Friday, June 14, 2013

Writer: Unlocked!

By Anant Mathur (June 14, 2013)

Many times I hear people in the industry describing writers as people who lock themselves in a room and then come up with a screenplay a short time later. Although this is a part of the screenwriting process it's not completely accurate. The process of writing begins in the writers mind - he is usually not locked in a room. 

When writing, most writers first think about the story idea and try to come up with scenes to go with it - there are times when a story idea just isn't strong enough for a screenplay. For example, if I can come up with a number of scenes in my head then I begin to write, but until then it all stays in my head. Usually during this thought provoking time I'm out watching, enjoying, experiencing and not thinking about the story; but it is in my subconscious. 

A screenwriter is only as good as the experiences he's had. I've said it many times... in order to create believable character you must know how people interact and behave with each other. How they walk, how they talk, their body language is all as important as the dialogue they recite - more so in certain situations. For example, I can tell what part of the world a person is from just by the way a person walks. A man walks differently than a woman, people of different ethnic backgrounds react to situations differently and even walk differently. A person might be calm in a tense situation while another may explode or lose their cool in the same situation. Unless you watch people or experience life you won't know these things much less write about them or create believable character; no matter how good a writer you are.

For instance, I go to coffee shops or restaurants or food courts or might be traveling when suddenly I'm struck with an idea for an amazing scene - that's when I grab a napkin or use the back of a receipt, a plate, a cup or any kind of writing device I can find to write down the brilliant idea. This kind of thing happens for a while - several hours, days or weeks later I may have come up with enough scenes to write the first draft.

The first draft is extremely important because this is where you figure out how long your screenplay is going to be and what you need to do in order to make it shorter or longer. If you come up with 40-50 scenes but they're not long enough to create a 2hr movie you need to add something to make it longer without losing your idea or making it boring and dragging the story along. That addition might be another character, a sub-plot or (for a Bollywood musical) an item number.

It is after the first draft is written that writers usually lock themselves in a room because now is the time to concentrate and make sure everything works. Making sure that the scenes link properly, you have left anything put, tying up loose ends - all this is done at this time. From there on further drafts may be required to get to the final brilliant screenplay. Between drafts at some point you might discover that a scene work better in the middle or the end rather than the beginning or vice versa.  

Remember only a fool tries to sell their first draft - no matter how good you think your first draft is - you can always improve it! I give myself a break between drafts. You'll be surprise how disappointing certain scenes become after the writer thinks about them for a few days.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

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