Thursday, April 27, 2017

Trying something new



KIM, in her late 30s, sits at a cluttered desk in a guest bedroom/office space and types furiously on her laptop. She stops and addresses the audience.

I'm trying to write a screenplay.
If it isn't obvious, I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

There are shouts and the sound of children squealing, their feet scampering across the floor, and then the sound of something crashing. Kim looks up at the ceiling.

That can't be good. I'll be right back.

She jumps from her chair and hustles upstairs.


Hey, folks. It's KGG. In case you haven't noticed, this little snippet is my attempt at screenwriting. Pretty pathetic, right? Well, this scene, yeah, if you can call it that. But not, trying a new format.

I've been itching to learn screenwriting. Not because I have a great idea for a film. [I wish I could back in time and tell my 22-year-old self to be adventurous and move to LA and work in TV, but that ship has long sailed.] But because I want to learn something new. To challenge myself in a way that is different from novel writing. To vary my routine and my work. Some authors might try a new genre, I'm going to try a new medium.

For Hanukkah, I got Syd Field's Screenplay: The Foundation of Screenwriting and The Screenwriter's Workbook, two must-have tomes. I was always a writer, but I had to teach myself story craft. I've spent years (still am) reading books on plot, characterization, world-building. No different with screenwriting. Would I love to take a screenwriting class? Yes! Can I afford to do so right now? No. So, right now I'm analyzing scripts and reading books and listening to the Writers Panel podcast. I do have an idea for a television show that would be fun to work on in between novel projects. In the meantime, I sort of walk around narrating things like in a screenplay. "Kim pushes the grocery cart through the store. She picks up a box of cereal, reads the ingredients, grimaces, puts it back on the shelf, and continues down the aisle just as a young boy comes running around the corner, knocking over a display of Corn Pops."

It's not Scorsese, people.

Some may be wondering why I'm bothering. I mean, I have limited time: shouldn't my focus be on novel writing? Except, screenwriting does inform my novel writing. Reading the Veronica Mars pilot script reminds me that I should incorporate more snappy dialogue into my scenes. Studying Don Draper's mannerisms tells me that my characters need more personality quirks to make them real. Studying Mickey Milkovich's speech in Shameless teaches me to build characters with a distinct way of talking. And goddammit, use props. I am always struggling on what people should do with their hands while they're having a discussion.

I do plan on writing a screenplay of my TV pilot. One day. It's a learning curve, but I plan to tackle it.

Plenty of novelists write screenplays. Do you?


Carrie Beckort said...

I've not tried writing screenplays. Although, my novel always plays out in my mind like I'm watching a movie. I 'study it' through visualization and then write it out. That has helped me a bit with some of the things you mention like mannerisms. Although, I know I could do better. It sounds like the process of writing a screenplay is a great way to learn to focus more on those details. Thanks for the post!

Brenda St John Brown said...

Oh, come back and let us know how you get on! I think there's a great benefit to incorporating what you learn from screenwriting into your novel writing -- especially for the "what to do with your hands" problem and show vs tell.

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