Monday, August 24, 2009

A Novel Script?

Hooray for...

The last Friday workshop I planned to attend was How to Start Your Novel: The Beginning, presented by Megan Chance. Since I don't have a novel, or any other book project at this time, I thought "The Beginning" would be a good place to start.
Unfortunately the Hilton's "Orcas B" Room was packed to standing-room-only. Since I didn't feel like standing for an hour & a half I ventured off to find another suitable seminar. Flipping through the Faces Of Writing brochure, I came across the workshop From Novel to Script listed under the "Screenwriting Track." Since my YouTube shows could be defined as "movies," albiet in the broadest sense of the word, I thought I'd give this a try.
I'm glad I did.
Alia Yunis, author of her debut novel The Night Counter, presented this workshop which focused on what constitutes a screenplay. Because a screenplay will be turned into a visual-oriented form of entertainment large parts of a novel must be minimized, or left out altogether, in order to keep the audience from leaving before the ending credits.

Here are a few key differences we discussed in the seminar:

A screenplay is very structured and formulaic.

A screenplay should have a minimum number of subplots.

A novel can jump from one point-of-view (POV) to another, whereas a screenplay must be from 1 POV.

Screenplays should avoid 1st-person voice-over narration. There are of course exceptions to this, A Christmas Story being one of them.

Screenplays should contain 5 key elements:

1. Plot
2. Theme
3. Characters
4. Dialogue
5. Pacing

Note: Most first-time scripts fall short on #3, often relying too much on special effects wizardry.
Screenplay length should be no more than 100-110 pages for comedies and 120 for other genres.

The traditional 3-Act Play is the standard format for a screenplay.

1st Act:

The set-up takes place between pages 1-10 (double-spaced).

The Inciting Incident, that is the catalyst that spurs the protagonist to action takes place on page 10.

This act continues until page 30 where the Turning Point is reached--the journey's begun and the hero cannot turn back.

Act 2:

Takes place between pages 30 to 90.
The Midpoint, which is reached on page 60 represents a significant shift in the action.
The pacing of the story is very important here.

Act 3:
The fastest part of the script pacing-wise, should take place here between pages 90 to 120.
There are several other elements to blend into each act:
The protagonist wants 1 thing (to get the girl, etc).
Each scene should be about 5 pages in length and something should happen to the main character in each of these scenes.
The protagonist should also have a love-interest and sidekick to make him more 3-dimensional.
Since the protagonist wasn't "born yesterday" he should have a backstory, but it must be presented visually.
Dialogue is where most first-time screenwriters get into trouble. Avoid OTN, or "on-the-nose" dialogue which is too obvious. Dialogue must be subtle, not too obvious and it must serve a purpose.
The above guidelines were deciphered from the notes I scribbled down during this workshop. Here's Alia's advice taken directly from a post on her blog:

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