I’m looking for a full alphabet of Camp Nano-ers to spotlight!

February 28, 2013

I know we’re not even into March yet, but I’m already looking ahead to April for a few things…

  • I’ve signed up for the A-Z blogging challenge, for the third time.
  • For the first time in six years or so, I won’t be writing a script in April for Script Frenzy 😦
  • And, for the first time EVER, Camp Nanowrimo is running an April session full of novelling AND script-writing goodness!

Putting the three of them together; I had a great time spotlighting some of the features of Script Frenzy last year for the A to Z challenge, so this year I’m going to make Camp Nano my topic. But I’m going to change it up a little, and I’m not going to fill up my alphabet with topics like C for Cabinmates or R for Rebel. Instead, I’d like to make as many posts as possible about my fellow campers! (It’s been a while since I’ve done a spotlight series, after all.)

So, if you’re going to be doing Camp Nano in April this year, and you’d like to volunteer for an interview or just to have me mention something about you during April, leave a comment here or contact me at chriskelworth at gmail dot com. I’ll try to slot you in based on your name, your username, or your novel title.

Whoo-hoo!

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Blog the Cat, Chapter Seven – How to fix a broken screenplay

February 26, 2011

Blog the cat screenwriting index.

Okay, we’re drawing close to the end of Blake Snyder’s screenwriting book, ‘Save the Cat’, and chapter seven is about propping up a screenplay and fixing rough spots. Actually, more of the chapter is about diagnosing problems with screenplays, but he does offer some ‘fix-it’ tips as well.

Rather than my usual tack of going through the content of the chapter first and then tackling exercises, I think that this week I’m going to mix in my participatory content and evaluate my Script Frenzy screenplays with respect to each possible problem as I go. I’ll try to cover all three complete scripts for each point, and my one incomplete script I’ll only bring up if it seems particularly relevant.

Problem 1: The Hero is passive.

Symptoms: The hero is being dragged through the story by other characters or forces, his motivation is missing, his goal is vague. He might be lazy and get handed clues to the mysteries surrounding the plot instead of going looking for them. Other characters might always be nagging him and telling him what to do next.

Ideas for how to fix: Probably start with reviewing the goal motivation first, and then going through the plot to make sure that it’s being executed well, and that whenever there’s a possibility of the hero being proactive or just waiting on events, make him show some initiative.

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Blog the cat, Chapter Five – the Board.

February 12, 2011

Blog the cat screenwriting index.

Okay, in chapter 5 of Save the Cat, “Building the perfect Beast,” Blake Snyder waxes eloquent on The Board. I’m going to skip all of the superlatives, glowing praise, and industry anecdotes for now, and get down to describing the core idea.

You set up a big, flat, vertical working space – Blake prefers a corkboard that he can pin index cards to, and use this to arrange your story ideas on. It’s a way of working with the screenplay structure that’s visual, tactile, and ‘a great time-waster’, except that the point is that the time isn’t actually wasted, in the end. It’s just being put to a use that isn’t immediately obvious, because as you play with the board and keep rearranging things, the ideas are being arranged and correlated by your subconscious mind in a way that you could never achieve with conscious disciplined hard work staring at a blank Celtx screen.

Like a lot of Blake’s notions, the Board is fairly structured. He sets it up in four rows of approximately ten scenes each, (plus or minus one spot per row, but still to come up to a total of forty scenes per screenplay.) The timeline of the movie gets arranged on this board a little like a really huge Fan expo autograph line, going left to right across the top row for Act One, then turning the corner, going back the second row and across the third for Act Two, then back the bottom row for Act Four.

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Blog the cat, chapter Four: Beat sheets, revisited.

February 5, 2011

Beat Sheet for ‘Serenity’, in which I first described the concept.

Other Beat Sheets from the Kelworth files can be found on the Subject Index, as well as the Blog the Cat series so far.

Okay, so I went back and forth on this, and decided that I was going to spend another week with beat sheets, even though I’ve already said most of what the book has to say about them – well, not really, but about as much as I feel comfortable with saying without ripping off Blake’s words. And I’ve done Beat sheets for three of my favorite movies. But this time, I’m going to look at the three complete movies that I did for Script Frenzy, and see how closely they match the Beat Sheet structure, talk a bit about that.

One bit from the chapter that I haven’t mentioned here, is how a strong screenplay structure can serve as a movie blueprint and a guarantee of writing credit – which I think isn’t meant as a guarantee that when a final movie gets made, you’ll definitely have the credit, but that if somebody changes it enough to get the credit, they’re really changing the guts of the story, doing their own work on it, and not really taking what’s yours. But anyway.

Script Frenzy 2007 – Antarran Holiday.

Opening image – Aerial view of the desert, Liz Parker resuming her diary voice-overs, slow day at the Crashdown Cafe.

Theme stated – “If we find the people who think that they’re our friends, they might still ask things of us that we’re not ready for.” This is late by Blake’s breakdown, around page 18, but I remember that I was going some different material about the three-act structure that was up on the Script Frenzy site that year that suggested page 16 or so for this, not 5.

Setup – introducing all of the regular gang, and the basic situation, is all covered in pages 1-7.

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Blog the cat, chapter 3 – Characters

January 29, 2011

Blog the Cat post index.
In Chapter Three of Save the Cat, “It’s about a guy who…” Blake Snyder talks about how important characters are to a movie idea and pitch. I’m starting to like these offbeat chapter titles, by the way.

I’m certainly predisposed to the idea that well developed characters are central to telling a story, and that the characters should fit the plot well. Blake starts by telling how good characters give the audience somebody to identify with, somebody to experience the story for them. He also covers how descriptive adjectives for your characters can make the logline more compelling, which is interesting especially since I’ve been hearing a lot about how important it is to avoid overusing adjectives in prose fiction, but a script logline is certainly a very different kind of writing, so it’s not too surprising that the rules should be different there.

He gives this checklist for character-related elements to look for in the logline:

  • A hero
  • An adjective to describe the hero
  • A bad guy
  • An adjective to describe the bad guy
  • A compelling, identifiable goal for the hero

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Blog the Cat, Chapter 2 – Story Genres

January 22, 2011

Blog the Cat post index.

So, in Chapter 2 of Save the cat, “Give me the same thing… only different!” Blake Snyder talks about how to dance with cliche – you have to be in the vicinity of a cliche, because otherwise your script is probably so out there that most viewers won’t be able to relate to it at all, but not too close. He ties this back into the scenario of pitching your movie – that not only do you have to be able to explain what your movie idea is, but also what it’s most like – and that you have to be very familiar with other movies in your genre, so as to know what the specific cliches are and put your own spin on your story.

He then starts going into detail about his own working list of ten genres or categories, which aren’t organized along traditional lines, because a term like ‘Romantic Comedy’ or ‘Hard Science Fiction’ doesn’t explain anything about the storyline, which is a good point. To run down the story genres quickly, we have:

Monster in the house: Dangerous ‘monster’, (who could be a person,) and people trapped inside an enclosed ‘house’ with it. Lots of running and hiding, usually at least one of the people is morally responsible for the monster being there, and they die while others manage to escape at the end.

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Blog the cat, Chapter One – Loglines

January 15, 2011

Blog the Cat post index.

The first chapter of Save the Cat, ‘What is it?’ is mostly talking about loglines for a screenplay idea. (The fact that the character of The Cat on the British show Red Dwarf, played by Danny John-Jules, had a great comedy bit in one episode centered around repeating the words ‘What is it?’ when confronted by a bit of Star-Trek-ish technobabble – is completely irrelevant.)

Blake starts by talking about pitching a movie idea, with a lot of different examples from a group of friends trying to pick a movie to see on a Friday night, to movie executives at the height of show business. His central premise is that you need to be able to sell other people on a movie idea quickly, not after ten minutes of explanation, and tell them quickly ‘What is it about?’

He presents a few examples, including Four Christmases, (which was probably still in development when the book was written?) and breaks down his four critical elements for a good logline pitch:
– Irony: A good logline must show something that is unexpected and emotionally intriguing, which is pretty much the same thing as having an element of dramatic irony.
– A compelling mental picture: A good logline should present the potential for the entire movie to blossom in your brain, from one or two sentences.
– Audience and cost: A good logline should convey a sense of who would be interested in watching the movie, and a rough idea of how much it might cost to make.
– Killer title: Not really a part of the logline proper, but the title also plays a part in the logline pitch, and the part the title needs to play is to say what the movie is, as clearly as possible, and with an ironic punch of its own. (He mentions ‘For Love or Money’ as an example of a vague title that really tells as little as possible about what’s going on in the movie.)

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Blog the cat: Introduction

January 8, 2011

Blog the Cat post index.

I’ve been meaning to do more with Blake Snyder’s book ‘Save the Cat’ than just play around with beat-sheeting movies, so I’ve decided to make it into a weekly blog series. Hopefully, that will keep me at it.

The idea is, one chapter per week or so, I’ll read, discuss some of my favorite bits, post my answers to the chapter exercises and so on, and invite questions or comments from the peanut gallery.

I’ll also be starting another ‘chapter a week’ series next week for Wednesdays, that’ll be a YA fantasy novel released in hardcover in the past year, from an author who will be at Ad Astra convention Toronto in April 2011. That title will be announced next Wednesday.

So, ‘Save the Cat.’ I figure that this week, aside from explaining the concept, I should skim through all of the material before the start of chapter 1, though a lot of it isn’t particularly compelling reading. Chapter 1 will be next week.

Cover picture, with the cat hanging off a thick rope. Cute.

A few pages full of those glowing reviews, mostly from movie and TV producers apparently, along with a movie magazine, a writing website, a successful screenwriter, an agent and a VP development at a studio.

Publisher and editor credits, copyright notice, library of congress data, table of contents, acknowledgments.

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