22 June, 2006

Rom-Com Project #5

While I thank Matt and the 14 Day Screenplay for the kick up the arse to get my first rom-com screenplay off the ground, I dropped out before the end as I wasn’t fully prepared before starting. And that is the reason why the vast majority of attempted screenplays lie in drawers unfinished - although that’s no consolation. I will try again in October but hopefully by then I’ll have two or three complete treatments to choose from.

I am still writing that rom-com, however, as you can see by my brand spanking new progress bar on the right with the percentage. I am aiming for a page count of 100 pages rather than 90. I could say it’s because I want my screenplay to be more substantial but the real reason is it makes the percentages easier to work out. (Although with my maths skills that’s still going to be a struggle.)

I am now at the end of the pre-writing stage of my rom-com. And yes, ideally the pre-writing stage should occur before you start writing. Luckily, I don’t have to lose any of what I’ve written so far but the main thing I did was to re-focus on the genre as there was a danger that the romance would be just a minor sub-plot. To quote Billy Mernit’s excellent book Writing Romantic Comedy, “A romantic comedy is a comedy whose central plot is embodied in a romantic relationship.”

While I had a vague conscious theme as I started writing, this has become much clearer now and will be helpful in developing sub-plots, as ideally those sub-plots will be variations and discussions on that theme.

I also needed to look at the characters again. I mentioned before that I was worried about Amanda’s lack of depth but now I am more clear on the theme I want to explore I am more clear on her characterisation. Rather than putting her on a pedestal as some idealised prize, I have made her in some part complicit in the ‘crisis climax’. That makes it a bit more adult and truthful.

One of the primary perils for procrastination is research. I could happily research all day. It’s fun learning about architecture, the legal system or erotic photography but there’s a danger of research being just a security blanket; something proven and factual to re-assure us if we don’t have the self-belief in our own voice and imagination.

While researching and never writing is something that should be avoided so is the vice versa to that. If your story is based on your life and you have had an unusual job or hobby then you’re well away. But if like most people you work in an office or a factory and have fairly common hobbies then you might have to work a bit harder and research a scenario less stale for your story and characters.

For my story I needed to know about warehouses and security and although I could have made something up, I felt better doing the hour or two research on the Interweb. It gives me more confidence going forward as the plot based solely on my imagination is not as good as the plot based on what really goes on in warehouses and security. Billy Mernit tells of how comedy legend Billy Wilder’s highest accolade of praise was “realistic”. Now Billy Wilder is not Ken Loach but it shows that whatever the genre of story, you still need enough truth and realism to carry the audience with you.

Of course that’s all fine in theory (and theory is easy) but I need to try and put it into practice. I now have no excuses worth mentioning and will get cracking on completing that first draft.

By the way, a big “shout out” and huge “props” to Lee who has not only finished his 14 Day Screenplay but has put his script up for everyone to read.


Optimistic_Reader said...

Hi Robin,

Thanks for posting, I was wondering what had happened to you! I have (selfishly) to admit I'm glad I'm not the only one who stalled with this. Although that said, a lot of people seem to have gone quiet about it, so maybe we really aren't the only ones.

I'm reworking my rom-com too. It's hard to carry on with a project when something (or several somethings in my case) just keep nagging at you as not being right. Feel like I'm close to getting started on the writing now.

Best of luck with it!

Robin Kelly said...

Yes, this was a great chance to just carry on writing and not rewrite until the end to make sure you get a finished script quickly. However rewriting dialogue is easy but rewriting structure and character and story as well as the dialogue is a painful and a monumental waste of time.