[Script Frenzy] Plot Bunny

Script Frenzy has begun, and you may already be stuck.  I’m going to share a few plot outlining tips and familiarize you with my SF project, which I’ll be discussing quite a bit this month.

The first is the logline, one of the first things your Frenzy profile asks you for after title and genre.  A logline is a one-sentence summary of your plot. Essentially, writing a logline means you have to boil down your entire 100-page script into a single concept.

Still confused?  Here’s the logline for my SF project:

Two teen delinquents team up to overcome obstacles and attend college despite their lifelong gang leader rivalry.

While it doesn’t go in-depth – and doesn’t even give the characters’ names – the logline is an effective plot summary.  While it’s not exactly the most exciting, it’s good enough to get me started.  The nicest thing about a logline is that you can edit and change as you go along, but I’m going to save those kinds of things for after I finish the script.  That way, I’ll be able to examine the plot and create a better hook for my logline.

Exercise: Write loglines for “Terminator,” “The Proposal,” “Spider-Man,” “Bring It On,” and “Star Wars.”

Next, we’ll talk about the “____ meets ____” format.  While it’s not technically a real format, it helps you think about your story in a different way – plus the Script Frenzy website features “____ meets ____” on the front page.  This format is less about the basic concept of your script – which is what the logline is for – and more about the style in which you’ll write your script.

I like this format because it’s an interesting way to work out the kinks in your style, especially for loose adaptions.  Compare your project to two movies or books that others might be familiar with:

My script is 10 Things I Hate About You meets Toradora!.

Quick and painless, right?  If you want to learn more about either of those things, you can click on the titles – though I’m sure you’ve seen 10 Things I Hate About You, especially if you were a 90’s kid.

Exercise: Use the “____ meets ____” format for the following books: “The Hunger Games,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Holes.”

Now that you’ve got your concept and your style straightened out, we can talk about plot. I’m sure most of you are familiar with outlining, a pretty common trick for working on a big project, whether it’s a novel or a film. We’re going to try a different way to outline your plot: using the three-part format.

Break down your story into three major plot arcs: the beginning, the middle, and the end. This author does a nice, rather in-depth post about the three-part plot structure – he even has pictures – so I’ll just give you a little suggestion instead: try writing your three arcs as three separate paragraphs. Fitting with the concept of the three-part structure, the first paragraph should be more of an introduction, whereas much of the action would take place in the second and third parts.

Your paragraphs can be as long or as short as you like. Here is my first paragraph:

Ryan, a physically intimidating teen, fronts as the leader of the Blue Dragons gang, but he’s actually a big softie who loves cooking and keeping house more than fighting. After a huge fight against rival gang the Tiger Grrls – and rival gang leader Tori – Ryan decides he wants to quit the Blue Dragons to pursue his dream of following the lovely Kate, Tori’s best friend, to college. Tori, who has a huge crush on Ryan’s best friend David, threatens to reveal his humiliating crush unless he helps her get into the same college as David.

I do have two more, but that should give you a decent idea of how to begin – the second paragraph describes Ryan and Tori’s exploits as they attempt to get into college and the third paragraph introduces the plot after a crisis erupts. Got an idea of how to do it? Now it’s your turn.

Exercise: Write a three-paragraph summary of your Script Frenzy project. You can also do “The Godfather,” “The Lion King,” “The Parent Trap,” “Miss Congeniality,” or “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” for outside practice.

Finally, it’s time to title your project! Titles can be tricky, but you can always change it later.  Pick out a specific phrase or image from your project to start with.  Decide if it would make an eye-catching title – or even just make a nice working title – and stick it on your title page.

I chose “Half-Sized Tiger” as my title.  That’s the nickname of one of the characters, Tori, that Ryan gave her as something rather rude or unpleasant.  Eventually, the meaning of the nickname changes as Ryan’s perspective of Tori changes.

What is the title of your Script Frenzy project?

Script Frenzy 2012 Launches!

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Script Frenzy 2012!  Script Frenzy is an annual challenge held by the Office of Letters and Light in April to write a 100-page script in the month of April.

This year, I’m participating in Script Frenzy for the first time in several years – and this time, I have an edge: last semester, I learned how to properly write a screenplay in the Screenwriting I course at my university.  Along the way, I’ll post encouraging tidbits, discussions of craft, and hopefully pick up a few guest bloggers as well.

If you’d like to participate in Script Frenzy this year, you have plenty of fantastic options for writing.  You may want to consider experimenting with one of these forms:

  • Writing a film.  100 pages is a typical length for a feature film and, based on how much action and the pacing of the dialogue, makes for a film of about two hours.
  • Writing a stage play.  I’ve written stage plays before – that’s how I started my high school drama club.  Stage plays are fun, but you’re limited by the space on the stage.  If you loved drama club when you were younger – or if you love acting for the stage even now – you may be most interested in writing a stage play.  My favorite stage play is M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang, which is the book on which I wrote my senior Honors Thesis.
  • Writing a miniseries.  A miniseries can be tons of fun!  Since you can calculate about one minute per page of script, a 40-page chunk would make a single episode of your miniseries.  If you’re not too intimidated by going over the page count, try writing a three-episode miniseries with 40-minute episodes for a total of 120 pages.
  • Writing the opening episodes of a television show or web series.  TV episodes are usually about 20 to 23 pages long for a half-hour show and about 45 pages for a one-hour show.  With those lengths in mind, you could easily write three or more opening episodes for a potential television show – and you could reduce the number of episodes needed by writing a double-sized pilot episode.  If you’d rather write a web series, you can write serial scripts of any length, so you could write a five-minute show every day and crank out your SF project in only 20 days.
  • Writing a comic book or graphic novel script.  This is the really fun but really difficult one: comic book/graphic novel scripts are written very differently from screenplays or stage plays.  You can learn more about how to write comic book and graphic novel scripts in Script Frenzy’s Writer’s Resources section.

Certainly at least one of those things must tickle your fancy!  If you’re just coming from NaNoLand, you may want to try writing a film first – and using your last NaNo piece as the base of an adapted film.  Who knows?  Maybe your SF script will end up even better than your NaNo novel.

Remember: to make that 100-page goal, you have to write three and a half (3.5) pages per day.  The actual number is 3.3 pages, so if you do 3.5, you’ll finish a little bit ahead of schedule!

Are you participating in Script Frenzy this year?  If so, post the URL of your profile here, and I’ll become one of your writing buddies!  You can also add me directly on the site by visiting my profile.

31 March: Review

In March, I had the opportunity to travel many places and try many new (and not-so-new) things. My first stop was the Association of Writers and Writing Programs National Conference, which took place in Chicago March 1-3. I’d never been to a writing conference before – and I’d never visited Chicago – so it was a great opportunity to learn more about writers and the writing community.

I also had the opportunity to visit one of the schools to which I am applying for graduate school.  It was an amazing and fantastic experience – although the 18+ hours of driving could have been less tiresome. Visiting really helped me form a better idea of what I want to do in publishing and what I want to pursue.

In terms of my writing, I’ve had lots of fun and interesting experiences this month.  The following stories were published in UToday, the online edition of UT News:

This list does not include stories included in the print edition of UT News.

At the end of the month, I had the awesome opportunity to teach a workshop on the Celtx program to my student writing group. I was so proud of everyone who attended: most of them not only learned how to write a screenplay and use the program, but they also completed their first short film script!

As April approaches, you can look forward to tons of fun events. It’s National Poetry Month, so I’ll have plenty of things to do with UTWG – including some public readings that may be of interest to some. Join us April 19 at Grounds for Thought in Bowling Green for an open mic reading – and keep checking back to find out what other things we’ll be doing for National Poetry Month.

Script Frenzy takes place during April, as well.  I’ll be participating in SF and blogging about it along the way! Check out my Script Frenzy 2012 page as the month progresses to learn more about the challenge and what I’m doing this month.

31 October: Current Progress

Happy Halloween!

As I gear up for NaNoWriMo with the rest of the UT Writer’s Guild, I’m wrapping up a few of my long-term projects before November.  Most of them will start over again in December.

  • I’ve decided to work on a new, as-of-now untitled screenplay project.  All I can really tell you is that it’s related to The TECH Project and my first attempt at Script Frenzy in 2009.  And that it’ll be much better than both of those things.
  • This month, I’ve been making some excellent progress on my novel The Final Experiment, which is a direct sequel to The TECH Project and takes place one year after TTP’s conclusion.  I’m more than three-fourths of the way finished transcribing the novel, but I also have to write two full scenes – including an intense battle scene – and there’s a lot of editing to do before I can do anything else with the manuscript.
  • I’m also working on Knitting, a prompt for my Screenwriting class that’s growing into a slightly larger story.  It may go on to do bigger and better things, but for now it’s a 10-minute short film.

And now on to NaNoWriMo!  Here’s what you can look forward to as I update with fair regularity about my progress:

Augustine is a little old-fashioned.  His whole apartment is decorated in neo-Victorian style – but he’s felt for some time now that something’s missing.  He finds that missing element in a back-alley antique store: an ornate brass-framed mirror, faintly scratched.  Thrilled with his find, Augustine hauls it home only to find himself sucked inside – into a strange, almost Victorian world filled with oil-driven and steam-powered machines.

That’s just a brief summary – I have much more outlined!

You can also see in my current sidebar a NaNoWriMo widget.  I’ll keep my word count updated there, too, so you can check my progress as I make it.  I plan to win NaNo for the first time this year!

Will you be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year?  If so, add me as a friend!  You can find me under the username xxfourthelement or in the Toledo regional forums.

Writing Tips: Keeping Focused

In the media-filled world we live in now, it’s amazing that anyone manages to get any serious writing work finished.  Between sites like Facebook and Twitter, the constant ringing and buzzing of cell phones, and everything else going on, there’s little time to think and breathe – let alone work on that novel.

Somehow, I’ve managed to find a few ways to sit and focus, even for only 30 minutes at a time to work on my blog.  (You have to start somewhere, right?)  Here are my personal tips on finding ways to focus on writing.

  • Put yourself in a “foreign” environment.  I do most of my good thinking and writing when I’m not at my house, where I have easy and convenient access to my biggest distraction, The Refrigerator.  Moving to a different location – usually someplace on-campus or at a coffee shop – always helps me focus a little more.
  • Pick your reward and stick to it.  Usually, I do this when I’m having an ongoing text message conversation.  Withhold yourself from doing something – like sending a text or getting a drink of water – until you have reached a goal, such as writing a full page of script or editing one poem.  If you have an immediate benefit, you’re more likely to push yourself to finish rather than stopping mid-thought, which is never a benefit at all.
  • Compete with a friend.  This works particularly well with models like National Novel Writing Month and Script Frenzy.  Set a goal with a friend and see who can reach it first.  That might mean finishing a short story in a week or 500 pages in one month.  Keep in contact with your friend via e-mail or text, letting him or her know how far you are.  When they tell you that they’re ten pages ahead, you’ll feel more motivated to catch up.  Especially when there’s a DQ Blizzard for the victor.
  • Join a group.  This has helped me over the past few months: since I’m vice president of an on-campus writing group, I feel like I need to actually get stuff done – especially when we have our meetings and workshops.

Everyone has their own way to focus on writing.  My favorite is to plug in to Secondhand Serenade while I’m working: the music calms me down, and since the transitions between songs are not harsh, it’s not distracting and it helps mask other (unwanted) noises.

Experiment with different things to find your own.  Maybe you need your favorite movie playing in the background.  Maybe you need to be in a study room at the library by yourself.  Whatever it is, find your zone.  That’s the best way to focus I could share with you.