The Theory of Chaos

Friday, April 20, 2007

MSK - Day Two

Party scenes are a lot of fun to write. You can drop in oodles of quick-hit gags, there's lots of action to help your audience learn more about your characters, and the producers can put in hip music and hot women, which makes them feel like they've helped.

The first Act of my script is basically the story of three parties, and how they bring our main characters to the Problem which will drive the Second and Third Act. Since my goal is a 105-page first draft, conventional thinking would tell me my First Act should be 22-25 pages at most - the industry puts more and more pressure on first acts to make them shorter. I've always swam against that trend, and have a tendency to write longer first acts, the better to lay in stuff that will pay off later. So I'm trying to envision this Act around 30 pages, which works nicely out to about 10 pages per party, less the little in-between business that needs to get done.

This butts up against the primary danger of writing party scenes - that they're too
much fun. It's very easy, once you've got all your pretty characters drinking and cavorting and bantering, to just go and go and go, and before you know it you've used up a substantial chunk of movie without advancing the story very much. This is especially dangerous when, as I've set out to do here, you've got multiple party scenes - there will be still another one in Act Two. What else are college stories for?

On my second day of writing, I'm now on Page 8, and I'm still in that first party. I already cut 1/3 of a page from what I wrote yesterday, but I think this party will have to condense further still, since I need at least another page to get out of it and a page or two for a breather before the next one. But it's always better to overwrite in the first draft, it's easier and more satisfying to cut back than it is to pad, or have to dream up new material and cram it into the narrative.

And you can't spend too much time looking back during this long dash to FADE OUT. It can easily blunt your momentum. Save the fine-tuning for after you've got that first draft in hand.

Two days - eight pages. So far, so good.


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