...Wow, it's been almost 2 years since my previous (and first) blog post.
It feels like it's only been a few weeks. That's what happens, I suppose, when a person is thinking about other things.
Over the past 4 years, I've been in college. I wanted to start my own business. A publishing business. I wanted to be in control of the stories that I would write. ...heh, 'I would write.' But I didn't have the confidence to write... no, I should say that I didn't have the confidence to Start writing with any serious intent because I had no confidence that other people would like what I would write. I had no confidence that anyone would want to spend money on my writing.
So I went to college and enrolled in the General Business program. Even if I couldn't write, I could Learn how to write, at least, and learn how to run my own business. In that program, I had to take some 'general electives.' One of the electives that were available at the time was 'Dramatic Scriptwriting.' So I decided to take it, figuring that if I were to run a publishing company, I should know how to tell the difference between a good story and a bad story, and point out how to make a story better. I would need to know how to be an Editor.
The Dramatic Scriptwriting course was interesting, but I had not realized, until after I signed up to the course, that I had to write a 20 page screenplay to pass the course. Woah...! I didn't know how to write a screenplay! Yes, the technical information had been given in the course (formatting, act structure, etc.), but I didn't know how to come up with an idea and develop it into a story for a screenplay! I was in big trouble... and asked the professor if I could adapt a comic book for the screenplay. The professor said yes.
A few years earlier, I had read a certain comic arc (3 issues) that cut between a 'present day' story and a 'childhood' story. The 'present day' story intercut with the 'childhood' story and replaced it at a certain point, finishing the childhood story with brief narrative dialog. No, it wasn't a Batman comic. But I really wanted to know what the end of that childhood story was! So borrowed some story from 2 other comics and wove them together in a screenplay. But after I had finished adapting the comics, the screenplay was still short of 20 pages. So, with a little hesitation, I started to write 'the rest of the story.' The rest of the story that I wanted to read. And the story flowed like water down a waterfall.
A few years earlier, around the time that I had read that comic arc, I also had access to Catwoman's 1990s volume. I read every issue, often reading several issues at a time. I went on to read many Batman issues. And Birds of Prey. But when I read the stories, I spent time to imagine the characters' movements, speaking, pacing, the flow of the story. Sometimes I would spend 6 hours at a time, reading one comic after another. It took me about 30 minutes to read a comic as it unfolded in my mind. When I was younger, I watched the Batman Animated series. The 'Batman Animated series' comics (Gotham Adventures) was drawn in a similar art style to the animated series, and the comics were expensive at $3.75 an issue. So to make the experience last, I imagined the story unfolding as an animated episode. It took me about 20 minutes each time to read an animated series comic.
When I was reading the mainstream comics -I never noticed a problem with the animated series comics- I noticed some things that didn't 'work' right. Sometimes there were plot issues, characterization inconsistencies, some character portrayals that weren't quite done well, some pacing issues, and some other things. I didn't understand Why those things were problems, or really 'how to fix them,' but I recognized that they were there, and should not be.
After I had adapted the comic to a screenplay, I showed it to several people. Many of them said that they liked what I wrote. One writing professor told me that I wrote pacing very well. That came as a surprise, because I thought that this type of pacing was 'normal,' based on what unfolded in my mind after reading comics. That same professor commented that my portrayal of the character was inconsistent. I argued against that notion, citing an example of a well-known celebrity. But later I realized something... though I may have been right, I had written the character 'out of character.' After that, I looked into how to write characters.
The conclusion that I reached is that the usual way of writing a screenplay (3 Act Structure, 3 Beat Sheet, 9 Beat Sheet, Outline, Treatment, then screenplay) is not conducive to writing. It's a backwards of writing, which makes a writer form a plot and force the characters to conform to that plot.
It has been said that if a person wants to write screenplays, they either 'have the talent,' or 'they don't.' However, I've noticed that the people who write good stories apply the principles of storytelling. The colleges and universities (as far as I know; if I'm wrong, please correct me) tell people how to write with good story structure, but don't teach people how to recognize, understand and apply the principles of storytelling. Any screenwriter knows that a good story involves more than writing in a formula and act structure. Emotional impact, characterization, and story pacing are some other things that are needed for a well-told story.
Look at the steps of screenplay writing, as taught at school: Start with at least 3 Beats. These beats are main story points. Then expand those beats by adding 2 more beats for every original beat. That leaves you with 9 beats. Each beat is a major plot point, and the additional beats are plot points that connect the main plot points. Each beat will become a scene in the screenplay. Expand the beats into a sentence, and you have an Outline! Then expand each beat into paragraph. Each paragraph will be a single scene, and every scene should connect to the next scene. When you're done, you will have a Treatment! Then expand every paragraph into a scene in the screenplay.
That is a very logical, planned out way of writing... an Essay. Start with your main points (3 Beat Sheet), which will be the main topic points of each section (Act Structure), and add at least 2 sub-points (9 Beat Sheet). Then expand each point into a sentence (Outline), and then write out the essay (Treatment). Don't forget the introduction (Trailer), which sums up the essay! Also don't forget the thesis statement (Tag Line), which states your entire essay in 1 sentence!
A note on Trailers: A trailer is Not supposed to reveal everything that happens in the movie. That Breaks the suspense and mystery of the Storytelling!
People who want to write a screenplay really need to learn and know the art of Flirting. Especially people who want to make Trailers.
There are several goals that I am working toward now. One of them is to replace the current rating system with something that is less subjective and more based on objective criteria. Another one is to help people know and learn the principles of storytelling. And another one is to make and produce a good Catwoman movie.
At the moment, I'm about to form a company and produce a series to air on YouTube (more about that later). This is the first step or getting a writing and producing credit, and a reputation.
Then I want to make a website that explains the principles of storytelling and gives ideas on how to apply them. The website information will be free for anyone to access.
I don't expect to win this blog competition. But if I do, I'd rather have a conversation with Michael Uslan than a book that I can buy. A conversation would be priceless.
Thank you for reading this,
And good night~
I'll keep you updated ...in less than 2 years.
~ Smartryk Foster