Monday, January 28, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 256 - Thoughts on Structure

It's been nearly a month since I began the second draft of my sci-fi collaboration, and I have high hopes of finishing it tonight. Of course, I'll still have to to a word-by-word read-through of the whole thing, but that's neither here nor there. It'll be wonderful to have a hard copy of the script to work off of, and I can already say, without having gone through and read it again, that it's crazy the difference a draft can make.

Already, when I go back and reread draft one (I'm working off a copy of that draft, editing as I go along, so I'm getting intimately reacquainted with the first pass), I find myself thinking what utter crap some of it was. Structurally, it was fairly sound, though a lot of it proved more dependent on coincidence than I would have liked. And there were certain reveals that I withheld until the end of act two, which my partner felt were much stronger as midpoint surprises. In the rewrite, I came to see his point and shuffled a lot of important information around - to the betterment of the script. The dialogue has been streamlined and improved upon; the characters are much more three-dimensional and now have actual arcs, and the world in which we've set the story is infinitely more detailed and unique. All in all, it's a huge improvement.

Part of the rewrite process has gotten me thinking about story much more. This particular one is now much stronger, and perhaps just because I'm in the middle of it now, but I've been more attuned to story in general. Take, for example, Django Unchained, which I saw yesterday. I'm not the world's biggest Tarantino fan in general, and I'd been semi-hesitant to see Django. My viewing experience pretty much validated my initial expectations.


Still with me? As you know, Django is a long movie. And a violent one. And you know what? I didn't feel as though either was fully justified. Primarily, that's because the ending - to me - came 20 minutes before the credits rolled. After Candie is killed - this is the antagonist, we're talking about... sort of... well, one of them - there are at least four dozen deaths yet to come. Django has technically secured his wife's freedom, but it's cost him his own, as well as his friend's life. Candie drops, and his untold number of minions storm the house, ala Scarface, for a shootout that will literally paint the walls red.

But I didn't care. The bad guy was dead. Those who were left to catch bullets were the anonymous faces of extras we'd met briefly, or only in passing. Yet, their deaths and shootout with Django took so much screentime, as a point in which I'd already been sitting for well over two hours. It was time to call it a day. Shootout over, we still have to meet a couple Australian slavers, see their three deaths, and then watch Candie Land get blown to smithereens - after another five deaths in the foyer. I didn't care about a single one of them. Sam Jackson's character was interesting, but at that point, I had already watched Django take out: a trio of brothers he had a personal vendetta against, Big Daddy and his pre-Klansmen, and Candie. How many antagonists are we dealing with? How many should I care about? I cared about Candie. I was please when he got his comeuppance. The others - excess screen time that I didn't need.

My first draft of the sci-fi spec came in at a whopping 130 pages. I'm happy to report that this draft will top out at 116, maximum. I've trimmed the fat, made sure that each scene, character, and line of dialogue is warranted, and I have made the story move as smoothly and quickly as I can. No, I'm no Tarantino and don't have the cinematic license he does. I'm content with that and, for now, simply want to make sure that my story is as strong as it can be.