Get the meat and potatoes right and the rest will be fine.
A blog about writing. A blog about mental health (sort of).
Act 1, Scene 1: Who is main character? What are their wants and needs?
FYI – It’s me, this is my story. I really want to be a writer, I’d love to do it as a job. Ultimately, I simply need a creative outlet through which I can dump a load of things I’ve over analysed or use it to burn adrenaline.
What next? Well, I need to have a trigger event that will spur me into action, whereupon I will be face with obstacles and a continued series of escalating events (Act 2) until I eventually overcome them and win (Act 3). I might fail, that a possibility too. Either way, I’ll then be faced with a new world in which my wants, my needs and my emotions will all have changed because of my experiences.
See, I did remember something from my course!! The Three Act format is key to all good storytelling. It’s what the audience expects, it’s like a comfort blanket to wrap them in whilst immersing them into the world you’ve created. The course didn’t introduce me to this structure for the first time, but what it did do was teach it me in a better setting for me, a group setting that helped me play it back and fully embed what I was learning. My story on this blog is very much at the start of Act 1; I’ve introduced the main protagonist and I’m currently laying out my wants, needs and emotions. Hopefully I will create a compelling introduction that means you’ll come with me as I journey into Act 2 over the next few years. As for Act 3? No spoilers, I don’t want to ruin the ending!!
I loved the course and it’s given me the right mix of a “kick up the arse” and “creative inspiration” that I needed to continually develop my ideas. More importantly though it gave me a process….AND I BLOODY LOVE A GOOD PROCESS!!! Anything that explains something clearly, shows you how to get from the start to the end and all the rules to follow as you move along; that’s my bag. Maybe this is why I’ve always thought I could become a screenwriter, because I had a vague understanding of the format and rules in which to operate and, to me, it feels like something that I can not only achieve but that I can also succeed at.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m terrible for setting myself high expectations and standards, but for once I’m not doing this after the course. I’m just tackling it “one step at a time” and seeing where the road leads to. There is a weekly script development group that I’ve joined after the course too, meaning I will have to have a weekly writing routine because eventually I have to take in 5 pages of script that I’ve written!!! Terrifying and exciting in equal measure.
Dialogue is something I’ve been scared of before now, but after Saturday I’m far less intimidated by it because I now know how to fully develop a character and that dialogue is something I should add as late as possible. I’m going to re-write scripts all the time, meaning dialogue will always change too so keep it till the end and it will start to feel natural for what each character should say.
It’s about breaking the whole process down into bite-sized manageable chunks. That’s music to my ears. Realistically I could have arrived at this revelation much earlier (particularly given my job) but sometimes you need to hear it from someone else but also taking the time to step back and re-assess it all.
I remember when I learnt how to DJ; once it was broken down into small chunks it was super easy. In fact, it’s as easy as counting. You learn all the extra bits, the flair, the showmanship, your individual style, you get all that through repetition and oodles of practice. The “meat and potatoes” though is all about counting and simply being able to read the room.
By the way, “meat and potatoes” is what a music producer once said to mates of mine who were in a band at the time. I used to manage them, sort of – I’d be so much better at it nowadays, but it was great fun at the time. Anyway, he used the phrase “meat and potatoes” when describing the rhythm section of a band, which was getting set to record the drum and bass tracks.
“Get the meat and potatoes right and the rest will be fine.”
That phrase has stuck with me for years, it always will. It kept popping into my head all throughout the course on Saturday because it was about setting a solid foundation upon which your story can be told. Get the basics right, get to know the format and structure like the back-of-your-hand, make it second nature and the rest will come. I can now start to think about building a spec script to showcase my ability, I can make plans for how I build a portfolio, I can prepare log lines and elevator pitches – once I get the basics nailed. Meat and potatoes, mate.
Guess what? I’ve not mentioned mental health yet. That should give you an idea of where I’m at currently. It ain’t been plain sailing by any stretch, one night in particular was very difficult, but overall I’m being kinder to myself, I’m *trying* to be more mindful and I’m simply taking each day as it comes. Visualization is also really helping, which I honestly never thought would be the case but it really does help.
I’m thinking of adding a new section to the site too, well, two sections (maybe). The first is an “Achievements” page. It might be a bit self-indulgent but I also want to say “well done” to myself when I have a piece of work published. The other section would be some examples of my scripts, including all the drafts they go through. It can’t hurt and it could mean people could give me some feedback if they wanted. Now hang fire though because that’s also very scary to me so there’s a good chance I might not do this for a while, but we’ll see.
Finally, this came back to me when I was on my course but also then with the further announcement that there is going to be a sixth Die Hard film which will simply be called “McClane”. I remembered the very first script I started. It was hand-written, scribbled on paper in some vague idea of what a script looked like with absolutely zero idea of format or structure. The important thing is that the idea was gold (in my 15 year old mind…) and involved a beaten, battered and weary John McClane being called to the White House where he was finally going to be awarded for having saved people from terrorists at Nakatomi Plaza, Dulles International Airport and in New York City. However, a retired soldier would be angered for not receiving the same recognition for his efforts during several wars overseas. The solider would take everyone hostage, including the President and the McClane family with John being sent out of the building and given 24 hours to find a way back in to save the day. That is a better plot than either Die Hard 4 or Die Hard 5. Feel free to get in touch with Bruce on my behalf and pitch the idea. Yippee-ki-yay.
Thanks for reading x
My Life, Less Ordinary
What have I done this week?
- Completed the “1 day Introduction to Screenwriting” course.
- Signed up for a 6-week development group.
- Started listening to Tim Lovejoy’s podcast.
- Started listening to the S Town podcast.
- Used a technique from the course to create a dramatic arc log for characters.
What will I be doing next week?
- Picking up ‘Your Writing Coach’ by Jurgen Wolff again (didn’t do this enough last week).
- More decorating.
- Developing character arcs and dramatic elements for one idea.
- Write a one-page treatment for one idea.
What is currently hindering me?
- Time needed to do other things.
- Still not getting enough exercise.
This weeks’ uplifting songs.