Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Big Picture: Why Size Matters in Screenwriting

A writer has to start somewhere.

Where you start is usually called a draft. And everyone knows what the finished thing should look like--a story or poem or novel or script or whatever.

But how you get from one end to the other is not so easy.

In the interest of demystifying the writing process, let's say you're writing lots of ideas to find the interesting ones.

Look at what you've written: look specifically at their duration. Some things last milliseconds and some can last for years.

  • Mary's heart skips a beat.
  • Mary wants to be a nurse.
Or I'll do a personal one.

  • For a moment, Ed wonders if he left the gas on.
  • Ed really really intends to clean his apartmet.
Okay. Neither pair is really visible.
But each of these invisible states has a duration. The first lasts a half a second. And the second could go on for YEARS.

The screenwriter must try to get somewhere between the two.

Why? Two reasons.
First, visibility.
Ultimately, everything the screenwriter invents must be acted out by actors and visible on a screen. No one, not Meryl Streep, can act "thinking of the number five." And if an actor tells you she can act "sad," she is a very bad actor indeed.