F is for Formatting

April 6, 2012

The Script Frenzy A-Z challenge so far…

One of the first things I learned when doing Script Frenzy was that writing a script was much more structured in a technical sense than a novel or a short story. As I mentioned under Dialog, there are different elements that make up a script, and each are arranged and formatted a different way to make them easily stand out to a reader. A good script writing program, like Celtx or Final Draft, does as much of this for you as possible, letting you pick what element you want easily so that you can concentrate on what you need to write.

There are five elements that are frequently used in screenplays. The first is scene headings, which quickly convey where the scene must be shot and how. These are formatted in all capitals, flush against the left margin, and usually shaded in a gray background or something similar. The scene heading starts with ‘INT – ‘ for interior shot or ‘EXT – ‘ for exterior shot, and finishes with ‘ – DAY’ or ‘ – NIGHT’ – which can affect the lighting, and is also used to help track the chronology in the script. In between, you quickly describe the setting in a short phrase.

Action elements are used to describe what the characters are doing or what is happening in the scene aside from dialog. They’re also used to provide more detail on the setting after a scene heading. They start flush against the left margin and end ragged against the right margin, and are typed in easy to read sentences and paragraphs. Character names and props are CAPITALIZED when we first meet them, and important sound effects are always capitalized when they happen.

Character elements tell you who’s speaking. The character names are capitalized and left-aligned to a tab stop very close to the center of the page, so that most short names will appear more or less centered. You try to avoid using really long names here to make the dialog quicker to read.

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E is for Evocative words.

April 5, 2012

The Script Frenzy A-Z challenge so far…

Script Frenzy publishes a lot of ‘Cameo’ articles that might be of use to participants, especially to beginner script writers. One of my favorite Cameos is Reach for the Evocative Word, by Lisa Dostrova. And yes, she’s mostly talking about dialog. 🙂 So go and give the article a look.

What’s your favorite evocative word?


D is for Dialog…

April 4, 2012

The Script Frenzy A-Z challenge so far…

With screenplays, and most other kinds of scripts, dialog is king.

Yes, there’s a lot of other kinds of writing that goes into a good script. You describe what happens, you describe the settings, and you can give notes on how the words are spoken. But a good script writer tries to do as much with dialog as possible, and I think one of the reasons is, dialog is the only words in the script that (might) reach the final audience more or less directly. Of course, the director and the actor have their opportunities to tweak the dialog, put their own spin on it, but that’s a fairly minor change.

Everything else you write for your script, the audience is not going to have the faintest clue of the actual words you used. The director and cast and crew are going to read them, (you hope,) and use those words to guide the job that they do, and the audience is going to see the result of that, or hear it in ways other than words, (such as tone of voice, music, sound effects, etcetera.) But I think overall, those things can’t carry the narrative of a movie, or TV show or radio play, as well as the dialog does.

Many novelists or short story writers trying Script Frenzy as script writing newcomers find that writing script sharpens skills with dialog that they can take back to other kinds of writing. I certainly did.

If you’re a writer, then do you consider dialog a strong suit or a weakness?


A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Five

February 9, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Okay, we’re back to Kit again. Kit misses Ponch. This was mentioned before, but we’ve got several more references in this chapter about how much Ponch being gone is hitting Kit, and so I thought I’d mention it here. From the ending to “Wizards at War,” I kind of got the impression that though the old Ponch was gone, Ponch would be able to spend time with Kit in his new sheepdog avatar – especially since it had been foreshadowed that nobody knew if the sheepdog had an owner in the neighborhood, back as early as “Wizard’s Holiday.” But that’s a minor point, and I can appreciate the angst of Kit being lonely because his dog’s gone, not to mention that having him actually take part in the plot might make certain things too easy or familiar.

We get an indirect answer to my question about Nita going back to Mars after everybody’s gone, too, via a text message in Kit’s manual, which made Kit think that Nita was scowling. And she doesn’t want to be bothered until after lunch, by which time I suspect Kit will be in the middle of other business, and thus our main characters will be separated for a good portion of the book.

So Kit’s up in the middle of the night, and antsy about his little discovery on Mars, so he decides to go back. He chats with the Edsel on his way out of the house, (who was mentioned as the source of the antenna back in ‘So you want to be a wizard’, but never shown as far as I recall,) transits over to Mars, and talks with a rock about the weather. And only an American wizard could possibly talk with a rock in the language of the Making, and translate those words into degrees Fahrenheit. Celsius or Kelvin would make much more sense to anybody else from planet Earth. The martian rock, presumably, hasn’t heard of any of them, and would use some kind of absolute scale that’s built into the Speech.

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Brian Henry exercise number three – Cup of tea assignment

February 4, 2011

Okay, I’ve got one more bit of writing from the Oakville Brian Henry plotting workshop to share today – the assignment was to write something about characters coming to a decision while doing something mundane – such as preparing and drinking a cup of tea. I went in a slightly different direction for it. Please, let me know your thoughts, I love getting feedback on little snippets of writing like this!

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The file organizer box sitting next to the videotape shelves was the logical place to start.

Of course, it wasn’t as if the shelves held videotapes anymore. Who had videotapes these days? VCRs have finally gone the way of the eight-track player. So there was a remarkable assortment of burned optical disks, paperback books, USB cables, DVD box sets, and scrap paper on those shelves. There might even be some receipts on those shelves, and I’d need to look through those if it came to that. But the file organizer box was first.

I sat down in the armchair and opened up the box on my lap. Twenty different labelled pockets, all stuffed full of receipts. So much for the paperless economy, huh? Credit card receipts, utility receipts, bank receipts, miscellaneous receipts that defied description, and… there it was. Investment receipts.

Investment receipts showing ninety thousand dollars that I’d sent to the fund people. Day before yesterday, it had probably been worth a hundred grand. Today? Who the hell knew.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Four

February 2, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Well, this chapter is Nita’s side plot, and it’s not as long a deviation as I thought it might be, though hopefully we get some payoff later on in the book. First, Nita goes home and talks with her Dad. Dad is upset that little sister Dairine is blowing off school, traipsing around the galaxy or whatever, and demands that Nita ‘do something’ about it. Nita complains that Dairine misbehaving isn’t her fault, but Dad makes it her problem, pointing out that he didn’t ask for this either, but he needs to know that his kids are safe, and that Nita has access to skills that he doesn’t have himself when it comes to keeping up with little sister.

So Nita agrees, grudgingly, and heads off to her room to make preparations. Step one is finally checking the manual listings for info on Roshaun, which she was too chicken to do back in chapter two, and she talked with Tom about that. The manual has a blank in Roshaun’s long-term status field, which is where you’d usually see information on if a wizard is alive or dead, (or in some cases in between,) and from this, Nita concludes that Dairine’s quest to find him might have some value to it – if even the sources of the manual don’t know his fate, then there’s a chance that he’s alive.

So Nita transits over to Roshaun’s homeworld, Wellakh, to talk to Dairine there, (with another side conversation with invisible Bobo the peridexis,) and finds her training in how to manage stars with Roshaun’s father, Neleid the ex-Sunlord of Wellakh, who Dairine met in ‘Wizards at War.’ Once Neleid understands that there’s a family crisis, he scrams so that Nita and Dairine can have it out, and Nita lays out her proposal – she’s going to put a tap into Dairine’s wizardly computer, Spot, so that whatever she does and wherever she is, Dad can get the details on his computer or the cell phone, and ask her for clarification when she comes home at night. Dairine is initially furious at the idea, but caves when Nita pointedly reminds her that Dad and Tom are very close, and that if Dad gets upset about her jaunts off planet and complains to Tom, Tom has the authority to ground Dairine. (Which he’s done, to a limited extent, in Wizard’s Holiday.)

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A short dialog exercise.

January 21, 2011

I went to a Brian Henry workshop on Dialog last weekend, and I’ll be seeing him again tomorrow for a workshop on Plotting a story. Last Saturday was a great experience, despite the somewhat trying weather – there was just a small group of us at the Saint Catharine’s library, and I learned a lot of useful tips, as well as being able to talk with some other aspiring writers.

Since sharing the ‘Devin’ short story went over well last week, I think I’ll post the dialog writing exercise that I typed out on the Alphasmart Dana for that workshop. Again, this is copyright Chris Kelworth, and I’d love to hear your opinions on it:

 

“Okay, come on, give me the details.” My brother Derek pulled out his android phone and sat down on the couch, ready to thumb-type, with the corners of his nose wrinkling slightly.

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Taking serious criticism is a tough gig.

September 24, 2010

Possibly one of the hardest stages in any kind of artistic endeavour is having to open your work up to criticism.

I was invited, along with everybody else who was at the local Hamilton Writers meeting four weeks ago, to a new Hamilton Artists’ Writers Workshop. I was excited about giving it a try, and missed the first session owing to a confusion about the dates, but I was also nervous from the start about bringing something of my own to get critiqued by a group of unfamiliar writers.

I ended up bringing copies of a short story that I very much like, ‘The case of the Wizard’s Vice,’ a sort of Agatha Christie meets Harry Potter caper. Because there wasn’t an abundance of time, I only got to read the introduction and the denoument, skipping over the interviews in the middle, but the responses I got definitely had me thinking about the piece in a very different way, and had my head spinning for a little bit.

Significantly, most of the gathering seemed to agree that the choices I’d made to tell almost the entire story in dialog, and to avoid characterizing the Inspector/narrator more than absolutely necessary, were keeping them from relating to the characters or getting emotionally involved in the story. “Dialog fills in the plot,” somebody said. “Narration grounds you in the characters, and you have almost no narration here.”

There were a lot more notes, not all of which I’m going to review here, but… I think I’m not going to be able to start a fresh draft of the story immediately, which is probably good, I can give myself time to let it settle and ask a few writer friends what they think of the notes before immediately changing things. Still, I’m glad that I went and took a chance – it’s better to hear this sort of thing now than to keep thinking that the story is beautiful and flawless, and maybe start pushing hard to sell it without thinking of the ways that it could be made accessible to a different audience.

In other news, I have awarded the Versatile Blogger award to Merinda Brayfield, who’s also a long-time friend of mine from the #nanowrimo chat room. It’s nothing personal that I didn’t also give her the One Lovely Blog, but I felt that it didn’t entirely make sense to keep the two awards together the whole time, so unless I particularly want to award both of them to the same people, I’ll be picking just one or the other.


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