Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's the story that counts - not the jokes or anything else.

For quite some time I have found it rather peculiar that there aren't that many blogs out there that are about screenwriting. A lot of people write scripts, so you would think that at least some of them would be giving advice on how to improve your writing abilities.

So, yesterday I stumbled on a relatively popular blog that gave a link to a post written by a professional writer. Advice by a working sitcom writer, this had to be a good thing, right?

Well, not really. In fact, I read the article and it really made me shake my head. I could not believe how - in my opinion - fundamentally bad advice this person was giving us about writing in general. It pretty much left me speechless.

His basic 'theory' and advice came in two parts: 1) your first draft is ninety-eight percent crap - and 2) you can fix it only two percent at a time. According to him your script is also going to suck no matter what and it's just about how much it's going to suck in the end.

Now, I have a lot of problems with this kind of logic and thinking. It seems that he wasn't being tongue in cheek with the article, so I'm going to assume that he really meant what he wrote (and I'm sure he thought he was being clever).

The biggest problem I have with it, the whole theory, is that if your first draft is _really_ ninety-eight percent crap, we're dealing with something that is so bad that it needs to be tossed out. Just throw the script away.

The reason I think he's also wrong is that if you have a decent story that makes sense, your first draft can't be _that_ bad. If every scene serves a purpose, then your script is at least 70% good no matter how bad the dialogue is.

When it came to his second point about fixing 2% at a time,  I just kept thinking 'dear lord'. Because if you need to fix your story, those changes are very rarely two percent patches. It's not just about changing a joke or two that might not work.

If your script sucks, you need to rethink your story ideas. You need to think what the script is supposed to be about. Who the characters are, what do they want, what are the problems they have and do we as an audience care about them.

It really isn't about micromanaging your script, because writing is about understanding the big picture. What is important, what is not, what is real, what isn't. Where's the soul and the substance? It's not about "where are the jokes?".

After I read the article, it didn't really surprise me when it turned out that this person worked on a show called 'Community'. In fact, in that context what he says makes a lot of sense - like almost perfect sense if you ask me.

When it came to that particular show, you didn't have characters that normal people were able to relate to. You didn't have a premise that made any sense. You didn't have anything to build on. At best all you had was dialogue. That was it.

No matter what you did, the script was 98% crap, or 96% garbage or 94% whatever. There was really nothing you could do. You were screwed and that is because your show was fatally flawed from the get go.

In my opinion his advice is not good at all. Advice like this is exactly the reason you should avoid bad shows like the plague. Never spec (or write for) shows like Community because you'll learn nothing. You'll just make things worse for everyone - and you might even become dumber too.

No comments:

Post a Comment