My agent, manager, and I settled on my next spec last week. Thankfully, the chosen project is the horror script I talked a bit about last week. It's potentially a very cool project with material that has yet to be explored on film too much (beyond a C-grade horror flick here or there that I don't even know actually exists). I'm glad we landed on this idea, because it's one that I can really flex my muscles on, while trying something new.
At this point, the approach I'm working on for horror/mystery spec is investigative. By that, I meant that my protag will go on a journey to find out what happened to someone in the recent past, and the thrills and chills will come along the way. Over the weekend, I began outlining the script. (Technically, I'd already started, but the earlier strokes were broader, less specific). The thing is, I ran into a wall pretty early on.
One of the key components in the first act (which will detail the events leading up to the character's disappearance) is a relationship with some people who live in the area. That relationship becomes integral to all that comes later in the script. It also determines a healthy portion of the action in Act One. While I thought that I could work my way around it, particularly because we don't actually see the lost character disappear, I found I was proving myself wrong.
There is a lot that goes unseen in my script, especially by the protagonist. However, as the writer, I cannot proceed without knowing it. Even if I develop enough material for another script, I have to flesh out the mystery. What happened to this person? Where did they go? These questions seem obvious, because they are the very ones that the protagonist is trying to answer throughout the script. However, their answer - to me - must come before any actual pages. There's a saying that the solution to an Act Three problem can be found in Act One, and that's proving extremely true here. The ability to map out a script all rests on the ability to plan through the first act. Right now, I don't have nearly enough to go on. Before I can flesh out the script, I have to understand and map out the mysterious events - even if we never see them in the pages or on the screen.