Hello, my little weasels. It’s Daddy Liam here. I know, I’m sorry. I’m a day late on this blog. My sincerest apologies. I typically spend my Sunday relaxing and being all magnificent and awesome. But no need to fear. For Daddy’s home and he’s brought a surprise.
What is that surprise, you may ask? Great question random reader of the Castle Inanity blog. This surprise is my very first article where I discuss the art of screenplay writing! I’ll pause a moment to allow you all to get the raucous applause out of your system.
Good. Now I’m sure many of you are wondering, “Daddy Liam, why haven’t you been writing on your Awesome Award winning fic Chuck Versus the Road to Innocence?” I have several pat answers, ranging from the obscene (Because your mom won’t leave me alone long enough to write it.) to the flippant (Because the fic bores the hell out of me.) But truth of the matter is, for quite a while now, a new form of writing has captured my interest. Screenwriting.
In my opinion, screenwriting is a unique and highly exciting mode of writing. It’s a brand new forum and style that I was eager to explore and conquer. Even better, unlike fic, some day I might actually get paid writing a script. What? You thought I was a socialist? Meh, easy enough mistake to make.
Now, as I progress through these screenwriting seminars, you’ll discover that my interest is heavily slanted towards the horror genre. That’s because I’m a horror freak and feel comfortable making my points using this genre. But not to worry. Regardless of your genre of interest, the points I hope to make will translate to whatever you eventually chose to write.
Just a disclaimer, this first post is mostly an introduction to get our feet wet, both you lot as possible newbies to the style, and myself playing teacher. In future installments (which I hope to post every 7-10 day), I will delve into the really nifty stuff.
So what is screenwriting? Well, it’s the process of writing a script for production on television or the movies. Sure, “Chuck” might start with an idea, but in order to be made it must be put to paper. Not sure why, since actors can’t read, but it is anyway.
So what’s the difference between writing a novel, fanfiction, or some other traditional form of prose as compared to a script for TV or movie? Well, the basis of the difference is the age old question of “show versus tell”. Novels and similar form are much more “tell” driven. Description, dialogue, inner turmoil. Because it’s up to the writer to paint an image in the reader’s mind. Screenplays are the complete opposite, naturally, since you’re writing for a visual medium. You write for the action and the visuals, as opposed to telling with dialogue.
Now plenty of the rest is the same. You have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning, which I think most people would state encompasses approximately the first 25%, is where the story is set up. We meets our characters, learn about about their world, and typically some girl only peripheral to the story gets gutted like a fish, thus spearing the rest of the adventure. The middle, which is typically the next 50%, is where the story gets complicated. Conflicts arise, romances are born, and our survivor girl finds out the ungodly connection she has to our killer. The end, the final 25%, is where it all gets wrapped up into a neat little bow when our killer is dispatched by our survivor girl in an especially meaningful and symbolic manner. Until, of course, the next writer comes along and writes the sequel, thus completely blowing the continuity you worked so hard to achieve in your script. Wow. My affinity for horror movies really came through there, didn’t it?
Now hang tight, my ferrets. This is where we detour from the traditional.
Screenplay formatting is completely different than what you see in novels or fanfiction. Not necessarily harder, just different. That said, it does take effort to learn. And if any of you should be interested, count your graces that Daddy Liam is here to help!
Now, it seems sensible to me that to best demonstrate the difference, I must show you examples of each. So, for an example of traditional prose, I’m gonna refer to Maximus’ “Chuck versus the Double Agent”.
Now the following is taken from chapter seven: “The World According to Chuck”. Now I didn’t pick this piece for any particular reason. Frankly, I simply chose a chapter at random and highlighted a random bit. What can I say? It’s Uncle Maxy? He’s brilliant and no matter what I chose, it’d would suit our purposes just fine. Now go ahead and give it a read. If you want more or to see where I lifted this bit from, click here.
Casey was not in his apartment, of course, or else he probably would have been at dinner. Knowing Casey, he would have come over with some flimsy excuse about needing this or that and then feigned surprise that they were having dinner. Ellie, of course, would have immediately invited him to stay, and after hemming and hawing for a few seconds, Casey would have quickly given in to Ellie's insistence. Then Casey would, of course, proceed to eat more than everyone else combined because he had a serious weakness for Ellie's cooking. Chuck was pretty sure that's why Casey had volunteered to stay behind and watch over his sister when he moved, instead of following him like Carina and Bryce had.Pretty damn good, eh? That’s Maxy. Not only is he sexy as hell, but a damn fine writer, too. Okay, so now let’s take a look at a script. Granted, I’m gonna have to go more in depth with this in future installments, for it’s a shooting script, which is different than a spec script. But it’s good enough to get my point across. This is Michael Dougherty’s script for the horror film “Trick R Treat.”
It was surprisingly easy for Carina to gain access to Casey's apartment. He could see the glee and satisfaction on her face as she broke in, probably imagining all the different ways she could tease Casey endlessly about his easy security. That was a potential fight in the making; he would have to keep an eye on them when Casey eventually found out what they'd done.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk, Casey. That was far too easy," Carina said, grinning.
Chuck just shook his head, more than a little pleased that the playful side to Carina was back out to play.
They quickly made their way to the large TV dominating one wall of Casey's apartment and Chuck immediately started to fiddle with it. He had no intention of wasting any time. Casey was sure to have some kind of remote alarm that let him know somebody was in his apartment without his permission. They only had a limited window before either he showed up himself, which was more likely as Casey wouldn't leave the potential cracking of skulls to someone else, or he'd send somebody who might shoot first and ask questions later.
He activated the necessary program to launch the videoconference with Beckman and Graham, and then entered his authorization codes.
They soon appeared and they were not surprised.
"I can't say this is unexpected, Mr. Bartowski," Beckman said drily.
Graham added with a chuckle, "If you had waited another 10 minutes, I would have had a free lunch."
Chuck rolled his eyes and only glared at them faintly. "I wish you guys had just told me what you intended from the beginning. You agreed when I started this job that I would not be kept in the dark about these kinds of things. It was part of our deal."
You can read the whole script here.
Big difference, huh? Looks way different on the page. But besides how it appears when written, if you read the script, I think you’ll notice obvious differences in the narrative. And in my opinion, the biggest one you’ll notice is that in a script, besides a few superficial instances, you never really get inside a character’s head.
Why is that? Remember what I said about a visual medium? Well, you can’t exactly see a person’s thoughts on screen. So why bother telling about that angst in a script? You can’t write about Chuck and his lovey dovey feeling for Sarah (or, in Uncle Maxy’s world and mine, Sarah’s lovey dovey feelings for Carina). So, you have to SHOW his feelings. Either through furtive looks or a longing sigh. Things that can be written and translated and seen on a screen.
And how about the dialogue? Have you ever noticed that movie and TV dialogue is a bit different? Yeah, it sounds good, but have you noticed it’s not quite as wordy? That’s because we’re dealing with (in the case of a movie) a 110 page script, not a 400 page book. And with one page equalling one minute of screen time, you have to trim the fat. So screen dialogue gives the illusion of real dialogue.
And how about the action and movement and description in the script? Does it too strike you as a bit simplified? Well, it is. In a script, you give the minimum. Because while in a novel or fic you’re creating the world, in a script, you’re giving the guidelines and the people filming it create the world. So it’s a mixture of “Trimming the fat” and the fact that the people who read the script and then make it kinda get annoyed when you get too wordy or descriptive.
Okay, that’s the bare bones introduction. Now be good boys and girls and study both examples and see all the various differences between. And pretty soon, hopefully within the week, I’ll be back to discuss script formatting and provide resources and learning tools to help you grow.