Wednesday, April 08, 2009

In Search of Silence

Today is another day in the ongoing, line-by-line Great Biopic Screenplay Edit. Paul and I shower each other with encouragement:

"You write like a girl!"
"You dictated this -- remember?"
"Try again; this time with talent." we try to make the script fit for human consumption. I am, admittedly, too close to the project for true objectivity. However, if I do say so myself -- I believe we're crafting something that's quite good.

Paul and I are both believers in the "Oblique Conversation Principle." People rarely say exactly what they mean. It's second nature in real life. But it's not always easy to duplicate in a script.

Sometimes, the best way to approach the issue is to write out the scene using on-the-nose dialogue that articulates what the characters would say, if they said precisely what was on their minds -- then going back through it and changing every line to something less obvious. It's the writing equivalent of an artist outlining something in pencil first, finishing the drawing, and erasing the original lines.

Sometimes, however, the best thing you can do for a scene is to write out the dialogue; wrestling with it until it strengthens the subtext, adds nuance to your character, and impresses you with your own cleverness. Then... getting rid of it all.

Often, if you have done your job as a writer, the scene will play just as well without a single line spoken... or, at the very least, with minimal language.

This happened to us as we worked yesterday. We were polishing one of our favorite scenes. I liked certain aspects of it. Paul liked others. We each argued for our pet projects until... Paul suggested axing everything but the actions.

Et voila!

Suddenly, the scene got MUCH more interesting. It's not like all our hard work on crafting cool words went right out the window. Rather, when we got rid of the words, we both felt that the real essence of the scene shone through.

If you're wrestling with a scene -- be it in a screenplay or in a novel -- consider taking all the words out of it and see how it plays. Without the distraction of spoken words, the audience's attention is riveted on the characters' actions. And, of course, one of the first truisms of humanity is that actions speak louder than... you know.

Project Updates

The Major Project for the USHJA is at the "clean up the bits and pieces" stage. Later this afternoon, I'll go through the entire project on a part-by-part basis and make sure that all individual sections are ready for vetting by the legal department.

Speaking of vetting, the horse vet comes tomorrow for spring shots and some much-needed dental work on the two "free" horses that have come to call our place home. One, in particular, will need some extensive work. Her teeth are interfering with her ability to make the most of her food. She's literally getting as much to eat as Theo, and she's a small, light horse -- yet Theo is in fine (some would call him "fat") fettle, and she's... ribby. Ick.

We are in the midst of a Subterranian Extravaganza, as our contractor does daily battle with both the low basement and the high water table. Further news from the front as events develop.

And Ryan's book is poised to take precedence over all other projects. In fact, with any luck, I hope to have most of it at least in rough draft form before the end of the month.

With several projects clamoring for attention, it behooves me to finish today's post and get to work! So... off I go: in search of silence.