Occupational hazards abound for the writer. Sitting at a desk all day, incessant use of reading glasses, fighting off the flurry of notifications our digital overlords have embedded on our phones, iPads, and desktop computers.
Exercise patterns have changed, there is now a daily bike ride to account for. I’m averaging 100 miles a week, that works out to ten hours off my writing time. Getting down on the floor for stretching is part of the deal. Add some juggling and then a series of handstand exercises and now you’re talking a thorough head to toe workout regime.
Food intake has been tightened up, cocktail hour has been sent on a sabbatical, and vast quantities of both still and sparking water have been tossed into the mix.
An offhand comment by an advanced cyclist friend I’ve gone down into the counting calories vortex of self-confrontation.
You might not know much about wrestling with 20,000 words that you are forming into what we commonly refer to as a screenplay, the one big thing I can report is that it is a good deal more challenging than the word total suggests.
Characters need to pop off the page, what they say and of course speaking in a style appropriate to who they are. Commander of an airbase speaks differently than the pilots under his command. Border Patrol agents, Russians, farmers, politicians, drunks, fetching Hispanic girlfriends— there’s a lot going on and it all has to be accounted for. Conceptualization plays an outsized role.
Imagining how you want it to look, the music you hear, the clothes your characters wear, the delivery of a line. Some characters blow their tops, others remain unflappable, pacing scenes, being sure to build in contrast, putting goodness into the villains, and weakness into your protagonists, it goes on and on all the variety of elements you’ll want to attend to.
If money is exchanged for a favor, we’ll want to resolve its influence. One character knows one thing, another only suspects they know, while another doesn’t believe it possible.
Tracking what one character knows and doesn’t know is part of a story. How a character will react, what they will do, what they can’t possibly do, all of this requires careful construction, and you may not violate the instruction manual that comes with the expectations the author sets.
I’ve had to rebuild the middle of my screenplay, this forced revisions to both the beginning and end, making sure that the events flow from introduction to the complications in the middle and finally the resolutions at the end.
What we can’t quite know is whether it works. Maybe it works for the screenwriter, but does it click for an audience? What I am attempting to do is to begin a story that captures the audience’s attention and then in each successive scene sustains the viewers interest without letup. You are trying to keep a viewer absorbed. If your mind begins to wander, if you catch an actor acting, a scene slowing, a misguided scene that knocks your attention off track, then the goal of keeping an audience riveted in your story begins to unravel. I keep imagining I’m so close to getting this screenplay finished. I’ll just add this or polish that, it won’t be too long now.
In fact that is truer than not, but then a script is getting picked over and polished until it’s produced. You are not so much finishing a script as pausing as you wait for the chance to collaborate with a team of producers, directors and performers who will provide their own talents to the project.
Intense bike rides help. You find out that you have a certain capacity to peddle a bike. You’ll find other riders who are faster, some that are slower, everyone ultimately completes their ride and must accept the results of their effort. Screenwriting is not much different.