Category Archives: writing

Story: draw from the well of what you know

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laconic

The screenplay for the film Lost in Translation (2003) was only 75 pages.

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Lost in Translation is one of my favorite films. Typically, feature length screenplays are 90 to 120 pages.

Many of my favorite directors use few words in their films: R. Bresson, A. Tarkovsky, E. Rohmer, T. Malick.

I love great dialogue, but sometimes I prefer films with little or no talking. Many of my favorite scenes are ones that are purely visual, relying on the moving image to tell the story. Relying on dialogue to tell the story is sometimes just laziness.

The screenplay I’m currently working on is 92 pages and will probably increase to around 95 pages. I was worried I didn’t write enough, but now I think it’s fine, even a bit long.

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The Three-Act Story Structure

Once again I am diving into the struggle to write screenplays. In the past I got all snobby and looked down on the typical Hollywood story structure. I saw it as too conventional and I wanted to be artsy. Well, that got me a long ways.

In the mean time I have learned a thing or two, and have come to understand the conventions that drive Hollywood storytelling are, in fact, ancient paradigms that fit with human nature. In other words, the basic three-act structure (and it variations) was built into the human design by God. Sure, many have exploited it, have misused it, have done bad things with it – including making just plain schlock – but that does not nullify the fundamental character of the structure and how it engages with our minds.

With that I am trying to teach myself the structure, and how to use it to my advantage. Here are some examples:

3-Act story Structure

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I know that none of us work in a vacuum. We do not create ex nihilo. We work with what is given, and it is in our manipulations of forms that we discover new nuances. Structure is one of the great givens. I have decoded to use the three-act paradigm as strictly as I can and see what happens.

A couple vids on the topic:

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Eleanor Coppola reads and discusses Notes on a Life

Click on the “Watch full program” to see the entire 65 minute interview.

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>NaNoWriMo

>oh Lord, it’s happening again.

That’s right, November is National Novel Writing Month. You’ve got four weeks now to get yourself ready.

I’m thinking of doing this. I haven’t been able the last three years because of school pressures, but now… maybe. Are you??

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>Happy Birthday Elie Wiesel

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I have not lost faith in God. I have moments of anger and protest. Sometimes I’ve been closer to him for that reason.

~ Elie Wiesel

If I had to make a top ten list of those events of the 20th century most critical to know and remember, the Holocaust would be in the top three. Wiesel survived the Holocaust, I suppose, as well as anyone could. His memoir Night is brilliant and staggering.

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

~ Elie Wiesel

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>write a novel in a month – yee haw!

>I am sure some of you dream of writing a novel but have not found the gumption to do so. Well, here’s something of interest: the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The idea is that one commits to writing an entire novel in one month. According to the rules that’s 50,000 words in 30 days, or about 1,667 words per day (if my math is correct). It launches November 1st.

I know folks who have done this and they loved it. Some finished their novels, some didn’t get that far, but all loved the process and the kick in the butt that NaNoWriMo is all about.

There is also a scriptwriting version called Script Frenzy. Now Script Frenzy already happened for 2007, but it is supposed to be an annual thing, so keep an eye out for that one next year.

I would love to know if anyone is going to do this. I am in the middle of my thesis for grad school, so I have to focus on that, but if I can get it done in time, which is unlikely, then I just might do NaNoWriMo too.

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