Some good advice in this thread Merrick World.
pdrg & everyone thanks for the +'s on my post, and for the kind words pdrg.
Notes on Bryan's Screenwriting 101:
I've read nearly every screenwriting book I could find, I'm pretty familliar with the techniques of Volger (Hero's journey- George Lucas's favorite), John Truby (author of the Blockbuster scriptwriting software and "The anatomy of story"), Syd Field (author of "screenplay" which is a required read for many, but I find it too limited in many ways), Blake Snyder (author of "Save the Cat"), and the "Dramatica" story paradigm (Oy vey that one gives me a headache, but it has great insights!), not to mention several other books, articles, and things by lesser known folks. I've also attended classes and workshops. While none of this has rended up with me actually writing a great script yet, I have some in the works and I have become a skilled "story analyst" - many of my colleagues run their scripts by me for that reason, some which have been published and some that have gone on to the great unknown. The biggest thing I've learned in all of that self-study is that STRUCTURE is THE most important thing to consider when writing a screenplay (of course, you can do it any way you want to- but SUCCESSFUL and SATISFYING stories tend to follow certain structural "rules"). The creativity comes AFTER the structure. Many people invovled in creative fields think that everything should be based on intuition and inspiration, but the truth is that there are underlying systems at work that are propping up that creative/intuitive flow. Think of it like a canal- the canal has walls that prevent the water from going anywhere outside of the path of the canal, but within the canal, the water flows freely. (Is that a Zen enough approach?
) So I encourage everyone to stop thinking so much ahoutCONTENT right up front and take a step back and consider STRUCTURE first- the structure is the canal that gives your creativity (content) a destination. If you start with content, sometimes you "write yourself into a corner" because you are focusing on the perspective of your main character and you are allowing the story to "unfold before you" as you write. While this can be exhilirating and fun, and can sometimes even be successful, it has been my experience that you end up with more painful re-writes to make things work than if you would have just planned ahead from the begining. This is why I suggest starting with the two main journeys that the screenplay will cover and defining those up front.
Mellifluous has a point about the logline that is also important. It helps you define those journeys-
You also have to decide if you are planning on making this yourself of trying to pitch/sell this screenplay. If you are planning on making this yourself, you have a lot more room to play around with the way your screenply looks and is formatted, but if you are going to pitch/sell this- you don't put lots of camera angles and things in the script, those scripts are pretty lean to allow for interpretation. For example, when Martin Scorsese writes for himself, he annotates alot of that stuff in the script because it's for HIM- but a screenwriter usually doesn't include all of that stuff if they are pitching it. So it depends on your goals.
Bryan's Screenwriting 102: The Impact character
OK- so having told you all that I've read/explored all of those masters of screenwriting and storytelling I will tell you that I am a synthesist by nature and I am currently in favor of a "blended appraoch" that draws heavily from both Truby and Dramatica. The "Impact Character" is a Dramatica term, although Blake Snyder refers to a similar idea as a "buddy" thing- and it's because the idea WORKS and WORKS well. I like the term "impact character" because it is neutral and it explains the role that character plays in relation to the MAIN CHARACTER or HERO.
What is the impact character? My definition (based on Dramatica's) is:
THE IMPACT CHARACTER IS THE CHARACTER THROUGH WHICH THE MAIN CHARACTER'S INTERNAL JOURNEY IS EXTERNALIZED IN THE CONTEXT OF A RELATIONSHIP.
Does that make sense? Mellifluous hinted at this in his post: "A great way to get to know your characters if you're struggling with them is to write what a character CLOSE to them thinks about them. E.g. if your character Joe is husband to Mary, what does Mary think about her husband? What does Joe's friend Mark think about him? What does Joe's dentist think about him?"
In that case, Mary, Mark, or his dentist can serve as an impact character, although the impact character's role is more complex than just what they think about the main character- they challenge the main character, the recognize the change in the main character, they help the main character through their internal struggles. THis can be in the form of a Mentor, but a mentor is something specific as well- but characters can represent more than one role. For example, in The Karate Kid" Mr. Miyagi is definitely Daniel's mentor, but he also becomes his friend and he is also the impact character. In Star Wars, Obi Wan is the mentor and plays the impact character to a point, but so does Leia and Han to a degree- all challenge Luke in different ways, externalizing his internal journey- but in all truth, the real impact character is DARTH VADER- although this is not fully developed in the first film, Darth Vader and Luke are "shadowy reflections" of each other- the new warrior and the old warrior, the light and dark (even in costumes- Luke is dressed all in white and Darth Vader in black) and that is because Lucas follows the "Hero's journey" Quest model. In the Lord of the Rings (another Quest model but the story has a clearly defined impact character), Gandalf is Frodo's mentor, but the impact character is Samwise. Sam has the relationship with Frodo that externalizes his internal journey.
Many times, the "love interest" plays the role of the impact character, but not always. Marion is Indiana Jones' impact character becasue their relationship externalizes Indy's internal journey which is "Is there anything out there more important than my pursuit of these artifacts?- Yes! Love is!" Indy even says so out loud for the audience when he threatens to blow up the ark with the missle launcher "All I want is the girl." and Belloq challenges him, knowing that he is still conflicted- Indy has the same type of thing going on in The Last Crusade- His father finally says at the end "Indiana...let it go." Meaning that being alive and having the relationship is more valuable than any artifact.
So again, I suggest deciding on the INTERNAL and EXTERNAL journeys that your character will go on and then defining an IMPACT CHARACTER that can have a relationship with the main character that externalizes the internal journey.
This will result in the following 4 storyline structures:
1. The main storyline encompassing ALL of the following, which is the main characters EXTERNAL JOURNEY (what they do, with whom, against whom to accomplish the goal of the story, such as "teaming up with Han, chewie, and Obi Wan to rescue Leia join the rebellion and destroy the death star)
2. The main characters INTERNAL JOURNEY (Such as follow Obi-Wan, find out the truth about my father, learn the ways of the force, and become an accomplished pilot and Jedi Knight)
3. The IMPACT CHARACTER's Journey - more clearly defined in some stories than others- Marion has her own storyline in Raiders of the Lost Ark, she owns a bar that gets destroyed, follows Indy, gets kidnapped, gets romanced by Belloq, tries to escape by getting him drunk, gets thrown in the well of SOuls with Indy, gets kidnapped again, shoots up the place in the flying wing (plane), etc... she has HER OWN STORY. Your Impact character should also have their own storyline.
4. The relationship storyline between the main and impact characters. This is a touchstone for BOTH characters. In Raiders: a. Marion and Indy reunite, yet Marion is mad at Indy because he romanced her when she was young and then left. b. Marion and Indy seem somewhat reconciled in Egypt and stay will Sallah and his family. c. Indy gets jealous when Marion is wearing a nice dress that Belloq gave her. d. Marion and Indy get physical on the ship, finally reconciling. e. Indy confesses "all he wants is the girl" f. Marion invites Indy for a drink at the end, they are together finally.
If you can develop the milestones of each story line and lay them out in paralell you can make sure that each scene is propelling ONE OF THESE storylines forward, and as long as a scene is doing that the scene will be of interest to the audience. So your screenplay will have FOUR stories that need to be reconciled at the end to be satisfying.
1. Main storyline/External journey: Indy must obtain the ark before the Nazis get it to save the world!
2. Internal Journey: (based on indy's internal NEED): Indy must learn that there are things bigger than himself (love/faith) that are more valuable than chasing some artifact.
3. Impact character's journey (based on her internal NEED): Marion must overcome her internal pain and lonliness (caused by her father) "Abner drug me all over the world looking for his little bits of junk..." (and her first love that broke her heart, Indiana Jones.) "I've learned to hate you in the last ten years. I was a child. I was in love. It was wrong and you knew it..."
4. The relationship between the main/Impact character: Indy and Marion must re-fall in love, reconcile and have to end up together.
Each story line has multiple steps that lead to those conclusions. A complete outline can help you break out each storyline and then you will always have a purpose for each scene as you combine them into your overall story.
Last edited Thu, 20th Mar 2008, 4:28am; edited 1 times in total.