Outlining for the script, how I hate it (but oh how I need it)

So before we delve into today’s post, just a bit of horn tootin for both Rick and me. Rick recently had another short film completed, “Missed Stop”, which will be hitting the festival circuits in the near future. I have a short script, “Last Rites”, that is set to be filmed in California over the Labor Day weekend, and so I hope to see a finished cut before the end of the year. Always great to see how the words you’ve written are interpreted by the director, the cinematographer, and the cast.

But getting those words to the script are always paramount to the writer, and how they get there varies from writer to writer.

There are those writers who need to have every beat in the story crafted out, the story blocked out to the greatest extent possible, characters fully described and the protagonists main arc perfectly delineated. Once they have all that then they can finally sit down and type out FADE IN and craft their script in accordance with their outline. I can’t do that. I just can’t. If that works for you and that’s the only way you can tell your story, then by all means, go for it. To me, it’s a little bit of paint by number writing, because you’re going through each scene and you’re writing based exactly on what’s in that outline without any room for maneuvering lest you sabotage the rest of the outline.

Then there are the writers who sit down at the computer with only a general idea in their heads about the story and the characters and just start typing. In their mind they want to see where the characters take the story — which is a bit of a fake out. The writer is the one driving the characters, so the writer still is the one making up the story on the fly. To those writers who can pull that off, I tip my cap to you and secretly loathe you, because that’s not how I can do it.

I think both Rick and I are somewhere in the middle group. We’ll look at each act, prepare a general, but not overly detailed, synopsis of each act, and then work from that. This allows us room to deviate from the big picture as the spirit moves us without having to go back and revamp the entire outline. It gives more flexibility to operate, and I feel, to be more creative overall.

I encourage anyone preparing to write a script to work with whatever gets you motivated to sit down and start writing. Do what works for you, and not because you read it in a book or because someone told you that it HAD to be done a certain way to be successful. Most of the people telling you that haven’t had any success to speak of.

That said, it’s time to start outlining. Let’s see where our outline takes us on our trip to Lake Regret.

2 thoughts on “Outlining for the script, how I hate it (but oh how I need it)

  1. Really am enjoying these progress reports.
    Some terrific information, that’s entertaining too.
    Best of luck Gary and Rick! 😀

    Like

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