Saturday, September 4, 2010

How James Cameron Helped Me

I have three WIPs.

Don't tell my husband. He wants me to finish something -- anything! And having three at once will probably make the process slower. However, I am working on all three. It's just that I don't always feel like working on my fun romantic comedy. Sometimes I want to write about my life. And sometimes I want to write fantasy.

This exactly mimics my reading habits, which I think makes sense.

Last night, me and Mr. T watched Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carrell. It was a cute story, and I found myself paying close attention to how the storyline went, the rhythm of ups and downs, and how it all tied together at the end.

When it was over, I immediately looked up the screenplay online, but could not find it. I found screenplays for other movies I enjoy, though, like Legally Blonde, The Breakfast Club and Up.

I am intrigued by screenplays. To me, they are more concise novels. Everything has to count -- as it should be in a book. Every piece of dialogue must move the story forward. Every scene, too. I feel like this is more pronounced in films since there is sort of a time limit.

Since Date Night reminded me of True Lies in a way, when I saw the screenplay was available, I had to look at it. True Lies is not my favorite film, but I've always found it interesting and enjoyable. (I hadn't realized James Cameron wrote it.) Plus, Tom Arnold has some great lines in it.

I love how this screenplay was done! It's so organized. Every single mini-scene has it's own number. And it really drove home the point of dialogue telling the viewer (reader) something, but not overtly. For example, look at this:


Harry and Helen maneuver around each other expertly. She is
doing her make-up.

The plumber came yesterday. He
said they have to dig under the
slab or something and it's going
to be six hundred dollars to fix.

Harry is not really paying attention as he ties his tie in
front of the mirror. His mind is elsewhere. He couldn't care
less about there domestic problems.

Uh huh. Okay.

It's not okay. It's extortion.

What did you tell him?

I slept with him and he knocked
off a hundred bucks.

Good thinking, honey.

Harry kisses her on the cheek and exits."

Isn't that wonderful? They were talking about the plumber yet I learned Harry is disconnected from his wife and that she knows it. Just one little scene. Scene #40 to be exact.

For some reason, this idea of moving the story forward through conversation just totally clicked in my brain. I knew I was supposed to be doing it, but was sort of struggling with how to do it. You know what I mean? Scene 40 from True Lies is just such a good example!

I'm also using Cameron's number system to write my novel. It's working for me. It helps me break things up into small manageable scenes. And I know it will help with editing later when I need to go back. I can just write on the page, "Insert this in Scene 40."

I'm bookmarking this script, which you can find HERE. The site I got it at is called SimplyScripts and there are a ton of films on there. If you are struggling to organize your novel and tighten the dialogue, infuse conflict or anything else you can't quite put your finger on, I would suggest checking out the site and looking up the screenplays for some films you admire.

1 comment:

  1. I should look for screen scripts to see how their written. My first exposure was the creative writing class I took earlier this year. I didn't see any examples outside of the VERY basic ones in the class notes. I admire you for having three WIP and for just writing. I bet many famous authors have many WIP. I know Diana Galbaldon has about 4 or 5 in progress.


Write something. Anything.