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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Monday, July 04, 2005

How Do You Start?

Some people are really killed by the open. Can't get past it. So much to say, but not sure what the first thing is that they should say. Well, it is CINEMA, moving pictures, think visually. What image thrills your character, or defines your character, or defines their world, or surprises your viewer, but makes sense to your characters? These questions all inspire many ways to start - and guess what - they would all be correct. One will speak to you - but it should be visual, connected to the character or their world, and have an aspect of the unexpected.

How do you do that, by the way? Introduce the unexpected? I hate when people say things like that and then sign off. Okay - the unexpected: it's easy. This is linked to the essence of good writing, and I believe a basic theory of successful writing. Unresolved tension. I'll be writing about this a lot. The best writing sets up a familiar subject, system, or character, and then begins to build tension. And then - guess what - does NOT resolve it for the length of the story.

This can start with an inappropriate item in a scene, inappropriate behavior, immediate conflict with your characters, etc. There are many ways to build tension. And it's unexpected if it comes from left field, an unexpected item appears, or if problems start quickly. Don't wait until the end of act one, you know? Get busy early. My favorite thing to do by the way, get the tension going immediately. So that's what I mean by the unexpected.

As to the idea of unresolved tension - this is CRUCIAL to be successful in the art of writing.

The key to success in long form drama - is MAINTAINING unresolved tension. Don't resolve it early. Many people will want to because unresolved tension is uncomfortable. Or some idiot told them in a writing class that every scene has a beginning, middle and end, so they'll resolve the tension at the end of each scene. Guess what. Don't. Unresolved tensions is what makes a page turner.

You start immediately in a dangerous life, or after a short build of a safe life, by creating a dissonant energy, like a minor chord in music. Something is wrong. Your character has a problem. And following my rule, things will then get bad for the character and after that, make the problems a lot worse. When they're crushed at the end of act two, and have really LOST something, they learn what they need to do to resolve the tension. They bring this new energy to the story, duke it out - either verbally or physically, and finally resolve the tension.

And boy will that then feel good. Because you resolved the tension on page 110, an not page 10.

Start writing.


Blogger The Moviequill said...

where I make the most changes in my script is the beginning. I tend to keep pushing the bulk of the story down and toss in new beginnings. I wonder if one day my denouement will have once been my opening scene. Great stuff on your blog, love reading tips n tricks.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005  

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