Emphasize the Drama

I notice I’ve written this on my students’ short film scripts a lot this week. Blame them for my radio silence, as they suck up a ton of time. Anyway.

One thing several of them seem to do (besides ignoring my wise counsel a lot of the time) is skate past the most interesting, critical moment in the story.

I’ve been working with them all semester to get their stories right, format right, cutting boring stuff, etc. Now, their scripts are in good shape and I find myself pushing them to find the real meaning in their script. “How can you now put something of yourself into this story?” “How can you make it be about something, something that matters?” “How can you make it more emotional?”

I suggest they, and you, go to the points in the story where important things happen (like the end) and see what you can do to wedge in more intensity. More emotion. More conflict.

Look at your climactic scene and see where a teacher would write MORE in red pen.

Is there more dialogue to be added between the hero and opponent? Something that relates to the core idea of your story?

What from your own life and experience can you work into those characters?

Are you fully exploring the relationships between the characters? This will lead to an enormous amount of depth. Just because you’ve done nine drafts doesn’t mean you can’t figure out more about your characters and how they relate to each other and the core idea of your story. Write their names down on a piece of paper. Good guys on one side. Bad guys on the other. Draw arrows from every character to every other character. See if there are connections to be made that you have, up to now, ignored. Who might have interaction with someone you didn’t expect, and can that help your story?

Is it as INTENSE as possible?

How can you make the scene WORSE for the character? What can you do to amp up the agony for everyone in the scene? What can you do to amp up the joy?

Rewriting is all about questions.
What questions do you ask the actors who are playing the characters?
What questions might the reader ask you?
What things might be better left unsaid? Turn a line of dialogue into a look. Actors love it when you cut their dialogue as it gives them something to do with their faces.

So.

Make sure, when you are looking at an important scene, that you have squeezed each moment and each character dry before you feel it’s time to move on.

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2 Comments

Filed under character, Good Writing, Rewriting, Screenwriting

2 responses to “Emphasize the Drama

  1. Josh

    Speaking of short films… How long should a proper short film be and how should you structure it in comparison to an actual full length screenplay?
    Thank You! Missed your posts!

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Good question little Grasshopper. The problem with shorts and students, anyway, is that they want to make a feature and decide to cram it into a ten minute space. Ten minutes or less is the sweet spot, as then you’re able to get 6 movies in a film festival hour. Under fifteen for sure. Then again, there’s THE ACCOUNTANT which is c. 35 minutes and won an Academy Award, so what do I know. Basically, take the most intense incident in that character’s life and dramatize it. Forget all that came before. Forget all that comes after. We see the film and know that this person’s life will be forever different.

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