Norn Irony

I have this thing about how-to-write-a-screenplay manuals.  I’m always skimming them to check I haven’t missed something, and that no-one’s discovered a way to make the creative process easy… No luck so far.  There’s a book in my bathroom at the minute called ‘How Not to Write A Novel’ which has great fun mimicking the mistakes of up-and-coming authors – getting bogged down in irrelevant detail, copping out of the climactic confrontation, using words the writer doesn’t understand – but it’s a snide sort of pleasure reading it, because taking the piss out of other people’s efforts is a relatively easy way to get laughs.  Famous comedians have filled whole TV series with spoofs of other shows; ultimately it’s derivative and even lazy.  Coming up with something original is much harder to do, and those who try – even if they don’t entirely succeed – deserve credit.  (Even if we’re all too busy snickering to give it.)

Anyway, reading one particular guide to writing screenplays, a sentence caught my eye that went something like ‘When the audience knows something the […] Continue Reading…

Not Bad, Just Drawn That Way

Shortly after it came out I read a review of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, in which Orlando Bloom plays a young medieval blacksmith who joins one of the Crusades in The Holy Land.  The reviewer concluded that the movie was flawed because ‘Bloom cannot carry an action picture’.  Well, the movie was flawed, yes, but it wasn’t Bloom’s fault.  No actor could have made the part of the hero work, because of the way it was written.

It’s a truism – or cliché perhaps – of movie drama that ‘action is character’.  In other words, the audience judges a character by what they do, not what they say.  Yes, sometimes saying is doing, but not very often; while dialogue is a good way to convey information in small quantities, it’s nothing like as effective as action when portraying character.

Kingdom of Heaven opens with a body being buried at a crossroads.  We learn that the body is that of the blacksmith’s wife; she committed suicide and therefore cannot be buried in sanctified ground.  We follow a traveller to the nearest village where we meet the […] Continue Reading…

Making a Scene

I was going to try and write a blog entry on How to Construct a Scene, but when I thought about it I realised I don’t really know How to Construct a Scene – I let my imagination do it.  Within the parameters of the story, that is.  TV episodes are usually carefully structured; you can’t just make stuff up as you go along. (I can’t, anyway – for me it’s like driving blindfolded and hoping you’ll end up at your destination.)  Before I start I know what the scene needs to do: what bit of story information I want to reveal, and how the characters react to it.  That’s dictated by the characters’ personalities and attitude and what they want to achieve.  I figure out who is there already when the scene starts, who enters, if anyone, and who initiates the important part of the conversation that we the viewers witness.  (That’s presuming there is conversation; often scenes are more dramatic and cinematic when nothing is said. But you’ll rarely see many scenes like that, on TV anyhow – […] Continue Reading…