Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quick, Cool Page vs. Screen link

Kid Sis has posted a scene from her film, The Commune, along with the pages of the script for comparison.
Thought some of you screenwriters out there might want to see my journey from page to screen. Even when you direct your own work, things change onset due to budget, time, and reality. Cuz real life is a bitch; not nearly as malleable as imaginaryland.

It's worth checking out - especially for those of us who have or are thinking of shooting their scripts themselves. Her quick explanation of what worked and didn't work onscreen vs. the script is interesting.

The full post is here.

Tinkering with your script/draft -- what to look out for

Alex Epstein, over at screenwriting blog Complications Ensue, has a new post up today about revisions and what goals you should keep in mind when tinkering with your work, be it a beat sheet or the script itself:
Your first stab at a scene will often be functional. It gets information across. It gets information into the hands of the characters. It puts characters into conflict.

Then see if you can tweak it to make it more specific to who these characters are. Can you accomplish the same plot goals by having the characters react in ways that only people with their specific flaws would react?

As I've said elsewhere, good dialog is when the character only says stuff that character would say; great dialog is when the character says stuff only that character would say.

This is the same thing on the scene level. Good scene craft has the characters doing and saying only things those characters would do. Great scene craft has the characters doing things that only those characters would do.

It's a tough standard, but I'm told that Jack Nicholson will do a script if it has "three great scenes and no bad ones."
Epstein makes some great points -- if you're a decent writer, your first stab at a scene or chapter will at the very least be, well, decent. But you will gain much more if you go back and work at it. Making the dialogue and actions key to the characters is challenging, but in the long run will make the work more memorable and effective. If your characters sound and act like everyone or anyone, your work will be bland and forgettable.

Literary vs. 'genre' writing: What's what?

It's been an ongoing debate for, well, um, forever: is 'literary' fiction by default more important than genre fiction, like sci-fi, thrillers/mysteries/crime novels or fantasy? Some, like TIME Magazine columnist Lev Grossman say nay, and point to the recent forays of some big-name authors into more stylized genre fiction (Michael Chabon's recent work comes to mind) as a sign that fiction is fiction is fiction, and 'literary' fiction shouldn't hover above the other genres just because.

Last week, The New School in NYC held a panel discussion to talak it out. The panel, sponsored by the National Book Critic's Circle titled "Merging Genres." The panelists included: Peter Straub, prolific multiple Bram Stoker award winning author and editor of Poe’s Children: The New Horror, just out from Doubleday, and of the Library of America’s H.P. Lovecraft: Tales, was the moderator. The panelists were Lev Grossman, book editor at Time magazine; Geoffrey O’Brien, poet, editor in chief of Library of America, and frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books; Robert Polito, editor of the Library of America editions, Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 1940s and Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s, and director of the Graduate Writing Program at the New School.

Sci-fi and fantasy publisher Tor has a nice summary of the panel, excerpted below:

Theresa DeLucci—only a month back to Tor after Clarion West in Seattle—and I went to listen. Straub, who is a passionate supporter of genre merging, and has done some himself in his works, was an enthusiastic and articulate moderator, and happy in the end to be a genre writer. Each of them read provocative and often enlightening opening statements on genres and literature, from widely differing approaches. The panelists, while agreeing that real literary writers were working with genre materials today, and that some exceptional genre writers were even real literary writers, separated two to one—Polito and O’Brien versus Grossman—on the proposition that this was anything new and different, and that any substantial number of genre texts or genre writers were deserving of serious attention. Grossman attempted to present the Modernist separation between high art and the rest, especially genre, as an important barrier to the acceptance of genre, now in the process of being dismantled, while the others argued passionately that James Joyce was perhaps the archetypal mixer of genres, and that it was incorrect to say that Modernism did not in some way encompass genre and merge genres.

Sci-Fi/entertainment blog io9 share their thoughts on the panel as well:

Does the literary establishment still look down on science fiction through its glossy monocle? Apparently so, judging from a panel that took place at New York City's New School over the weekend. Time Magazine's Lev Grossman argued for tearing down the artificial distinction between "high art" and genre writing, and claimed that the recent trend of literary authors using speculative ideas in their work meant it was time to start taking speculative fiction more seriously. But New York Review Of Books contributor Geoffrey O'Brien and the New School's Robert Polito argued that literary authors have always mixed up genres, going back to James Joyce, and they at least implied that genre fiction is only worthwhile as a source of material for literary authors to mine. Oh well.

What's your take? I think there's always gonna be some kind of hierarchy in fiction, as in movies and any kind of creative field -- it's just human nature. Should we be more respectful of more "genre" work? Sure. If it's good, it's good, no matter in what context the work was created. I can point to dozens of crime novels or sci-fi books that read better and are more engaging and overall more fulfilling than a more "literary" or "artistic" work. It's all about what you get out of it. A worthy debate that I don't foresee being resolved soon.