Character Led Scripts

Following on from yesterday’s post, David Robinson used Gustav Freytag’s pyramid to discuss the expected story arc in most scripts and novels. Some useful explanations of this are here and here.

David performed a couple of sections from scripts he has written to allow us to examine the script and the characters being portrayed. We, as the audience, shared our different conclusions about the characters which was useful to understand how important it is to take time with scripts and novels to create real characters, who have layers to them which can drive the story forward.

Ultimately, the audience, whether sitting in a theatre or reading a book or watching a movie will take more pleasure from the experience when we have thought through our characters.

  • Who are they? Honest, uncaring, cruel, devious, kind, passionate, boring… However we reveal our characters they can add nuance and depth to the story.
  • What is the setting? The names we give our characters can place them at a particular point in time.
  • What is the location? What is our character doing there? Do they belong? Are they out of place? Are they remembering other events in different locations, if so – are these likely locations for our characters to have been?

If at all possible, write out a backstory for your characters and their description. This can be added to at any time during the process as thoughts come to you or as you research and may provide a rich source for you to draw on as you write.

I found the day to be useful in thinking about how I am tackling the sequel to Fallen Warriors. The first novel was very much a character driven story, each person dealing with their own inner demons, the character journeys often driving the story forward in ways I hadn’t expected.

It was also really encouraging to be able to meet with so many writers who are each going through similar experiences and to be able to encourage each other. If you would like to find out more about the Association of Christian Writers and find out about membership and events you can do so here:

Finally, David told us about The Watermill Theatre in Newbury that runs the Raising Voices critique service, reviewing scripts for a nominal £33 fee. Details can be found here:

Also, if you are in a good mood, or perhaps even a funny mood, you might be interested in entering the ACW Comedy Writing Competition, to be judged by David Robinson. The theme is Bringing a Little Sunshine and they are looking for comedic sketches (maximum 1000 words) or comedic poems (maximum 24 lines.)

Details are here:

The difference between scripts for theatre, film and novels

Continuing on from yesterday’s write up of the Association of Christian Writers day where David Robinson was speaking on performance writing for the stage, film, television and radio…

David led the day very much as an interactive workshop, involving us as he discussed script writing, getting us to act out short parts, and ultimately asking us to write parts for specific characters to combine into a play.

He asked us to think about what is different between scripts for theatre, scripts for film and novels.

Dialogue. We need to understand that directors and actors will both put their own spin on our dialogue. A script may go through several transformations as it passes into other hands. Scripts of course, are mostly about dialogue, but this can tell us something useful about our writing. If you prefer to write dialogue and your stories have almost no description, perhaps you are missing out on a calling to be a script writer… If a play lasts two hours, that is two hours of mostly dialogue. Consider pauses and beats when writing a script. Those words that you felt would take only a few minutes to say might lengthen in the performance of a good actor, or even shorten as urgency is used.

Balance. How much should the script direct what happens on stage? Should the actor walk on from stage left carrying a bowler hat, or just walk on stage… Lighting, set… All can be directed from the script or left for another to decide or perhaps both…

Set and Cast. While a novellist can change scenes all the time and make the cast as diverse as desired, the script writer has far more limitations. Scripts for stage that require too many set changes, or that require props, backdrops that cannot be carried may never be taken on due to cost restrictions and impracticalities. The same goes for cast. If it will cost too much or be impractical to use the number of actors the script requires, it may never be performed. Scripts for Film or TV also have to consider the same limitations, though perhaps at a different level.

Exposition. The audience need to know quickly who is who and any relevant backstory. The novelist can explore backstory in depth, can cut and change or use flashbacks at any stage. A stage play has much tighter limitations. Shakespeare was an expert at using soliloquy to overcome this and give important detail quickly to the audience. Think of the length of a typical scene, maybe 20 minutes, think of the length of the whole show and when intervals need to occur…

The final section will be posted tomorrow…