Posted by: steveonfilm | September 8, 2010

Tee It Up

I’ve had an increase in reader e-mail lately telling me their starting a film class, or a screenwriting class, or some other sort of endeavor that will result in them writing either a partial or full length screenplay. So I’ve decided to get a bit more active about posting my day to day progress with my next project. I figured today is as good as any day to start.

Right now all I’ve got is an idea: “Two rich guys decide to kidnap a young girl and force her mother to do something in order to get her back.”

I’ve left things wide open with that description, and there’s a good reason for that… I have no idea how I want to end it.

I’m a firm believer that before you can build a story, you need to know how it ends. You don’t have to know the events that lead up to the ending, but you need to know that very last scene or shot. And only when you know that, can you start to build everything up to that point.

The creators of LOST have said that they knew the final shot of the show would be Jack closing his eyes. They didn’t know how they’d get to that point, but they know that’s how it would end. They have a definitive point to build toward. A light at the end of the tunnel. And it was there from the get go.

When I started with The Collector, I knew that the final scene was going to be a picnic with Ira, Fadi, and Catherine. I didn’t know how I was going to get there. I just knew that’s how everything was going to end.

My challenge right now is figuring out how this next project will end. Is it going to be happy? Will it be sad? A triumph? Or a tragedy? Do I know who will be in it? Will it have any sort of significance? Or will it just be a bookend on a journey the protagonist has undertaken?

These are the types of questions I’ll think about and work through. The idea isn’t to have something definitive, but a concept on how things will end. That ending can change once I start to build the story. Maybe it will move up. Maybe it will turn into a plot point, and I’ll come up with a new ending. It’s not really important. What’s important is setting a finish line, a goal post, an end zone, something that will indicate to me where the objective lies.

This might not be something that works for you. Every screenwriter has to come up with their own method. Their own little process that they need to move along. But in my experience, most of the “writer’s block” that I’ve run into and other people I know have run into is not knowing where to take their story because they don’t know how it ends. So if you’ve having a problem plotting out how your story will go, give some thought into whether or not you know how it will end. And if you don’t know, take some time to think about it and figure it out.

Screenwriting is a learning process. There is no one way to do it. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new methods and techniques. Force yourself to write something outside of your element. If you’re an action movie type of person, try your hand at a romantic comedy or hard drama. If you’re a comedy writer, try some sci-fi. Working on something outside of what you’re used to forces you to think in a new way, and you’ll likely end up learning something new about yourself and how you write. Then, when you come back to your comfort zone, you’ll be able to take what you learned and be that much better.

Remember, none of us are professionals here. We’re doing this for fun, and to get better at our craft. A golfer doesn’t get better playing the same par 3 golf course over and over. They have to take on new and harder courses, forcing themselves to adapt and learn new things. You’re never going to be a pro-soccer player if all you do is play against the Under 12 youth league teams. Challenge yourself, and see what happens.

For now, my challenge is figuring out how this story will end. And until I do that, I can’t move on. I’ll check in tomorrow with some ideas on what I might do. But for the time being, it’ll all likely just be some brainstorming.

Until next time, keep writing!
-Steve

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