Saturday, December 8, 2012

First Draft

The first draft is a funny thing because all the time you're working on your outline, you feel like a caged bull and can't wait to explode from the abstraction of themes and plot points to the rich detail of the actual script.  Then, when you've been a good little boy and gone through several drafts of your outline and gotten it both really tight and really layered, you stand right where you've wanted to be for weeks or maybe even months:

a luxury car from the early 20th century
Page One.  Now all those wonderful themes you've knit seem really daunting.  How will I put all those subtleties and subthemes in, and how will I make sure they echo and compliment the main theme in just the right way?

And that first scene, wow that's a doozy.  Main character - his or her first line.  What will it be?  It's gotta be active, right?  It's gotta have thematic repercussions and clues to character arc/journey that aren't clear at the moment but make sense in retrospect.  And above all, it's gotta be memorable... simply, COOL!

I'd like to do a study of first scenes in great movies.  There are a few that come immediately to mind... I wonder, if you were to ask someone about a favorite movie of theirs, how often could they recount the opening scene?  I wouldn't be surprised if this was a high correlation.

Isn't it true that as a viewer you can pretty much tell from the first scene whether or not you're going to like the movie?  You're either "on board" or not, strapped in, bought the ticket, going for the ride... or you flip the channel or go get a snack.  My brother was commenting the other day that, when reading, by the time you're ten pages into a script, you really know all there is to know about a writer's voice and where this whole thing is going.  This made me very nervous as I was just about to start my draft on page one.

Anyway, the good news is that I started it and got one page done that day.  I was pretty happy with it.  Of course, I know that everything will be rewritten... but I also like to make my first draft as good as I can because... well, I think it's the right  thing to do, to have some pride and not take refuge in future drafts, and besides... I also believe when you build something you should have a solid foundation.

My brother mentioned also that he tends to overwrite early drafts.  I was kinda envious of this because I find with my own writing that, because I have the story all planned out in my head, I tend toward hyperconcision.  For some reason I assume the story already exists in the world and it is familiar to all... but of course it doesn't and it isn't.

It seems like a dumb trait as I write it down, but if I had to defend it I would say that I've always been fascinated by suggestion as opposed to explicitness, by saying less than is required so as to create a mood and let the reader fill in the cracks with the mortar of his own mind.  I suppose I'm fascinated by what is not there, what is not said.  We'll see how this works out.

In conclusion, on Twitter recently I saw a screenwriting tweet that suggested that writing out of sequence could be a useful tool to avoid the many-headed hydra that is writer's block.  I like this and will try it today.


  1. >tend toward hyperconcision
    Not sure what this word means.
    Could you provide an explanation?

  2. Hi! Hyperconcision maybe a word I've made up thanks to reading too much David Foster Wallace, but what it means to me is, "being too brief." I've always been exhorted by instructors to be as concise as possible, and sometimes I think this desire may be too great. There must be a happy medium?

    1. and boy is that David Foster Wallace reference ironic as he was anything BUT concise.