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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.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Let the work reveal itself

You've heard this before, but you've got to be in love with the process, as well as the product.

After I get a great idea, and sit down with my outline and figure out exactly what I'm going to do, that's when I really discover how little I know about my own idea.

Happens to me, anyway, just about every time.

Interestingly, my structure usually stays pretty much the same, usually 75%. But as the interior life of the piece goes from dough to diamonds - that's where the real brutality lies.

Because the only way I can let my idea out into the world is to write it out, over and over, until things start happening i never thought of.

I throw away first drafts and first passes as motivations that seemed to make sense in an outline don't play in scenes. Characters that were just glimpses of an idea, suddenly talk with more authority than my lead.

I used to take this as clear cut evidence that I had no idea what I was doing.

Now I realize that it's more like I'm being done to.

The way a seed grows from the inside out, so I find I have to write from the inside out, in that if I'm not wholly in my character's voice, or thoughts, it all pales anyway.

And something cool plotwise that worked mindfully in the outline - may not make sense once a character locks in tighter than I expected.

That's how I know I'm writing something worth while. When it begins to reveal an emotional solidity, an undeniable reality that seems as real as memory.

Let the work reveal itself even if it shies from away from first thoughts. It may be leading you to it's best self.

If you're re-writing, and are assigned to keep your structure, find this in the inner landscape of the characters. Let their inner lives reveal things that make the spaces you are in make a deeper sense in their story.

Remember how loss connects us to a place, fills us with doubt, haunts our lives, creates the need for redemption or rebirth.

How does that reveal itself in your story?


Blogger Dante Kleinberg said...

Craziest deviation from an outline is when I was re-writing my novel, starting from nothing again as if it were the first time I wrote it, and ended up cutting out a character only seconds before his big introduction scene. There I was, right about to type his name, when I realized his function to the overall plot could be done simpler and easier interally within the protagonist.

That was nuts. That's when I realized all bets were off.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Dante: Great story! Of course one of my favorites is M. Night Shyamalan telling that it was on his 14tth (?) draft of the Sixth Sense that he realized it would be better if the psychologist were already dead and a ghost.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006  
Blogger wcdixon said...

Excellent post and welcome back...sorry about your computer mishaps...

Thursday, September 21, 2006  
Blogger Mystery Man said...

Great post. You and I are SO different. Hehehe... My writing's never been exploratory. There's nothing wrong with that. I just prefer to know where I'm going. So, let's see, first I tinker endlessly with an outline, create character development sheets, research, work on the outline some more, more research, develop the voice of the characters in the character development sheet, write out all the scenes, add characters, and then add dialogue.

That's such a routine for me now, I don't know any other way of doing it.

Loved the comment about loss and rebirth.


Saturday, September 23, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Mystery: yes, everyone has their process. I've done both - though never go too deep into research, perhaps because I've never written anything historical that needed exact facts. Otherwise my experience in the research of characters has been that as definite as my dossier on them may be, I inevitably find they change in the script and become their own thing, requiring adjustments to their history and perhaps even the way they talk. So I tend to beat out structure (where we are the same) - get a sense of characters energies and needs - and just start writing.

Saturday, September 23, 2006  
Blogger Chesher Cat said...

My best reveals come when I get out of the way. When I've developed the story to the point where the characters tell me where they need to go. And when I let them lead they give me little nuggets I hadn't thought of that add layers and richness to the story. And an extra shot of authenticity.

Saturday, September 23, 2006  

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