Still moving forward with Parallel, slightly edging bit by bit after resetting the whole thing back to zero. It has more meat to the bones now. It still gets to the point fairly quickly and I’m hoping it doesn’t ignite too quickly and burn out before it needs to. I haven’t had a chance to work on it for a long stretch yet but just doing odd bits here and there means that I’m onto fifteen pages already. It’s a decent start even if I’m getting that nagging ‘this is probably going to be crap’ voice in the head. Initially they’ll be right but I cannot stress the importance of having something down on paper/hard drive that you can work on.
I’m also toying with the idea of pitching Order For Burning again to see if anybody wants to make a film about Scottish witch burnings this time around. It’s been about a year since I finished that script (possibly eighteen months now I think about it) so enough water has gone under that bridge for it to be viable again. It’ll go someway to satisfying the need to get work out there and read by others since Parallel isn’t anywhere near that condition yet.
Anyway, here’s Texture with a poem that’s very apt for this situation…
When I’m planning scripts one of the main things I get paranoid about is making sure something is happening in each scene. It might be my lack of confidence in just having conversations between each character but there’s always the nagging need to have some kind of threat. I’m currently looking at the complete scene by scene of Parallel and getting worried that some parts are just conversation. Act one is establish paradigm, act two is breaking it and act three is resolving it but making it different to the start. That’s the classic Hollywood way.
I was watching the Studio Ghibli classic ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ for the first time last week and I loved it (as did my nine year old son). What struck me was that not a great deal actually happens in the hour and a half long film. There’s also a lot of plot points that aren’t explained fully in any way.
Two girls move into a new family home alongside their father. Their mother is absent as she’s sick in hospital. What disease has struck her down remains a mystery for the entire film. The house they now live in looks haunted and they discover soot sprites almost as soon as they arrive.
Whilst the older girl is at school the younger discovers two small creatures in the garden. One is like a small rodent and the other is a smaller, ghostly version of the same thing. Why one of them is a spirit is not explained. She follows these creatures into woodland when she discovers Totoro, a much bigger version of the creature who doesn’t talk and seems to like sleeping.
Usually, if this were a Western film, there would be some form of danger straight away. Totoro would be under threat somehow, the local village would see him as some kind of ghostly monster. The family would stand in front of the tree defending their friend. Instead, not much really happens until they receive a telegram from the hospital and the family all try to make it there in time. Totoro conjures an imaginary bus which is shaped like a cat to get the girls there in time to they can deliver corn on the cob (no, really). You never find out of the Mother recovers or if she manages to join the rest of her family in the new home.
Totoro seems like a wistful dream in which events move along at a steady pace only really to pick up for the last fifteen minutes. I imagine a scenario if them doing a Western remake and a producer tearing his hair out asking where the danger is and how all this resolves. As stated before, this doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the film but it does make me think about how I lay out my scripts. Do I, as a writer, back away from the power of human relationships?
Parallel currently sits at about twenty pages and I’ve looked at it a couple of times now. I would have loved to have just pressed on with it and I always tell others about the need to forget about how bad you might think your script is and just finish it. The current incarnation though has enabled me to see how the idea would play out and it isn’t that great. I’m tempted to rip it up and start again. Writing anymore right now in this current state would seem to be like building on dodgy foundations just to get a house finished. Pretty soon it’ll fall down completely, probably before you’ve moved in.
I had a substantial email exchange with Jsquared who had a look over what I had so far. She came up with a fantastic point by mentioning she wasn’t too hot on the setting being space. Most science fiction films she’d had seen had featured outer space and she was pretty tired of it. Perhaps she’s right.
So maybe I’ll change the setting to underwater. This group have been placed deep down in the ocean (for reasons I have yet to work out). The shuttle of this version is replaced by a mini submarine which doesn’t cause any great trouble in rewrites. Also, the visual of water slowly dripping in through cracks in the station as it slowly disintegrates is far better than it just losing air.
This also means I’m getting a Bioshock vibe off it and it’s fine by me.
My old laptop was rocking Windows Vista as I’d never bothered to upgrade it. It had reached a new level of clunky, often collapsing in on itself and giving me the blue screen of death. The barrage of ‘this software is no longer supported’ kept coming up like the cockroaches surviving the nuke. I backed up the stuff I needed (surprisingly little actually) before cleaning out the hardware and retiring the old girl to the hills. A short drive out to the retail park meant I could pick up a new laptop running something a little more up to date and quicker. My scripts made the jump across to the newer version of Celtx.
Whilst it’s good to have a new piece of tech to hand I’ve found myself trying to avoid staring at my screen wondering what to write next by returning to notebook for a while. You may recall a few weeks ago I mentioned a text adventure game that I’m trying to get working. After many attempts at trying to write it on software I gave up and bought a small notepad. After writing page numbers in the corners I now have a prototype, physical booklet which kind of works as a demo/introduction to the whole thing. It’s complete with small diagrams as well. Sometimes it’s really good to just get down to writing without formatting and having constant pop ups disturbing the process at hand.
Now to do the same thing working out the rest of Parallel.
The script for ‘Parallel’ has stayed still for the last couple of days. Around the twenty five minute mark we’ve had the reveal that our main scientist’s hated work colleague is both back at base on Earth (as he arrives there within the first few moments of the film) but also up in the station as well due to the split through time. It’s hit something of a roadblock in that it’s hard to just have a movie about two people arguing in a space station. I admit this is far better that two people getting along inside a space station but you catch my drift. Everything seems to a little bit motionless right now
This was going to be the point where I wrote about what I was going to do about that problem, how I was going to raise up this script and drag it kicking and screaming into the light. All this seems irrelevant at the moment as it’s all just talk. I have ideas about it indeed but the pace is disturbing me right now. Not so much the pace of the story but more my progress in getting it down on paper. I’m frustrated that I’m writing in another vacuum, unsure as to if any of this effort will be worth it in the long run. In an ideal world I’d have somebody sat next to me reading every bit saying ‘Yeah, seems worthwhile to me’ at regular intervals but that’s not really going to happen.
There are two feature scripts in the drawer. I spent the bulk of a year writing ‘Order For Burning’ and about the same writing ‘Seven Lucky Stars’ but they didn’t go much further forward that pages right now. I get a buzz from people reading my stuff, any writer does, yet getting through the down times when that’s not happening is tough.
The writing during the daylight hours thing seems to be working as another good chunk of the script went down today. I’m actually belting through it only consulting my hand written notes afterwards. I had sketched up a really loose scene by scene but it seems to be falling to the wayside by just going with what seems natural to move onto once the previous one ends.
It’s a forced mess indeed and there’s massive gaping holes to plug once I’m done with the first run through. The first big concern is that there’s no clear reason as to why the hell they’re up there in the first place. There’s a station, it has some plants on it and that’s about it. It’s going to help a lot once I’ve worked that bit out. Secondly I’m still thinking through stuff for the main character to do. She’s stuck in a space station alone but what exactly can she physically do to help her situation? It’s a tough one at the start as, bar the radio conversations she’s secretly having with the one person back home who believes that her story is true, she really doesn’t get that much to interact with until it’s revealed that there’s a double of the other bloke on board as well. The important thing at the moment though is to plow on.
More progress, more pages. Working on the script on my days off and aiming to get at least four or five pages done seems to work well. It sure beats doing a full day at work, coming home, having dinner, getting cleaned up, getting my son to bed and then starting to write. This usually means it’s around 9:30pm and I’m starting to get tired. This usually means more blank staring and very little getting done. At least if I’ve done a few pages during the daylight hours I feel no guilt playing Grand Theft Auto in the evening.
The other piece of news today is an advert that dropped in via my email subscriptions. Somebody is looking for a writer to work on a feature script about witches with attention to historical detail. I’ve got in touch and told them about writing Order For Burning. We’ll see how this one goes.
In all honesty it’s probably been the best day of script writing I’ve had in a long while. I had the house to myself for a few hours after dropping my Son off at school, This helps when I get up and read stuff out aloud to check pacing without coming across as a lunatic. I had intended to be at my desk just after 9am but ‘stuff’ got in the way. I needed to go to the supermarket for apple and blackcurrant smoothie and I had a strong desire to buy chocolate on the way home. It might have eaten into the time a bit but it did mean that I’d left the house for a bit today which I think actually helped in the long run. The weather has been unusually warm and sunny for Scotland.
The script itself seems to have hit the ‘settling point’. When you’ve given all the characters names and introduced them all so you can just get on with the story. The story itself is a little bit incoherent right now and I’m asking question if it as I go along.
For example I need to find a reason why they were in space in the first place. They’ve made all the effort to build a station and send it up there but what exactly were they going to find/do whilst they were all there? Whilst the bulk of this is well out of the way by the time the story begins it’s important to lay it down for the opportunity to call back to it later.
I’m about fifteen minutes into the script, the rest runs in real time as the next hour and a half is spent trying to get back to Earth. At least there’s chocolate in the house now though.
A question for you all, at what point does a story start?
I’m not looking for ‘When I start writing’ more thinking about what point do you tend to jump into the plot and start the actual story. Is it to do with the current sci fi script? Oh yeah, it’s everything to do with the sci fi script. The main reason being that I reckon I might have gone in too late.
The intro with the penultimate scientist getting off the station and arriving back home on Earth works well enough. There’s a moment of few of tension as the shuttle makes its way through the atmosphere. As an introduction it’s not bad, there’s hopefully a sense of wondering what the mission is and getting across the rather low budget nature of this space project. Our remaining scientist will be on her own for the few scenes until time lines start to split and the guy she thought was back on Earth is still on the ship (even though another time line version of him has made it to Earth). The film hinges on the fact they really didn’t like each other during the whole experience so she’s rather glad to be rid of him in the film’s opening.
The problem is though that we never see them argue in the opening, they’re completely separate. Is it worth, I wonder, showing a little bit beforehand to establish their relationship? Or does this just make for a really dull opening few scenes?
I’m writing the first few sections of the new science fiction script (the one with the gin drinker). A few pages in I’m thinking about getting this whole idea to stretch over ninety minutes. At the moment the opening seems just loaded with conversations, mostly doling out various bit of plots.
I need something physical to happen during all of this otherwise it’s just far too loaded with dialogue. The opening five minutes are pretty much just a telephone conversation in space.
I just need to grind it out.