The Truth About Writing
The truth about writing is that it’s absolutely the hardest part of the process. It’s not the writing itself. That part pretty much happens if I sit down, put the laptop on my lap, start the Arcade Fire album playing, and stare at the screen long enough. I’ll type a little, delete a little, type something a little different, and slowly push, push, push the story forward. In fact, it comes pretty easily once I figure out the entrance point to a scene. I know what the characters all want and I know the kinds of things they say, so I just have to make sure that each scene has an objective and that I meet that before moving to the next scene. And that there’s at least one or two things that interest me in a scene outside of meeting that objective. Funny lines or character moments or a cool or captivating sequence. TANGENT!
As I was saying, the writing itself isn’t the hard part, it’s the road to the writing. Actually sitting down and unpacking the laptop instead of finding excuses not to do it. It’s the only part of the process without any raw materials. You don’t have a shot to composite VFX into, or raw footage that needs editing, or sound files that need to be synced to footage, or shot list from which to check off a shot at a time, or a script on which to shot list, all you have are some ideas for scenes, moments, beats, and lines that have been sitting in your head. That’s so doggone intangible. And making sense and order out of it seems like so much work.
I think this is what most outlining is about. The more tools and guidelines you have before you start typing, the less intimidating the blinking cursor on a blank screen is going to be. At least you have a notecard telling you where the story starts and then what the next scene is, and the next, and the next. All the notecarding and outlining also serves as a nice procrastination tool that feels like momentum without actually having to type anything concrete. And it’s pivotal part if working with someone else. If a story is being shaped by two people you need to know all the scenes, their objectives, and order before starting out. Then you can pretty much hop scene to scene fleshing them out.
For PoPS, I pretty much just get the two or three storylines up and running. I know where the characters motivating the A-story start and where they want to end up, I know where the characters motivating the B-story start and where they want to end up, and I start writing and see how they get there. Most of the time I’ll have several rough ideas for story beats in between and I’ll just try to find the most logical and motivated way to get the characters to those points. I don’t have a written outline or any notecards, I just kind of know what has to happen. That’s why it’s so hard. It’s all so nebulous. None of it exists and you have to make it exist. You just have to sit there typing and deleting and typing until it makes sense.
It doesn’t get easier once a script is started either. Maybe a little. The scariest is the time when there’s absolutely nothing. Once you have a couple pages, maybe a scene or two, you can think—Well…at least I’ve started. But unpacking the laptop to keep working on it still feels like so much work. Because it doesn’t exist. You have to make it exist.
That’s why it’s also the most rewarding part of the process. The fact that you can pull a story and characters out of thin air and make them entertain and inspire people outside of yourself is like magic. It’s amazing. If a group of people can relate to and care about a group of people that you made up, what is cooler than that? That’s connection. That’s communication on a deeper level. So cool.
This is the first time I’m writing a PoPS episode on Celtx instead of Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000. I want to be able to write on my current laptop instead of the old Mac clamshell and have internet access for easy fact and word checking, and the Screenwriter software is too old to load on the new one. My main issues with it so far are that the margins aren’t as standard so my page count is higher than it should be. The page count on this one is going to be insane because less lines end up on a page. Also, I don’t think the breakdowns that it outputs are going to be as comprehensive or compatible with my current method of pre-production. But I guess we’ll see.
It lets me organize action and dialogue, so I guess that’s all I really need.
Thanks for reading.