Monday, November 24, 2008

The Writing Process... A Mystery

I was recently asked how Dan and I write screenplays together. "Do you just sit down and write?" she asked. Well, yes and no.

Yesterday we started working on yet another zany comedy. I know, we just finished a screenplay last week but we enjoy having a project in process. It's fun for us, not merely "work." We write-a-holics feel empty without a project going; two or three is even better. 

We'd had the concept for the new one sometime last year. Brief notes were tucked in a file called "script ideas." Lots of things trigger ideas. Often life itself with its challenges, quirks and craziness. Airspac'd, about the trials and tribulations of today's air travel was sparked by, yes, flights from hell. 

So we went down to AJ's, our favorite pub, with folder and notebook in hand. AJ's was quiet on a Sunday afternoon. We took a wooden booth, ordered beers and cups of homemade chili and got to work. 

I read over our old notes. Hmmm. Some of it it didn't resonate any more. What were we thinking? The main arc of the story was OK. We just needed all the details. We sat there for a few minutes staring at each other. Inspiration had left the building. 

We decided to focus on identifying our main characters. Who are they? What happens to them? How do they intersect? After a couple of hours brainstorming we had them nailed down, names and life situations included. Along the way we also created tangental characters, decided how to open the movie and we had several ideas for plot complications. All scrawled in cryptic handwritten notes. 

All our works start the same way. A pile of notes and half-formed ideas swirling in our heads. We'll probably draft up the first few scenes on the computer, then go back to brainstorming. Sometimes the process of actually writing description, action and dialogue sparks ideas for the next scenes. The characters come alive and start to "speak." 

It continues to amaze me that out of such meager beginnings, a full-fledged, 120 page plus screenplay will eventually emerge. It can't be forced yet you have to be disciplined. Once underway, it simmers in the back of your mind constantly. Often we wake up with ideas. 

It's not all pleasure. Sometimes we're stuck. Sometimes we argue. We have different visions for how things should go. We hammer them out and often the result is better for it. 

Check in with us in two or three months. With any luck, we'll have another funny, entertaining work ready to shop around.

No comments: