I’ve begun the outlining for “Untitled Horror Project,” which actually now has a title but I’ll hold off on what it is for a little while longer. I read the original source material, and while the script left a lot to be desired, as are most script from people who’ve only written one or two, the main story beats were certainly there. I’ve had some time to mill over what the story is all about and really start to get into how I wanted to approach it.
I’ve figured out my big beats. I’ve figured out who lives and dies. I’ve got a totally clear idea of the ending. I know all the characters, at least the main ones. It’s just a matter of how I want to tie them all together. So I started outlining. I’d get a few beats in, think of something new, and start over again. At one point I got so far that I had every beat from the start to the mid-point complete. But then I got a new idea and started all over. And I’ll keep doing this until I feel like I’ve got the story right.
Anyone who’s looked at my notes and outlines on the blog knows how much time I spend on them. I do ALL of my troubleshooting during the outline phase. I don’t want any surprises once I start writing. I want all the ins, all the outs, and all the what-have-yous figured out long before I write FADE IN.
I don’t think this is the method for everyone to use. Different people need different amounts and levels of outlining. I think a lot of it just goes back to my experience managing projects in the professional world. I’m not scared to experiment, or try new things, but I want all decisions made prior to actually beginning development. So I figure it’s only natural that I’d find myself gravitating toward that sort of creative process when screenwriting as well.
I’m not wasting my time when I start over on my outlines either. I’ll usually keep about 40-60 percent of what I had written previously. But while I’m going through my outlines I can already spot the weak parts. I know where pacing is starting to slow. Usually my restarts are the result of knowing a better way to bridge two major beats. Or a different way to approaching a story beat earlier, which will have implications on how other story beats play out later. But all in all, I will keep regressing until I feel like I’ve gotten it right. I’ll have to trust my gut on this, because in the past when I didn’t force it I’ve usually ended up must happier with the finished project.
On the flip side, I’ve taken a lot of the feedback from my review/critique/criticism of Served Cold on ScriptShadow to heart as I start to string together “Untitled Horror Project.” I’m looking at how I’m telling the story in regard to the relationships. While this is obviously a horror flick that is heavy on the thrills and light on the drama, I’m still convinced that one key relationship in this story is what everything should hinge around. And the more I dive into that research and brainstorming, the more I keep coming back to the relationship between the daughter, Kate, and her father, George. I’m pretty convinced this relationship IS the story, no matter what else happens between page 1 and 100. How these two deal with it, and how effective I am at getting their relationship across, will ultimately decide whether or not this story is a success or a failure.
Until next time, keep writing!