Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Before you begin plotting…

Yeah, yeah; I’m going on a bit more than I probably should. Nonetheless, they are some things that you need to consider. Before we go on, it should be noted that I’m assuming that you’re trying to do more than just a gag strip, BTW; although a gag strip requires its own kind of continuity, it’s an entirely different kind of continuity. It’s more a continuity of character and not disregarding what has been said more than A->B->C of a serial strip.

Also, you shouldn’t get on some sort of stupid artistic high horse that gag strips have no artistic merit and therefore shouldn’t be tried. A gag strip is somewhat harder in ways because humans look for patterns and try to do things in patterns; it’s thus easier for us to think in patterns and thus in terms of story arcs. A true gag strip, one that is nothing more than unassociated gags, is thus actually harder to do than a serial strip. Now, throw in that a decent gag strip will also have continuity and character development, but absolutely no plot development, and it’s actually harder to do. Keep that in mind next time that you read Penny Arcade and think that it’s easy…

At any rate, there are three things to keep in mind before you start plotting. These are:

1) The outline should adapt to the script, not the script be forced to adapt to the outline.

The first is to bear in mind that the script will quickly get away from your outline when you start writing; this is not only to be expected, but is a good thing. It shows that the script is a living breathing thing, and you need to let it flow rather than restrict it. Use your outline merely as a guide, and adapt it to the script rather than forcing the script to follow the outline.

Be aware that you will encounter issues when you are writing the script that was not foreseen by your outline. Something that looked really cool when you were outlining the script may not be as cool when you start writing it. Also, you may come up with a better solution to a problem, and hesitate to move away from your outline. Remember that the outline is just a guide, not a rule; it was made to be changed!

2) Kill your darlings without mercy.

When you write a script, you will of course write some really cool scene and then realize that it doesn’t fit the script. In fact, it may be the best scene that you’ve ever written. You may even be tempted to rewrite the script so that it fits the scene. Don’t. Delete it immediately or paste into a file for later review; no matter what, get that scene out of your script, and do so without regret or mercy.

The issue is that one scene should not define your script, and it may hard to live up to that one scene. Rather, a script needs to be a collection of scenes that go together, one leading to the next, which leads to the next, and so on. One scene, no matter how powerful and cool, will not make your script; you need a number of them. Therefore, don’t be afraid to cut the scene, and possibly go back and do something with it. At the same time, don’t feel that you have let someone down if you never use that scene or forget about it. Being a great writer sometimes means leaving something behind; dude, you’re a writer, not a marine (even if you are a marine; you’re a writer first, and a scene is not a wounded soldier).

3) Even [insert favorite writer] had an off day.

You’re allowed an off day, and you will have one. The words don’t flow, or that scene just isn’t working out right or whatever; you just can’t write. That’s cool; you can occasionally step away from the keyboard. After all, there are just some times when you need to party and forget the world you were living in.

However, don’t use it as an excuse to take long periods of time off. If you do, think long and hard if you’re a writer. Of course, if you do, you’re not really are you? After all, a real writer would fantasize about a long holiday from writing, think about someplace really, really fun, and then just smirk as he returned to keyboard. Being a writer is the unusual mentality of ignoring common sense and realizing that it’s the best thing you could do…

Hmm....guess it's time to look at plotting...

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