Sunday, February 28, 2010

Confidence & Confidants

Confidence and confidants - if you have a bad French accent they probably sound exactly the same. For a writer though they are inextricably linked.

Confidence in my writing has been at an all time high. I have finally found an expanded group of people whose opinion and feedback I value and trust. No, not mum, Uncle Merv and the cute girl at the corner deli who wants to be an actress. No, not people who nod and exclaim "great" at the merest of chicken scratchings. People serious about the craft of screenwriting who know what they're talking about. People who will push me to help me become a better writer.

Previously I would be flummoxed by various 'gurus' at the state funding agency and other local writers who all talked in some strange language I failed to comprehend. I always thought it was a shortfall on my part. An inkling that this was an incorrect assumption came with a 90 minute consultation with Mike Bullen (Cold Feet) last year. It has been reinforced lately by excellent meetings on my feature script with targeted individuals.

But confidence is a funny thing. I've been doing rewrites based on the various feedback and a strange thought crossed my mind today - what if I make it worse?! The consensus is that the script is in pretty good shape hence my willingness to enter it into various competitions and awards. Now I want to make it great. That's actually a scary proposition.

The good news is the structure is sound so it's more subtle character work and bolstering story logic (ie the rules of the world). However, I went to great lengths to avoid swathes of exposition but now I am faced with the task of including a little more 'explanation' given the nature of the narrative and genre (supernatural thriller).

THAT scares the hell out of me - how to do it ('it' being the dreaded 'E' word) without being clunky. There have been dreadful expository scenes in past versions (eventually clubbed to death like a Canadian seal hunt). Let's call them the "As you know" scenes where characters inexplicably recite information for the audience's benefit only. You know the ones:

"As you know, I recently returned from Africa where I used my expert skills as a big game hunter to not only bag the world's most elusive rogue man-eating lion but also exposed a deadly ring of poachers with ties to the Russian Mafia who are plotting to ..."

Yada yada yada, death, kill me now, please stop, oh dear. Beautifully parodied by, amongst others, Tom Stoppard in The Real Inspector Hound.

Stephen King talks about the "ideal reader" in his book On Writing. I would suggest, as a screenwriter, your task is to find as many and as varied of those people as possible - who you trust, who you respect, who you know will give you brutally honest and constructive feedback. Let them help you become a better writer. Argue, debate, defend, brainstorm, discuss ... but most of all listen.

Find the right people and it's truly amazing for your confidence ...

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