Monday, February 13, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 214 - Write Out Your Goals for Each Act

Have you ever written out your goals for each act of your screenplay? I hadn't - nor had I really heard of the idea before, that I can recall - until this weekend. I've been outlining my demon thriller spec, and the going was a bit slow to begin with. In order to kick things into gear, I decided it might be worth the exercise to write out my goals for each portion of the script before actually setting beats down.

Boy, did it help. I had a very loose document with some scattered thoughts here and there, and some ideas for what had to happen in Act Three, but little concept of how to get there. (I'm still stuck on Act Two, but hopefully that will sort itself out by the end of this week.) So, I thought, "what the hell, might as well give it a shot." I started small, bulleting goals such as, "introduce the main target," "explain that demons are real," and "introduce his best friend and hint at their history." Some things were a bit more complex, like "showcase the rules of eternally damning people," for example. 

Bit by bit, though, the objectives for those first 25-30 pages started becoming clearer and clearer. Shortly into the goal-laying process, the means by which to attempt to accomplish those objectives started to become apparent. I knew I could open with a particular scene, which would naturally segue into a second, then a third scene, and a fourth would shed light on what happened in them. I would start with a mysterious, cryptic hook, and then piece it together for the audience in a way that tackled four or five Act One goals at once. I wouldn't flat out explain everything (in fact, I wouldn't have to flat out explain anything so directly), but I'd offer enough for attentive viewers to pick up on what was happening, while capturing the interest of less discerning audience members. By the time act one ends, ideally, the basics are in place, and more specific details will be set up to come out later in Act Two. 

I'm not quite sure how many pages, roughly, I've outlined yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion I'm looking at a shorter first act. That's ok, to start. Now, I just have to get cracking on Act Two, and see where this story takes itself. The thing I'm enjoying so far, which has surprised me a bit, is how visual the idea is becoming. Before, my emphasis had been on the dialogue I anticipated I'd get to write. The focus is shifting toward the visuals at the moment, and I have to admit I'm quite enticed by them. I think this is going to be a fun script; hitting that realization marker is always a good step in the right direction.

Finally, I decide to try opening with a title card for the first time. (I attempted once before, but that project required little more than a time and place title card; this script requires a bit of a setup.) I found a particularly apt quote from the Bible, which I think will go a long way toward setting up the situations I'm writing about. Hopefully, a week from now, I will have a full outline to show for it.