research how people speak, how an accent from Georgia differs from an accent from Louisiana. They need to know specifics about the people from any area they intend to write about. For example, a person from Ohio is more likely to ask for a pop instead of a soda. It is the writer’s ability to understand character and the little details that will make the depth of the character feel real.

Emotions make the character. Many writers have problems with characters because they tend to care more about their words than the characters themselves. However, when people want to experience your mastery of words they will read a novel, book of poetry, or some form of other literature. Television, film and live theater are mediums through which the words must be visualized. Since the characters are the vehicles that carry or convey the words they must emote. The first rule to simplify writing emotional content is there are only four emotions. Happiness, sadness, fear and anger are the only four emotions that exist. Everything else is an expression of two or more of these four in combination with one another. Having this knowledge helps the writer to focus on where they ultimately want the monologue to go. For example, if the monologue starts off angry it may travel through the character’s fears and sadness to wind up with them being happy. The way in which you, the writer twist together the combinations of emotions compels us, the audience to listen to what the character is saying.

There are many other factors to making monologues effective. However, if you are able to master these few things as a beginning, the other points will be easy to pick up through practice.

 

Are your characters believable?

Building Believable Characters

How do you build a believable character?

A character is no different that each of us, and we all have history.  The woman I am today is largely related to who I was yesterday, so our background is a part of our development.  In the same manner, the background of your character will determine how he or she responds to crisis while on their journey.  So, it’s important to create some history, or background for your main characters, even if it is not shown in the screenplay itself.  Character worksheets are a great way to create detailed background for your characters.  This will give you (the writer) a much better grasp on understanding “why” this character will do what he or she does in every situation.

Remember the comedy What About Bob? The flawed hero, BOB WILEY has a whirlwind of issues that become DR. LEO MARVIN’S nightmare.  The audience never finds out what has made Bob all “tide-up” in “emotional knots,” but we do see the result of his anxieties, phobias and social disorders from the get go.  In addition, his emotional needs push him to action–he seeks the professional help of Dr. Leo Marvin.

To create a character like Bob Wiley, it is imperative that the writer understand his background.  Why?  Because characters with psychological problems and quirks are going to respond a little differently than the “average” Joe.  So, how do you write these quirks and personality traits/disorders into your tale believably?

Journalists are taught that a story should always contain answers to six pertinent questions:  What” Who? Where? When? How? and Why?  A journalist could actually accomplish this in one sentence:   “Bart was murdered in his own home last evening by a neighbor using a shotgun in revenge for Bart’s insults to the neighbor’s wife.”

In a screenplay, this has to be accomplished differently.  Remember, a screenplay is written for a visual medium, so these questions need to be answered within the development of the storyline, and seen in the dialogue and actions of the characters.

We never know “why” Bob Wiley is such a mess, but we see his responses to life in the development of the storyline through his actions and his dialogue.  We see his craziness in the development of his relationship with Dr. Leo Marvin and his family, and again when “suddenly” Dr. Leo Marvin’s “death therapy” cures him.

Making your character have history will help you answer those five questions, and when your character is confronted with conflict, you (the writer) will know exactly how he or she is going to respond.  Why?  Because you’ve spent time with this character and you know him or her so well.

Hint:  It’s all about understanding the human condition, and having a grasp on basic psychology.

In addition, if your screenplay happens to get produced, GIVE the actors something to work with!  Make them dig deep!  🙂

What are you plotting?

Plotting Away!

Every screenwriter MUST remember that the plot is LIVING!  The audience MUST always be focusing on a single action-idea throughout every story event!  In addition, the plot and character(s) work together, and action MUST have a connection to the plot. Aristotle believed that “Plot is soul.” Because the plot is the very structure that arouses emotions from an audience, it is paramount.  To write a good plot, you MUST consider the end.  For example:  Let’s say we are building a tree-house.  The visual image of the finished house is the end, so everything in the story needs to lead you to the completed tree-house.

Plot is STRUCTURE!  What are you plotting today?

CUT TO:

INT. OFFICE AT HOME – MORNING

CARLA, a writer at the sea in her mid-fifties sits at her desk, takes a deep sigh, a sip of tea from her mug that has steam rising from it, and looks at the piles of work on her desk–all the writing that must be completed.  She’s under a deadline.

Suddenly, her CELL PHONE rings, and she stars at it for a moment, but then decides to answer it, because it’s her daughter.

CARLA

Hello. Brittany?

BRITTANY (V.O.)

Hi Mom.  What are you doing?

CARLA

Oh, honey, I have piles and piles of work.  So much to get done before the weekend.

BRITTANY (V.O.)

Oh. Dang. Mom, I really really need your help.

CARLA

Oh boy.  Seriously?  Can it wait?

BRITTANY (V.O.)

No, I have that catering gig tonight, and my other cook is sick with the flu.

CARLA

Oh crap.

BRITTANY (V.O.)

Yeah, something like that.  She’s had the runs since last night.

CARLA

(Chuckles)

I didn’t mean that…

BRITTANY (V.O.)

Mom, please.  I’m really in a bind…so screwed if you can’t help…

CUT TO:

INT. COMMERCIAL KITCHEN – LATE AFTERNOON

Baking, cooking pans everywhere, while pots simmer on the stove, and BRITTANY, a chef in her mid-twenties is stirring something over the stove as she profusely sweats.  Carla, is wearing a bakers apron and is frazzled.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

The CUT TO is significant, because it introduces a new scene transition, i.e., from one setting to a new setting, or from one time frame to a different time frame.

…and such was my day yesterday.  It was supposed to be a day devoted to writing, but my journey was interrupted and the inevitable “CUT TO” happened.  Yes, I was pushed into a new scene transition, and I moved from the setting at my desk to the setting in my daughter’s kitchen.  It was a diversion from my journey, and brought about today’s CONFLICT.  How do I squish about 30 hours of writing into 8 hours?  Deadlines can be seriously inconvenient.

…stay tuned…