Exploring other media options

Module twelve of my class focused mostly on two other areas of writing: plays and cartoons.

One of the main differences the course highlighted between books and plays is taking in to account the various costs associated with putting a production on, whether it’s a live play or a television script. Props, locations, special effects all add up, so while writing scripts, it’s important to look critically and see if everything you show is necessary, or if you can elude to an event with just as much success as showing it.

Another difference is dialogue. Though the words characters use are important in any kind of writing, as the course author’s point out, in a script, you don’t have the luxury of getting inside a character’s head. Thus, every thought and feeling that is crucial to the story must be expressed. This also means your characters must give plenty of non-verbal cues to other characters. Bob won’t know Jill is sad unless she sighs several times in front of him or has a pained look on her face. These non-verbals are what make your characters really come alive.

Mostly, this module outlined what to expect, should you get your foot in the script-writing door. It covered, briefly, agents, fees, copyrights, production choices, script changes and even casting choices, though as a beginner, not all of these will be applicable.

It did contain a few tips on the actual writing, which I found interesting, having begun, many moons ago, a script for a musical. It’s been on my to-do list for a while, so perhaps some of these tips will help me accomplish it.

First, the authors suggest writing detailed descriptions for each character (which of course means knowing each character you’ll need in your script. I guess I just found my starting point.). This will help you get to know your character before you start writing. The idea is that you won’t get bogged down trying to rationalize behaviors or motivations, you’ll know who your character is and how they would behave, and it will flow more naturally.

Next, you should outline everything, down to what needs to happen in each line of dialogue. We’re mostly all familiar with acts and scenes within plays, but within each scene are segments, lines that make up a group, essentially, and beats, which are the individual lines. The authors suggest outlining your play beat by beat, line by line, before writing any actual dialogue. Why? Because we get attached to the perfect things we right on the first go, and we are loath to change anything.

In short, because you don’t have the luxury of descriptions or taking a look inside someone’s thought process (though we do have monologues, which can accomplish nearly the same, in the right situation), script writing takes a more full immersion into the characters and the story. Where, to a degree, your novel can be a journey of discovering things about your character and seeing where they end up, a script requires some more thorough planning. Each word is important, and needs to move along the plot, or give insight into the character. There are fewer words one can afford to waste.

So, perhaps this summer, I will make a point to do some outlining for my script (not really a children’s play, but, very little about this course is strictly regarding children’s writing anyway). We’ll see what I’ve got when the July dust settles.

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