27 August 2011

Don't Be So Dramatic

I've been trying my hand at writing screenplays. In theory it plays to my strengths. Let's emphasize the "in theory." Supposedly my voice and dialogue are generally good. I'm not sold on that but I know I can write words down like how people speak. Or rather, how I speak. If anyone needs dialogue by a thirty something guy for a tweenish female, I'm your man.

Unfortunately, in this case I'm writing about full fledged adults. What keeps getting inserted into my dialogue are lots of curse words. I'm pretty sure there's nothing more "adult" about cussing but somehow it just sneaks in there. I must reach deep inside and find my authentic male voice. He's in there somewhere.

In college my friend and I would write little one or two page things to shoot. We never actually got around to making anything, unless they were skits for the in-between time of our cultural show acts. Spoofs of music videos, commercials, people prancing around in costumes. Some of them were even funny. Actually, we did write a whole cohesive thing for our senior year show. I think it ham fistedly tackled the state of the late 90s Asian American experience on a Midwestern campus. I'm pretty sure it was dramatic and important. Very important.

Regardless, this is my first attempt at writing a screenplay now that I've donned my role as an official writer. Compared to novels, I'm finding it exhilirating to speed through pages and pages, without having to slow down to describe anything. In fact, I've been told to write as little descriptive stuff as possible. No inner monologue, no thought bubbles, no feelings?! All of that is up to the interpretation of the actors and director. My first few attempts were way too consumed with trying to describe exactly what I envisioned on-screen. That's not how a screenplay works. They are sparse, with dialogue and action prompts. This is like learning how to drive a motorcycle after you've been cruising around in an Accord.

I found this site online, The Daily Script, which has a ton of movie and television screenplays. It was important for me to not only see professional stuff but also to make sure I was formatting everything correctly. I feel like my scenes are so much better if the formatting is exactly right. Just like with my books, I'm using Scrivener to do this screenplay. The program makes it tremendously easy to look impressive, even if the dialogue seems frustratingly banal. Writer tip: When in doubt, format things nice and feel like you're a genius.

Tonight I flipped through the scripts for Pulp Fiction and 10 Things I Hate About You. Neither are like what I'm trying to write, but both are such wonderful movies that I couldn't stop reading through them. Next time we all hang out, I'd like to just choose one of these television scripts and act the whole thing out. That would be better than other forms of entertainment right?