Want to pursue a career as a writer? Here is how you go about it !
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou
Key points that will help you in establishing as a script/screenplay writer
Unlike earlier times, script and screenplay writers these days take on commanding roles and often make key decisions for every production house. You could be struggling with a script or it could be a screenplay for an adaptation or a whole new storyboard. Here are some key points you should keep in mind before you settle down with your coffee and laptop!
For many of us, writing doesn’t come naturally. One has to realise, that like any other skill, writing has to be developed over the years and trust us… it will come to you — if you invest sufficient time, energy and emotion! Even if you are getting started right this moment(and ready to hammer down that brilliant idea on to your laptop), keep in mind, discipline and regularity will go a long way in developing yourself as a writer. At the end of the day, writing is the concept of communicating your big story idea to all the other stakeholders(producers, directors, actors, etc.) in the project. Now obviously, before you go out into the world with your first story, it should have undergone your own stringent set of editing(First draft, second draft, first edit and so on!). This only leads us to one conclusion — write and write regularly until you feel confident about your work!
Story Concept (Stick to the idea!)
One can easily get carried away by the need to be grammatically and literally correct. In the process of writing down your big idea, you may find yourself lost in a myriad of tabs that tell you the correct usage of the semicolon! YOU WANT TO AVOID THIS!
The most important thing to keep in mind while writing is the core central idea. This is where the stroke of brilliance emanates from and translates into a masterful film. The most important asset a writer has is his/her imagination… Which means that even before a scene is shot or a dialogue is delivered, the writer has the imagery played out in his/her mind. This vision of a certain scene or a story has to be clear — primarily in the mind of the writer. This conceptualisation will be the main driving force for the entirety of the project.
Brainstorming (Be firm… but not rigid!)
Many award winning scripts have been subjected to the bottom drawer dust before they saw the light of the day. Keep in mind, it may be awhile before you strike gold and your big idea finally has some takers. Also, it can be very easy to get possessive and protective of a script you have laboured over (sometimes over several months). But more often than not, you will need to collaborate with directors and actors to actualise your script and there are bound to be a number of opinions floating around. A certain amount of flexibility not only makes you open to suggestions but also reduces your workload in terms of having to micro-manage every scene. Brainstorming with your co-workers will take you a long way as a team-player and in building a strong network of like-minded professionals.
Research (Dig… and dig deep!)
At the heart of any good script lies a thoroughly researched subject matter and the beauty of film allows one to pick and choose tenets (much like an ala carte) of the subject which are relevant to the scene without having to acquire a Ph.D on the subject! An affinity for gathering information from a number of resources and experiences is what helps build a narrative worth filming. The only way to go about it is to read and consume data from different sources (often from both sides of an argument — for and against). This kind of massive data gathering exercise will help you frame the right dialogues/screenplay with suitable context that convey the message as envisaged by you… the writer! The more complex a message, the more exhaustive the research has to be, in order to accurately deliver the message.
Character Development (The Devil is in the details)
Arguably the most significant component of stories are the characters… because they are the ones that breathe life into the words you have hammered out on paper. It is of pivotal importance that you, the writer, be familiar and absolutely sure about the characters. A character sketch helps you clearly define this. A character sketch lists down physical, emotional and social attributes of a certain character. This kind of listicle clearly defines the character’s role and his/her standpoint with reference to the plot(antagonist or protagonist etc.) and helps build the character’s persona over the duration of the film. A script may have several characters(based on the complexity of the script) and they may develop over the duration of the film. Draw inspiration from practical life and try to incorporate traits you may observe in similar characters in the ones you wish to form in your script.
Plotting (Don’t lose sight of the big picture)
Filmmaking is a subtle art. The subtleties need to make themselves implicit and not explicit. The only weapon the writer has in this regard is the plot and the weight it carries. One can easily get lost in scripting descriptive scenes which just build on an existing (opening tenet) narrative. But the key to good writing lies in the ability to string together scenes in a manner to form a great story that is not only captivating but also coherent. The plot may or may not be linear but its’ success largely depends on how it all comes together at the climax.
Outline (Learn to precis write)
Let’s say you have spent an entire month conceptualising, rethinking, scripting, editing and formatting a brilliant saga. And by the end of this month you are convinced that this is the one that breaks the box-office! Even so, one has to realise that the story is just freshly out of your mind and only recently materialised on paper. The journey to the box office is going to be a long one. And so… it is important to have a rough outline, a summation of the story in a nutshell. This initial pitch is the one that helps you convey details(to producers, directors, etc.) in a nutshell, without wasting anyone’s time.
Script Diary (Reminders go a long way)
Now let’s assume you have gotten your script commissioned and the production planners are busy drawing up schedules and timelines. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the pace of things once you have managed to score that green signal and the one thing that will keep you grounded in the madness of a production set is a script diary. Think of it as a list of reminders one would make while writing the script. This set of reminders will include the minor details and/or the subtleties that will ensure that the essence is not lost. This will also help make the script a lot more layered and matured. Think of the script as the lock and the script diary as the key(a key that only you, the writer has) that unlocks it!
Rewriting (Practice makes perfect)
Once again, don’t shy away from rewriting! A certain idea or a concept may seem like a brilliant idea after three nights of continuous writing. But this once brilliant idea may seem to fall flat on its face in retrospect(after changes and revisions). And that is why a writer should never shy away from rewriting a piece. And then once you have rewritten, you will realise you have circumnavigated your way past gaping holes in the plot. A readiness to discard the bits that you once thought to be interesting will help you grow and adapt as a writer in the business.
Editing(the chop chop)
The edit table is often the writer’s nightmare and this chop shop has had many writers up in arms. But a writer should never undermine the power of editing as it sharpens artistic perspectives. A well-edited film can bring out the best from a film and this process of fine tuning allows the writer to identify his/her strengths and weaknesses.