Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Script Writing

I like to think of myself as a bit of a riter.

I mean that. I know I’m not of a professional standard, I have no real credits to my name and my only real completed projects are half baked essays and a series of underdeveloped comics. I am a riter. Almost a writer, but not quite enough credentials to really qualify.

It is with this in mind that I consider the following might be a pointless thing to say given my lack of experience or even significant effort in the field, but I find writing scripts incredibly difficult. I’m fine in the imagination department and getting ideas for a story and how it will pan out, I’m not bad and improving in the field of characterization, and dialogue, one of the most important things of a script, isn’t a major issue. What I have a problem with is putting it all together.

From a decent amount of experience making comics, I have a rough idea what does and doesn’t work in a narrative sense, largely by doing all the things that don’t work, but I never leant how to write scripts. I always had a plan, but that plan was “I’m starting here, I need to get to here” which in one case took me a whole sixteen page issue longer than I expected. With my current TV script writing project that I’ve set myself, I don’t have the option of crafting it as I go along in the same way that I did with the comics, so I have to start with the script and work it through from there.

It seems that the second you try and mash together the setting, the plot, the characters, the dialogue and the action, things go disastrously wrong. Maybe I’m getting too hung up on formatting the scrip so that it looks professional, but no matter how I write the opening scenes, it comes across as stilted, halting, and generally awful with a real struggle to get the middle ground between fast paced staccato dialogue and longer plodding exposition based dialogue.

What I’m trying to write is the first thirty minute episode for an animated children’s show. I don’t think I have an issue with writing for children, as most of the things I’ve done previously have been of the right sort of tone for children, especially so with only a little bit of tweaking, but I do have a problem with working out how to fit it all together without it becoming utterly all over the place.

Like most things I try and do, I suspect the problem I’m running in to is trying to do it all at once and assume I need to fire out my entire brain into the script in the first few pages, where actually I need to gradually leak it out over thirty, probably leaving plenty more to be deposited over subsequent potential episodes. I also reckon that this instinct of mine to try and do a whole project in five minutes isn’t helped by the fact that the people I’m submitting this to suggest making sure the first ten pages are really tight and gripping because that’s all they’re obliged to read and they’ll only read further if it’s any good, so if I have all the fun stuff happening after the ten page mark, that’s essentially the end of the project.

If anyone has any short sharp hints and tips that I could read and then ignore anyway because I’m not bad at taking advice, just bad at implementing it, I’d be very grateful to hear. Failing that, I’ll try and post some form of update if this goes anywhere.

Additional Notes:

Making mistakes is a fantastic way of learning that I fully advocate and I believe I’ve made a vast majority of them with my comic-projects. If you have the right mindset as well, looking back on those mistakes with a renewed sense of wisdom can be highly entertaining rather than utterly and crushingly depressing.
It’s also quite a kick to see how much you’ve improved from previous attempts. If you take a look at any webcomic and compare the first and most recent entries, chances are you’ll notice a marked improvement. It is incredibly satisfying to see the same thing happen to your own work. I feel really sorry for people who produce vastly inferior creations after they’ve been working in their field for a significant period of time, but that’s enough of that, I promised myself I’d stop complaining about Star Wars and grow up a little bit.

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