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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Ideas Fairy and The WTF? Draft

In Ancient Greece, it was thought, most notably by Plato, that ideas were universals: in other words, they existed OUTSIDE of the human mind, independently. So, if you were a playwright (for movies were not to be invented don't forget for approximately 2000 years, duh), you were not the "true" author of your work: that idea, floating around in space or time or wherever, would literally come to you, plant itself inside your brain and make a little play tree.

This notion is called Idealism in philosophy and I kind of like it, since it takes away responsibility for all the times you look in your portfolio of screenplays and say, "What the hell was I thinking when I wrote THIS SHITE?!" Every time a screenplay comes back with a rejection slip, one can say: "It wasn't me. It was the idea. I was clearly in the wrong place in the time-space continuum to be able to receive anything good." I can almost see myself with a radio antenna on my head, tuned to SCREENWRITING IDEAS PLEASE. Now I know why I haven't made three million pounds and don't have my own series on cable! Bill Martell is in my way and interrupting my frequency! DAMN HIM!

But of course, it is just fantasy. There is no Ideas Fairy out there, shooting out ideas to creative people from a little pea shooter. Sadly. If your idea sucks, it sucks. AND IT'S YOUR FAULT.

But just because something is a bad, confused or unoriginal idea does not mean it can't be rescued. When I first had a go at this screenwriting lark, my ideas were so bad it was frightening. They didn't even make sense half the time. Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know my notion of The WTF? Draft, coined by accident by a friend of mine: "Read your script...Like it, I think: gotta ask though, what the fuck is it about?!"

I read a lot of similar drafts and I read a lot of similar problems in those drafts. Does this mean the authors should abandon all hope? Of course not. Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. It's all in the rewriting. You gotta be in it to win it. Cue a million other cliches, but they're all true. You want it? You don't neccessarily get it. But wanting it, and wanting it bad, so bad you'll do ANYTHING to get your craft honed is part of the battle.

The other part, then? It's your idea.

Can you pinpoint what the seed of your story is, what the controlling idea is behind it? Can you listen to feedback and take it well? Can you accept changes to your narrative thrust, say yes: "I had perceived it turning out this way, but others think it might be better this way"? You can? Then, great. You're on your way.

But if you answered "No" to any of the above, then YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. Not because it makes any difference to me - it doesn't. I'm always shocked by the few who pay me to read their screenplays and then tell me I'm talking bullshit when I give them what they pay for: my experience via my training and reading lots of scripts, but also my opinion. However, like I said - they're only a minority and I got paid, which means I paid the bills that week or for my son's frighteningly huge Munch Bunch Drinky+ addiction.

It makes a difference to you.

Yes, there are the Readers to beat. Yes there are the Producers to impress. Yes there are those people who may or may not develop you, fund you, get back to you, slag you off, big you up or represent you. There will always be good people, but there will always be the 24 carat wankers.

The only person who ultimately stands in your way is you.

You've got to listen.

People will tell you good stuff. Honest. But you gotta sort the wheat from the chaff in a non-confrontational, good-natured way. That way people will tell you even more good stuff. But you gotta be patient - don't demand it. One day, maybe people will ask you the same things, so you have to remember how you'd like to be treated. It's like a massive spider web: complex, but delicate. Tread carefully, and your weight will be supported. If you don't, you'll get eaten alive.

So you want it? Go get it. And don't give up...

7 comments:

Lucy said...

And while you're off getting "it", fetch me a long black and a cadbury's creme egg! Bee-atch!

Optimistic_Reader said...

I wish the Ideas Fairy would stop visiting me as I'm about to go to sleep. Typically she's nowhere to be found the next morning when I'm looking for her!

Lucy said...

What you need to do OR is set your ideas antenna to LASER capability and stun the bitch so you can stuff her in a small box until you're ready in the morning!!

And where's my creme egg???

Optimistic_Reader said...

She's a willful bitch alright, that Ideas Fairy. Everything's on her terms!

You'll have to wait till March and the Adrian Mead seminar for your creme egg - it would get all mashed up in the post. I spotted those yummy little Green & Black's eggs yesterday. Managed to resist, but I'm sure I won't last long...

Lucy said...

This is what BUBBLE WRAP is for OR!!! Not popping...

And don't resist! We spend our lives resisting and being sensible. I for one say NO MORE to resisting and HELLO TO TEMPTATION...

Optimistic_Reader said...

Bubble wrap is for when I get stressed. Come to think of it, so is Green & Black's.

Lucy said...

TRYING TO BE SENSIBLE CAUSES STRESS!!!

Don't be sensible, little of what you fancy does you good.

Only today I wrote the words "Fuck it" AS a scene description - two words, on their own.

And it felt good...