Personal techniques that prepare me before writing FADE IN:
We all have different formulas and strategies for turning out vague ideas into well structured plot lines before we start pecking away at the keys. Some are pretty common; the outline, the treatment, the character bios, the list goes on.
After two years of continuous screenwriting, Ive developed some techniques of my own for organizing my ideas that I think may be worth sharing. No matter your style, however, I think it’s important to try new systems and finding the ones that work for you.
I personally loath writing outlines as a means of preparation. I find them to be too rigid and limiting. To solve this problem, I adapted the typical outline format into a more fluid system that I’ve found works pretty well. What I do is think of all the plot points for my main story line. I then write them all on individual notecards and pin them to a giant cork board on my wall. As the story takes shape, I move the notecards around, messing up the order as needed to fit certain plot points into the story the best way possible. When the subplots are developed I color code each of them and write them on smaller note cards. I pin them where I think they belong in relation to the main plot, but as before I usually shuffle them around according to how the story flows in my mind. I highly recognize this technique. Its a great way to visualize the progression of your story, and if you ever get stuck anywhere in your writing you can just go stare at your wall and feel like your being productive…
In my last script, one that dealt with a lot of internal struggle, I was having a hard time expressing my character’s emotions on the page. In an effort to solve this problem I devised a pretty useful method for externalizing internal emotions and conflict. I made a four column chart. The Columns are; “Scene” “character” “emotion” “externalization.” Basically what I do is pin point what my characters are feeling in each scene and come up with a physical representation of that emotion. This cuts down significantly on on-the-nose dialogue and does a lot in terms of bringing your characters to life on the page. It’s not necessary for all scripts, but if you’re having trouble with expression of internal conflict I would recommend giving this a shot.
My most recent technique came at the recommendation of my professor. While trying to sustain conflict through your second act, it is common for your writing to plateau with a lack of progression. To solve this issue, my professor suggested looking at a script in 15 page increments and recognizing what changes in each segment. I took this idea and developed another chart. It consists of a column for each plot line. Within each 15-page segment I wrote what changes in the status of each plot line, and what actions demonstrate that change. This technique proved very beneficial in maintaining conflict, as well as making sure that none of the subplots died out, or lost relevancy to the main plot line.
So these are just a few of the ways I work out the story that is floating through my chaotic brain, before I try and develop it within the script. Again, everyone works differently, but I have definitely benefitted from experimentation with other writer’s methods, and I strongly suggest that everyone do the same.
I would love to hear some of your own techniques for preparing yourself for the writing phase.