…beyond colouring in the corners during a boring phone call.
Recently I finished writing a horror script.
I did it in my normal story-writing way, which means I outlined heavily in a Word doc, then rewrote that outline into the ground until a nearby child cried ‘Stop, stop, it’s already dead’, at which point I thought I should probably write it up.
During that time I (to the best of my abilities) tightened the structure, removed useless scenes and tried to make everything that happened worthy of being included in the story.
That was my first ever screenplay. Well, the first I’ve ever written on my own. It has gone out to a few friends now, to wander the streets without me, to scratch its diseases and flaws and wayward characters into bloody, ugly, noticeable lumps that I can lance right off or treat accordingly. (I mean, I’ve asked people for feedback. That’s all.)
Yesterday I started a new script. It’s based on a short horror story I wrote over a year ago which, it turns out, is not that good. But the idea behind it still stands and I think it has a good ‘hook’. Something worth writing.
I tried to outline it, as usual, and wound up wanting to slip a pen into my ear to skewer my stupid brain. The outline just wouldn’t come together. Not even when I tried to write it in broad strokes. I couldn’t make it work. I knew how I wanted to start, all of the middle bits and where I wanted to end up but I just couldn’t get it into shape.
This morning I tried a fresh approach. Something I probably should have been doing all along, which I think the imitable Gazz Wood told me to do ages and ages ago. I put took a big bit of white cardboard, pinned it to the wall of my office and started writing down little scenes, ideas, story beats etc, onto Post-It notes. Then I stuck them on the board roughly in the order I’d want them to be in the film. I split them down into acts, rearranged them, added some new ones and took some others away. Essentially I put the bare bones of a film on my wall.
Then I made more detailed notes and stuck them underneath the original ones. Things like dialogue ideas, locations, what happens in each scene. Stuff that fleshed out each section. A storyboard with words (which is good, because I can’t draw worth a damn.)
And I had a lot of fun with it. The story came together much more smoothly than if I’d tried to make the notes in a Word doc and it took half the time.
My next task is to make sure every scene on the board has a purpose. That they all propel the story. Because otherwise they’re probably rubbish and I should clip them. I expect it’ll be a lot easier, now, to see what bits aren’t really necessary.
Obviously I’m no script writing expert, and the script I end up with out of this exercise might be a crock of shit, but this approach seemed to work for me so maybe it’ll work for you.
(Also, bonus, it made me feel like I actually knew what I was doing. Albeit briefly.)