SCRIPT ADVICE NEWSLETTER 12
WHAT THE SCRIPT FACTORY SAYS ABOUT SCRIPT ADVICE:
“We can heartily recommend Yvonne’s workshops – she unravels television like no one else! www.scriptfactory.co.uk
Find out if I can help you with your current project@ https://scriptadvice-co-uk.stackstaging.com offering writers mentoring, training and script editing services in order to develop their work and talent. Please pass on this link to your fellow writers.
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SAWR is all about writing and writers. Here you can share your thoughts about writing, the creative process, the highs and lows of it all. You can also access this group for information about writing workshops that I am currently running, also script editing and mentoring services that I offer. My expertise lies in Television drama but any writer is welcome to share their experiences and their aspirations here.
Or to see my newsletter online, access my Blog here: https://scriptadvice.wordpress.com/
AND INTRODUCING MY NEW BLOG; GEORGE, THE BLOGGING WRITER. Read all about her rocky journey towards television writing enlightenment here – https://yvonblog.wordpress.com/
SCRIPT ADVICE – MY WORK
Apologies, I am about to sound like a Vaudeville act – but I am a Tad Tardy with my Spring Newsletter. The season of re-growth, new birth, sap rising etc, has definitely sprung and in fact, having given us a thorough soaking, she is now positively cooking us alive like so many boil in the bag cod in her un-seasonal heat wave.
You’ve also been busy. Which is why I have been and hence the late Newsletter. I love to read and script edit writer’s work, so I am genuinely not complaining, or making excuses, but your scripts come first; that is, before blogging, newsletter writing, or posting up interesting stuff for the SAWR group and its burgeoning body of members on Facebook. I have been known also to Tweet but have not done much of any of that stuff because your scripts keep on coming in!
Scripts make me happy. It’s sad. But also true. I love the lay out of a good script. I love the feel of a deftly controlled drama and to immerse myself in characters and stories created by a writer who obviously wants to tell me something I didn’t know and to entertain, to engage, to make me think.
Of course, not every script I read does all that straight away. No of course it doesn’t. Writers are fallible and writing is a process. And that’s where I come in.
I do a lot of script reports for writers. These are useful documents for a writer to have as a reference when tackling their next draft. I am always constructive and often down right glowing about the work I read – there’s a lot of talent out there! But one of the skills a good script editor needs is tact and I think I can say minus any tongue in cheek, that I chose to be constructive rather than destructive when there is a lot of work to do.
My favourite service on www.Scriptadvice.co.uk is my Script Editing Package. There really is a great satisfaction in being the script editor on a script that you see from the first draft, has potential and that by the 2nd draft you can see the changes coming through and the work getting better and there is real enjoyment in taking that script further with the writer, knowing now, that it will become a great calling card for that particular writer. I like the skill involved and I like the process of getting those changes made in the script, with the writer fully on board and enjoying the process.
So thanks all for giving me the continued opportunity to stretch my Scripty legs every day….now, I would like to talk about my obsession – long running storylines…..
STORYLINING – It’s an Art
There is nothing as frustrating as those times when, in the story lining process, a meaty, potentially dramatic and resonant storyline is not plotted to the fullest extent of it’s potential, and so what the writer ultimately writes in the script, and what the viewers see on screen, is actually a much tamer, watered down, insipid version of the storyline the producer and the writing team discussed around the table at the Story Conference. And I talk here about long running series and scripts of shows you will know; shows like Holby City, and Coronation Street and Eastenders. These are the shows that I have worked on. But I don’t want you to think that the story lining that shapes the scripts of long running shows like these particular giants is nothing to do with the story lining that you will be faced with when constructing your scripts. Far from it. This craft, this art, is the same knotty bugger you have to face in any dramatic form.
No-one is saying that story lining is easy – or even interesting – it’s not always, sometimes it’s just a hard plotting slog. But in the planning of any drama, be it a single or a series, an un-produced or production script, it is essential that your storylines are plotted properly. Story lining is something writers should do in their sleep. Do it a lot. It will get easier and with experience the obvious beats will slot themselves in place without you even noticing, leaving you to concentrate on digging out the beats in a storyline that are not so obvious, but once discovered, will make all the difference to the original idea.
Each beat of each storyline needs to be worked out carefully. I am not of the school of thought that says ‘sit down and write something and where ever your character takes you that’s the place you’ll end up’ because I for one do not have the patience or the time (and in production both of these things are in very short supply) to dig under a lot of un-necessary, extraneous writing to find the original storyline.
Because believe me, and I say this with a bleeding heart, (having had to steer script editing sessions well into the early hours after a storyline had been allowed to go walk about during the drafting process and ended up infecting a bunch of scripts ready to go to camera) you will write too much, you will veer off the point, you will write yourself into a blind alley if you do not firstly, work out the main and the minor beats in the story line and secondly, work out how this story line impacts and affects the other story lines in your script.
There is a sort of dread that sets in occasionally, from my experience, when you are faced with a white, blank board (I use a wall chart, but insert page or computer screen to make this visual work) when you know you have your character all sorted out nicely, and you know what (vaguely) you want to happen to him/her and you certainly know the best bits of the storyline you’ve conjured up for them, but, there’s those awful stages in between the best bits, that you have to fill in. You have an hour of drama to plot, or even a half hour if it’s a series/soap you are creating/working on/wrestling with.
That’s a ton of story beats and a lot of mini peaks, a whole bunch of shallow troughs and a certain amount of path-picking until you get to the summit – the grand peak of your storyline. And that, (I am sure you will be pleased to read) just about finishes the mountaineering metaphors.
And this is where the skill comes in. This is where the true storyteller comes to the fore; where the teller of tales can shine at the craft of controlling and containing the elements of the story; pulling, teasing-out and revealing the optimum dramatic impact of the narrative.
There are lots of reasons why, between creation and execution, a storyline can fall foul of the production process and ultimately end up a shadow of the original idea, but if you stick to the rule book (there are just a few essentials to remember) when it comes to story lining, your story will not go far wrong and you will find that your story lines naturally weave and loop around and through each other – thus giving your final script a real depth, a fitness, a resonance all of it’s own.
The Basic Rules of Story Lining.
1/ Know your length
Know the natural length of the story line you want to create. Think about it instinctively and you will find you will land on a ball park sort of length. Not all your story lines will need, or be able, to stretch the full length of the 15min, 30min, 60min, 90 min of drama you are writing. Some stories may be short and sweet and best plotted over perhaps only a third of your script, some may feature in the first 2 thirds and be resolved by the last ‘act’ of your script, but in all cases, every story has a natural length and this you need to ascertain from the start.
2/ Know your rank
Decide if this storyline is an A or a B or a minor C storyline and plot it accordingly. An A story is one that can best be described as ‘what the episode is about’ – it’s the central theme, message and forms the internal shape of your script/episode. A B story takes up less script space but is important in that it will have the most impact on and resonance to, the A story. A and B stories run parallel and inter-connect through the script/episode and will influence the majority of the shape of the script. A C story is a minor one, a smaller and shorter story but still important in that it can undercut, contrast too, conflict with, or highlight and augment, the A and B stories. The idea is to get all stories, major and minor, doing a cohesive job together throughout the script.
3/ Look for the detail
Once you’ve got the main beats in place; those moments where the drama literally peaks and the dramatic impact is most intensely felt, then make sure you plot the lesser moments leading up to those dramatic highs. If you fail to carve out the detail of the quieter, subtler, gentler, sub-textual moments in your story line, the over all impact will be lessened and the pay off you are looking for will not happen.
4/ Work the connections
How do your story lines connect? How do they contrast and highlight each other? Look at their separate paths and it will appear obvious at first, the places where your story lines could interconnect and relate to each other. The less obvious moments of interaction and reaction between story lines is your next and more difficult job to identify. How can each story get the best out of itself and the others in the script as a whole? There are cross-over points in all stories and it is those junctions you will need to identify first. Next, plot in the parallel moments of each story line – when you allow your audience the opportunity to see and follow, your separate stories and spend time with each one.
SOME OF MY FAVOURITE BLOGS AT THE MOMENT:
DOMINIC CARVER (writer and Script Advice Writers Room member) tells us how to sell ourselves, (nicely!) and traverse the twisty road of writer commissions in his intelligent blog:
STEVEN RUSSELL (writer, director, SAWR member) and all round good egg, has written a sound and pithy myth-busting blog about the knotty problem of loglines; what they are, how to write a good one and what it will do for your script. Well worth a read.
GEORGE THE BLOGGING WRITER shows us how to navigate the tricky waters of writer land in her leaky canoe….(shamelessly self promoting here but she needs all the help she can get) https://yvonblog.wordpress.com/
STAGE 32 is an interesting website for writers keen on film and storytelling in general, and here, the formidable Signe Olynyk writes a really good blog about pitching and how to do it successfully – a skill most writers shy away from acquiring but it’s got to be done! https://www.stage32.com/blog/bones-pitching
PAUL CORNELL is an ex-colleague and a general all round good writer – specialises in writing Science Fiction and is rather good at that too….
STEVE TURNBULL – SAWR member and writer blogs here about 3 competitions well worth entering if you have the script ready and the deadlines work for you…https://adaddinsane.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/compete-this.html
Many of you will either know of, or be a member of SCRIPT ADVICE WRITERS ROOM on FACEBOOK, but if you haven’t yet joined, please do, it is a vibrant lively community of writers, trainers, learners, moaners, growers and doers and I would love to see you there! Here is the link again – so get clicking! https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=237330119115&ref=mf
I hope I can help you with your writing; be it a television script, short or full length film or screen play, treatment or outline, novel or radio play, I read and script edit them all and can definitely help improve yours. Drop me an email@ Yvonne.firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get working!
BYE FOR NOW AND HAPPY WRITING.
Yvonne Grace Script Advice May 2012