Outlining: the necessary evil


In the last 2 years the single most important thing I have learned about scriptwriting is the necessity of outlining. I stumbled on it when my first script got stuck midway.
It always helps to know where your story is going. It doesnt mean that you have to function within a well etched out corridor of determinism. You don’t even need to know your climax to start writing a screenplay. But you should be knowing what the basic thread of your story is. There may be some masterpieces out there created without outlining. But I am sure they are very few.
Greatest criticism towards outlining is that writing is spontaneous and outlining makes it mechanistic. I beg to differ. Continue reading

Viva Sunita!- a review

This review of mine was first published in shortz, a portal for Indian short films.

What struck me most in the first view is the acting. When you see shorts you see a lot of strain of ‘expressing’ the emotion on the face and but the hands and feet of the actors often remain wooden. Fixed in the strain of emoting. But here you can see a demonstration of importance of good body language. Look at the guy who comes wearing a lunki, smoking a beedi. Or the first guy who comes to help the protagonist. Or the lady who says,”Yeh chuthiya bana rahein hai subko”.

A reason why the interactions between the different characters is good is that director gets the right tone in dialogue deliveries. The specs guy with tie when he says, “Yeh Sunita… ghar mein hain na?” or when the first guy who comes along and offers to help. Coming up with so many different patterns and tones to render individuality to characters is not that easy.

Another clever thing is the positioning of the characters. As everyone is looking up and calling someone you get all of their faces and interactions in a single angle. So here nature of content helps to overcome a common problem. One often sees this problem in soap operas where two characters talking to each other won’t look in the face but would stare at a same distant point. Continue reading

The girl and the boat


The boat is gently rocking in the water.
She asked, ”Aren’t you afraid?”
”Me? For what?,” he smiled.
He waved back at the children on the shore. Aunts are taking out the lunch.
”Well, I am scared,” she said.
He turned to look at her. Her hair was all over the place. She appeared so fragile. It is like that, he thought. Unruly hair makes one look so vulnerable. Continue reading

Knowledge arc

Knowledge arc is something I have found useful while writing a script. I came across this idea from scriptfaze. Basically knowledge arc means plotting where your audience awareness stand at different points of your script.

I write my scripts in bits and pieces. Pieces of 20-30 minutes scattered through the day. Due to the lack of continuity in writing I am always at a loss in knowing where my (potential) reader or audience stands in terms of exposition or emotional state.

In knowledge arc you move event by event in your outline and plot out how much the audience know about the characters/plot along with their particular (expected) emotional situation for every point in the story. This helps because sometimes we invest unnecessary emotion or exposition in a scene which doesn’t work with the audience. It can occur either because the audience has already guessed that particular exposition or because the particular emotional note you are hitting is out of sync with what you have build up/not build up in the previous scenes.

In a thriller this technique can be really helpful. Today’s audience second guesses the writer at every point. It is tough to conserve the surprise element (without being ridiculous). A knowledge arc helps you to time the next feeding time for your audience.

Consider Aamir. Imagine that we develop a knowledge arc for that movie. You will realise that most can guess what the plan of the abductors of aamir’s family is, within around 10-20 minutes into the movie. So actually what happens in the climax is not that of a real surprise. Though writer throws the audience of the track in between with the suitcase and its contents, in the climax everything comes back to the initial position. This could have been avoided with a knowledge arc. A knowledge arc would have helped to realise that you need some more novel elements in the midsection of the movie.

Photo by yushimoto_02 [christian]

Eden Lake

A group of individuals in a specific situation perishing in the hands of a ghost or a psycho- it’s the bread and butter of the horror genre. Is it possible to work wonders with creativity inside such a typical genre format?
Watch Eden lake for the answer.
Here the menace is a group of 13 year olds. The victim is a elementary school teacher and her boyfriend who sets off to spend the weekend in a deserted lake side national park.

The great thing about the screenplay is the way the conflict builds up. The kids (a girl included) are not devils who have no qualms regarding killing people. The conflict builds up between these two sets of individuals when the boyfriend asks the kids to turn down the volume of stereo in the beach. They don’t take this kindly. Everything builds up from their subsequent boorish behaviour to a stolen car to a dead dog to murders. Continue reading

Scriptwriting tools

How much role does the different softwares and supportware has in writing? When I started scriptwriting, all the fine details of writing held a lot of interest. Should you use some software? Should one outline a story in software? How many rewrites does usually writers do? Should you outline with pencil and paper? Use scene index cards? That kind of stuff held a lot of interest.

But when you write for some time you gradually realise that the most important thing is that you write. It may sound easy. But to keep on writing everyday in between your job or studies, thats the only challenge an aspiring writer really has. Rest of it is just what suits your thought process and cognitive style.

But still there is no harm in experimenting. Everyone has to pass through that phase. So what do I use? For story development and outlining I simply use microsoft one note. The options of easily rearranging different elements and the ease in opening,cut pasting and automatic saving really suits me. One of my friends has suggested a software called powerstructure. It looked good to me. But its not free and I dont recommend paying money for it. For formatting earlier I used Scriptgenie which is very simple, free and comfortable to use. Later I came across Celtx. Its free and has good number of features (which may or may not be useful) and is userfriendly. I have stuck with it. I dont recommend spending money on scriptwriting tools. None of them is worth it unless you are really successful in writing and can afford to throw money just for the heck of it. But if you are already successful with your own style of writing, why would you need this tools now?