I’ve Stepped In It Now

2013-10-28 08.04.15 (2)

That’s my boy Toby. He and I share many traits, like taking off after something without giving much thought to it and ending up muddied and wondering what happened. In this photo, a catfish jumped, which he thought was pretty cool and off he went into a bog. You can see the muddy result.

I’ve done much the same thing. It came time for renewal of this domain name and WordPress hosting, and I got the wild idea that the next book I publish will be under this name, so I hit the button to renew everything for another year. Then I changed my mind. But it doesn’t matter because nothing happens in any area of our lives without some unconscious rumblings that it’s the thing to be done. Well, almost. There was that guy in college. Twice. No excuse for the second time.

Probably an excuse for another go around with this blog. I plan to publish the novelization of my screenplay “A Violet For Christmas” the second week of November. The name on the plaque that says I wrote it and I won the award bears this name, so I guess that means the novel needs to have the same name attached. But really, what good does it do to blog about it? I feel it takes precious time away from writing the damned the beloved book, but I’ve paid my money and I don’t intend to waste it.

And maybe there’s something I can share about the process that will be of value to others. I’m going to pretend I believe that for the moment and jump right in with some observations and tips, even though I know there are so many good blogs with so much good advice out there already that another isn’t needed, at least not by a grunt like me. Onward.

Five Things I’ve Learned About Taking A Script To Prose (may the gods help me; I’m making this up as I go):

  1.  It’s best to torture oneself with scripting a story before venturing into prose. Good God but it feels good rutting around in language after the constraints of scriptwriting. I feel like a beautiful young girl with flaxen hair, romping in fields of lavender on a sunlit day with fluffy clouds for amusement. I feel barefoot and slender. The structure’s nailed in place, and I am free to run.
  2. Structure in scriptwriting is an illusion. Well, isn’t that just spiffy after I’ve waxed poetic about the freedom of having the structure nailed via scriptwriting. In the past year I’ve had a staged readers theater production of the script, turning over my little pretty to the director and giving him total freedom to have his way with it. As hard as I worked getting the beats and act breaks just right in that script, and after it had been judged as being up to snuff, the director had the audacity to put an intermission break at a point he swore was the obvious act break, which was absolutely insane. It was five pages further into the script! We argued the point to death with me finally giving in because I’d said he could do as he pleased. Dammit. The worst part was that the audience thoroughly enjoyed the evening’s entertainment without a single soul standing up and yelling, “This is a crime! The director has obviously assumed the act break was in the wrong place! Author! Author!”
  3. “And then what happens?” is the only thing that matters. As writers we can get caught up in the rules and regs like fish in a net and forget about our audience. The thing that pulls them forward in their seats with thrills! chills! and excitement! is wondering what happens next and how the mess the characters are in will be resolved. There’s a video of two TV writers of a very successful show talking about the epiphany they had in their second successful season when they got stuck. They finally figured out that this happens, and because this happens, then this happens…and on and on and on. Cause and effect. Without it, the story takes on a pattern I used to call and-then-and-then-and-then-and-then. Boring. Very.
  4. The only thing that makes an audience wonder what happens next is caring about the characters. The best stories have some sympathy for the devil; he’s the guy who saves a cat early in the story, or something equally endearing. In the best stories, the villain is the hero of his own story, causing conflict within the audience and the story. I hope it goes without saying that we need to write central characters we care about deeply, and lots of luck with that because it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Nobody loves Pollyanna any longer.
  5. Scriptwriting is terrific training for showing with very little telling. You’ve got to make a weary script reader see and feel and get sucked inside your story within five pages with a minimum of words, and all of them better be strong, visual words.If he dialogue isn’t 85% sub-text and none of it “on the nose” narrative storytelling, your script gets fed to the shredder, maybe even halfway through the first page. Intense mood, voice, evoking the visual, dialogue that’s sub-text all become habits that carry over into the novel, even if you feel like a young girl with flaxen hair romping through a field of lavender.

I never intended to be a screenwriter, which is another post for another day. I’ve continued with screenwriting, and will keep writing screenplays, but it’s all a habit. For now I’ll just say I got lucky. I stepped into it with scriptwriting.

It was the best mess of mud I could have fallen into.

(The verdict on this blog still awaits. Big time apologies for the tiny font size. Something got messed up.)

7 thoughts on “I’ve Stepped In It Now

  1. Roz Morris @Roz_Morris

    Welcome back, Cyd. You and I must be surfing the same thought-waves this week, although embarking from different ports. I’ve been thinking lately about the differences between movies and prose and will probably be posting about it this weekend. But with a script, you have extra trials as you have to hand over to the directors and actor. I don’t know if I could handle that. Anyway, welcome to full artistic control.

    1. cydmadsen

      Thanks, Roz. It is difficult handing over your work and surrendering control to an entire army of others, but it’s what you come to expect and accept. The irony of the entire game I’ve always found baffling is you bust your seams getting into the game with that first spec script, then you never write an original script again. It’s all assignment work after that. I look forward to what you have to say about books and film. Both are changing in our overstimulated world. Thanks for stopping by and tolerating the mess I’ve made of this blog. BTW, yours was one of the valuable blogs on writing I was thinking of when I said so many good ones already exist.

    1. cydmadsen

      Hi Darrelyn. Thanks for stopping by. I didn’t expect that. And I didn’t expect to mention that boy in college. My only excuse is that I had the flu and a fever 🙂

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