Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Stuck "In The Middle."

Good day to you.

Here's part two of my notes from the writersroom session last week...


When you're writing a script, you need to "hit the ground running". When readers are going through a script for the first time, they make a decision based on the first ten pages. This is because television isn't like cinema; if people lose interest they will simply turn over or turn off. Obviously the script has to be just as engaging after these first ten pages, but if you spend too long setting up the story, or introducing characters, people won't bother waiting to see what happens.

I attended another writer's seminar, not that long ago, that was taught by the successful playwright, Colin Teevan. He spoke about the same thing, and called it "the ticking clock". You shouldn't have a story that begins on page seven. It should already have started by page one! You need to find out where your "ticking clock" begins and ends, so that your story doesn't start too late or finish too soon.

The best thing to do is to start off "in the middle" of something, and show your characters in action. You can give backstory and character depth, but do it as the story moves, not before. Also, you should beware of doing too much backstory and exposition (explaining things). The audience is much more intelligent than they are often given credit for, and don't like to have everything spelled out to them.

To show you what I mean, here's a clip of the opening scene from "The Matrix"...

This is a great example of "hitting the ground running." We begin with a phonecall between two unknown people, and are simultaneously aware that another, separate party is running a trace on their call. In this first conversation, one of the characters talks about how they are going to kill someone, and the other talks about the potential importance of this person. Suddenly, they become suspicious of a trace and end the call, and we immediately see that the police have traced the call and are about to bust down a door. An incredible action sequence follows.

There has been no explanation, no backstory, you know nothing about any of the characters. Who are they? What are their intentions? How are they able to do these remarkable things? Why is the woman being hunted? Who were they talking about on the phone? The audience have been hooked right into what's going on. Straight away, you're "in the middle of something."

I hope you found some of that interesting/helpful. There'll be more from my notes on the writersroom seminar tomorrow.


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1 comment:

Cameron said...

Really interesting stuff. Blog readers are much the same as TV viewers I think (except your lucky if you have 10 lines to capture their continued attention). You're certainly not having any problems their so that bodes well for your screenwriting!