Life in Paragraphs

Having just started planning my third feature and polishing up two others, I’ve been looking back to see what I’ve learned writing them. Not just about writing, but about myself too (I feel icky writing that it feels so cliché, but it’s the truth. I hate myself sometimes).

The first screenplay I ever wrote, I went into with a plan of the events of the story:

  • This is going to happen
  • Then this because it’ll make it interesting
  • Then this because it makes it difficult for the protagonist
  • Classic structure
  • Standard progression
  • Cliché dialogue
  • It speaks for itself

It was a passion project for an amateur writer. But the story meant a lot to me. I was throwing chunks of coal into a fire to see how big I could make it. I wrote a couple drafts, did a few edits, then ended up leaving that film for a year and a half.

In the meantime, I finished second year at university and started work on my second feature. I had read so much Scottish and Celtic myth and lore about Scotland I wanted to do my own take and I wrote something like 400 notecards which I typed up and made up the story as I went. It was absolute chaos.

When I took the first draft to my tutor, she read through and said that the context and the world were great, but it was overpowering, the story got lost. I put too much garlic in the arrabbiata. The story and character arcs weren’t that strong. And I read it with the new perspective and agreed and I was so ANNOYED. How could I do this? I’d done so much research about planning and writing films?

For the last four months, she’s been making me write the entire film in the arc for a character, in a single paragraph.

It has been the bane of my life.

Every single edit or draft of the paragraph resulted with the same question: But what does it mean? What are you saying? How does the protagonist changing show this? But in the end, I got there.

Starting my third feature, I had the idea for the context first, but then I left it there. I straight away drafted the emotional journey for the main character; what I wanted to say with the film/the protagonist. No context involved at all. Just pure emotional progression. Because that’s what story is. It’s the changing of emotions. Context is just a genre that you sell.

I’ve not got that far with it yet so far, as I’ve not experienced the emotions that I want to write about yet. That’s going to happen over the next few months when I move to Iona.

But having learned all this, looking back on the first feature I wrote, I started fixing it up again in January and I saw how much of an absolute mess it was. Even more so for the second one. It’s like turning a jigsaw box upside down on the table; all the pieces are there, they just have to put together to make sense.

The films I write are exactly who I am, my philosophies of life, a phase of it, or whatever I’m feeling at the time of writing it.

I’m an urban fantasy, magic realism, drama, coming-of-age, writer. Slice of life with a bit of fairy dust.

I think I’m just trying to see the silver-lining wherever there might be one. I’m looking to add a bit of weirdness or a different perspective of my surroundings and the people in my life.

I’m not sure, I’m still figuring it out. 

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