Monday, May 11, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 71 – Delaying the Inevitable

What’s your favorite part of writing a screenplay? Developing characters? Outlining? Dialogue? Personally, I love writing fast paced first acts and killer third acts. The problem is, I don’t tend to enjoy everything in between, i.e. act two. Luckily, I just realized one of the biggest problems that I tend to have with it.

With my Roman-army spec, the League kept telling me, “We get to page 35 and then nothing happens until act three. They just keep talking about what they’re gonna do, but no one does anything.” Of course, I denied that. “It’s all about character in there. Any they do move the story forward. See all these scenes? This is what that scene does. This one does this other thing.” And so on and so forth. Well, I realized I have been wrong. My problem with writing Act Two is in delaying the inevitable.

I’m rereading a comic book style action spec I wrote about two years ago. It was relatively smooth sailing for about 50 pages. Then I hit the midpoint of the script, which felt more like a brick wall. At 100 pages, the script is already pretty trim. The problem is, a lot of the second half of the script is fluff. I build toward a climactic sequence that eventually does come. But before that, I have at least 20 ages in which a lot happens, yet hardly anything happens. The characters all spend a lot of time talking about the big battle scene that we know is coming, talking about who they can trust and who they can’t, talking about how they feel going into the battle. Talking. Talking. Talking. However, they do very little doing.

I find that it’s a difficult balance in keeping the story moving forward while not overwriting everything that the film is working toward. Too often I duplicate a scene to ensure that the reader (and, hopefully, viewer) knows exactly what everyone is feeling going into the climax. To that effect, I have many unnecessary scenes that push the big reveals and action back, but do nothing to further the story. These scenes just sit there, take up space, and, if I was really off my game, reiterate what I’ve already said. They delay unnecessarily. For page count? Because I’m not confident I’ve clarified what I’ve needed to? I’m not sure. All I know is that they have to go. And seeing them in this old script will help me be on the alert in them in all future scripts I write.

Stop delaying. Get to the good stuff already.

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