Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Premise or Peril

I'm kicking myself today. Well, still kicking myself is more appropriate.

I've been learning about screenwriting for years. I've always known
about loglines and always had problems with them. Now I know why -
because I always came up with them post writing.

I was reading Blake Snyder's book again recently and it struck me why
I'm having all the problems I'm having with my current story. I've
always had a problem seeing the end of a story, now I know why - no
premise/logline in place.

What a waste of time.

If you're young and starting screenwriting, do this first with every
story/script you begin. BEFORE you write word #1. Get a logline/premise
in place. It's what your story is about. "This story is about __________.

Typically, something like, it's about a lawyer who discovers that he's
unable to lie for 24 hours during the biggest case of his career. Too
bad he has to lie to win the case.

It's about a guy who crosses the country to visit his wife to try and
work on their marriage and gets stuck in the building when it's taken
over by terrorists.

It's about a girl who agrees to take over her dad's wedding magazine
while he's sick, too bad she hates weddings.

As Blake points out, many times the premise will be ironic in nature -
meaning, the very thing that the main character sets out to do is thrown
upside down due to what happens.

You may say to yourself, "But I can write the premise anytime." And
that's true; however, if you have a premise in place, then it helps keep
you on the straight and narrow. You know where your story begins - what
happens in the middle and how it ends. Take Diehard: It's about a guy
who crosses the country to visit his wife to try and work on their
marriage and gets stuck in the building when it's taken over by
terrorists. You know that it starts with him arriving to visit his wife
- the middle is the problems that he encounters with the terrorists and
your ending will be with the husband and wife (either good or bad).

If you start writing, then you could go in all sorts of directions. You
know your premise is off if it takes more than 30 seconds to a minute to
explain your story. Every story has a premise - big or small, action or
character. While the character pieces may yield more of a ho-hum
response to the premise (the joy is in seeing/reading the development),
the action "high concept" pieces should pretty much make you want to
see/read the piece right away.

Learn from my mistake - premise first, then write.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I’m currently wrestling through the outline of a fish-out-of-water comedy. I was thrilled when I finally fleshed out the first act enough to finally get a sense of how and when the backstory would be introduced. Then it hit me like a brick in the face. Although I was psyched about my hero embarking on his journey, I had no idea why he was really doing it! I’m writing the thing, and even I’M not convinced he has enough motivation to set off. My protag. has financial, romantic and personal identity issues, all of which can be cleverly resolved by his journey, but none of which seem to scream, “Leave now, or else!” If he doesn’t set out, he’ll be like the rest of the world, grinding away at his job, searching for love, and hoping that tomorrow is a better day. BORING!

So, in a mild state of panic, I finally sat down the other night and spent three hours trying to write the best logline I could. I plugged in different adjectives, tried to eliminate redundant ideas, and finally simplified my vision into 1 sentence (just 1!).

Immediately I had a new opening scene in mind, and I lost a supporting character that was no longer necessary. I'm just glad that I did this early in the process.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006 at 8:56:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Dave said...

Yeah, you just can't beat doing that early in the process.

If you ask me, not doing it is the reason there are so many unfinished scripts. You just don't know where to go after awhile and it just peters out.

With a good solid logline, you have your beginning, middle and end.

Congrats! Now finish it up - remember, the first draft sucks, so don't bother rewriting it a million times until *after* it's written once.

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 10:32:00 PM EDT  

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