Posted by: steveonfilm | June 11, 2010

Legos and Screenplays

What do Legos and screenplays have in common? Until you put all the parts together you don’t have anything useful.

I’ve been working on two outlines for a few weeks now. One is an outline for a re-write of Bystander. I’ve posted some of that up. The other is for a project that popped into my head at least a year or two ago. I tinkered with it a bit, and then put it aside, moving on to other projects including “Served Cold” and “Pride is Forever.”

But something about the idea kept calling me back. It had been sitting in the back of my head. Growing. Evolving. Changing. It wasn’t until recently that I was ready to let it out.

I had some bits and pieces of the story. A few major beats. I knew the beginning and the end. But that was it. I didn’t have enough pieces to put together a screenplay. And none of what I had was strong enough to stand on it’s own. I needed to get more pieces. Put more things into the story.

I took a step back. I wanted to define what the story was really about from a very high level. And I didn’t move on until I did that:

“A man regrets the life he’s chosen to live. After a mysterious series of events he’s given the chance to do things differently.”

Now… that sounds a bit generic to the outsider, but remember, I wrote this for me. A lot of those words cary deeper meaning than what they say at face value.

With a high level understanding of what my story was about, I started to develop the premise “A man regrets the life he’s chosen to live.” Who was this man? Where was he from? What was his life like? What decisions has he regretted? Does he have a family? A wife? A child? How do they react to him? What is his relationship like with them? Is he honest? What are his flaws?

As I started to develop this character, and take him from a vague idea to a fully fleshed out person, the pieces I had been looking for started to come into play. Before long I had enough pieces to craft together a first act. To introduce this character, his life, his flaws, and start him on the path that will be the rest of the story.

I then moved on to the “mysterious series of events.” I played with this for a while. Moving ideas around. Walking through scenarios. Soon I realized that in order to put together the journey, which is what these events were, I needed to have a clear goal.

Since I already knew the ending of the story, I started from there and worked backward. I pieced together the resolution. The arc. I knew the choice this man would make, and how it would effect his life. I figured out the events around that choice. The immediate beats leading up to it. Before long I had enough pieces to put together a third act.

With the beginning and the end in place, I went back to the journey and connected the dots. I had a clear direction. It was easier to move things around. To create events and put them into play. To build everything toward the final act.

And after all of that, I took a look at the pieces I had in place and realized I had enough for a screenplay.

The title is “The Debt Collector,” and I’ll be posting more about it in the coming days.

Until next time, keep writing!
-Steve

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