Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hey America I wrote a screenplay from scratch

Or at least I tried to.

I had this idea for a story about a thirtysomething former teen starlet festering in my head for over a year. Despite plotting an outline and sketching it up, I could never get it to work as a novel. The story just wasn’t strong enough for a full-length book. But the idea just kept coming back to me over and over again. I had to get it on paper. Since it wasn’t working as a book I opted to write the next best thing: The screenplay.

I’ve dabbled with screenwriting in the past, but nothing serious. An adaptation of Isis, and some other stories I’ve written. But this is the first time I’ve written a screenplay from scratch. The project was an attempt to see if I could write an original story within the extremely rigid format of the Writer’s Guild of America. To my surprise the finished script turned out better than I expected.

From a format standpoint I was able to get the story to fit within the WGA standards. The script is a good length fitting within the standard 90-120 pages allotted for a drama. (112 to be exact) I was also able to follow most of the rules for things like dialogue, and scene descriptions. It’s frustrating fitting a story within those parameters, but I’m getting used to it.

From a storytelling standpoint I was able to tell my story effectively. In most of my novels I use the character’s eyes like a movie camera to describe the action to the reader. So it was easy to adapt that “camera” style I use in my storytelling to the screenplay format. Even though I was writing in a Third person narrative, everyone sees what the “camera” sees. I know my descriptions are a little longish, and the dialogue’s a little rough, but it’s my first script. The more I learn the better I’ll get at screenwriting.

What’s even more of a surprise to me is how solid my writing is in this style. The spirit of my distinct style is in every page. The script still has all the irony, depth and humanity of one of my novels. From first page to last, the reader knows it’s a “Shawn James” story.

I’m very pleased with my first original screenplay came out. Now I’m just going to print it out and throw it in a box. For me, this isn’t the time to go out pitching scripts to agents. There’s a lot more for me to learn about writing. The more new projects I pursue, the better I’ll get at it.

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