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Sunday, August 19, 2007
I certainly didn't invent this technique and I am sure a lot of people use it. Before I go into this process I want to back up and describe how I got to this point. As I said in the previous post there are loads of books out there on the craft of screenwriting. Believe me when I say I have probably read most of them. I think a lot of it was out of procrastination but some of it was to gleen little bits of information. I recommend having at least the basic overall story in your mind when reading these books because as you read something in the book it might spark an idea or direction you hadn't thought of. There are two books (not really books since I got them off the internet) that helped me the most.
The first of the two was THE EIGHT SEQUENCE STRUCTURE. I found that this book really helped in the overall structure of my story. It helped me keep the plot focused and it also put a 90 minute screenplay into 8 bite-sized chunks or as Chris Soth puts it: "mini-movies." Having worked in television animation for many years I got used to working/writing 11 minutes at a time, so his book was perfect for me. 8 eleven minute cartoons equals an 88 minute movie! This is not to say that each "mini-movie" is exactly 11 minutes long. A trick I realised was that if you make your first sequence the longest (it is the most important one since this is where you set up the plot of your movie and all of the main characters) and gradually make the subsequent sequences shorter you get a built-in pacing that becomes more frantic by the end of your movie. Chris' book is well written and easy to read. Again, with my story in mind, I took notes as I read, writing down any ideas that his chapters may have sparked.
The other "book" that I found the most helpful was THE HERO'S JOURNEY. We are all aware of Joseph Campbell's amazing work, but I found Kal Bashir's version very helpful and almost magical. Again, with story in mind (with help from Chris Soth), I was able to follow his "journey" of the hero and apply it to mine. Anywhere I was having trouble I found that this work almost always answered the call. I felt like I was cheating sometimes, like I was looking in the back of my math book for answers. But if you go through any great story you will find the same steps. And even though the steps are exactly the same, it is up to the writer (as well as the rest of the visionary team) to make them different, fresh and exciting.
Okay, now back to those index cards. Once I had my story figured out I set about putting them up on my big board. To help things I divided the board into eight equal parts (mini-movie sequences). On an index card I wrote down either a story point or scene heading or character action (usually to do with their introduction or arc) and placed them in order on the board until the board was full. I didn't put down any real detail, but if I came up with an interesting bit I just wrote it down in my notebook to save for the outline. I find that doing this technique allows me to look at the entire "movie" at once and also kind of see the pacing as well as the overall arcs of the characters. On the above picture (click it for a larger version) you will see that that is my entire movie. There are also holes where cards used to be. This is a picture of the board after I started refining the story. I will talk more about that in the next post. I hope this post was helpful in some way.