Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Show your work

As I become more comfortable with the notion of actually being a screenwriter, I hope to become similarly at ease with sharing any insights I have on the writing process. So, in accord with the "one-page post" challenge at Red Right Hand (I'm not techno savvy enough to do the John August formatting thingy in Blogger or capture a single page to a .jpg) and Shawna's posting of her initial Writer's Arc submission, I'll put my own ten pages that I sent in out there for others to see.

I called mine "Victoria". Have a read and I'll explain a little bit about how I came up with it.

As Shawna mentioned, the setup was: two characters (Chris Marquez and Sandy Fletcher); one setting (station); and one prop (board). Beyond that, it was all up to the writer to come up with five to ten pages of a screenplay. My first instinct was just to keep it simple. I wasn't going to do Lawrence of Arabia in ten pages with two people. The setting to me suggested train station, although it could have just as easily been a gas station, space station, or bus station. But for whatever reason, I thought train.

Which then took me to London. My brother, his wife, and my niece have lived there for some time and I have visited them on several occasions over the past few years. For those that haven't been, British railways are the preferred means of transportation for many, especially commuting in and out of London. Much more than our auto and highway-dependent culture, the train is a way of life for Brits and the extensive public transit system makes getting around fairly painless. So I thought that if my scene was going to be in a train station, why not write what I know.

If you have been fortunate enough to visit London and ride the rails, then you may have passed through Victoria Station at some point. I liked Victoria not only because it is a train station but also because one of its features is the large schedule boards at various locations showing the arriving and departing trains, their gates, and the stops on their routes. Although my characters wouldn't be handling it in the traditional sense of a prop, the board is so big and such the focus of anyone who is at the station to catch a train that I figured it was close enough for my purposes. Here is what the area I am describing in the script actually looks like:

Then it was simply a question of putting my characters in the setting, with the prop, and in some type of situation that would allow them to interact in a real way. Again keeping it simple, I made Chris a Yank in a rush to catch the last train and Sandy a Brit who is already there waiting for it when he arrives. And then to add a little more tension (and set up some sort of plot for later), put Chris in the the position of having to make it through the gates to his train before midnight, when his daily travelcard will expire.

I knew I wanted to make the scene basically their first encounter, but leaving it open as to exactly what might come later. The dialogue between them was flirty (I think it's flirty) from the outset, although I briefly toyed with the idea of turning it more serious about halfway through by having Sandy reveal that she recently lost her husband in the London bombings. In the end, however, I decided just to keep it light throughout. And then when Chris's dander is raised by Sandy's apparent indifference to his advances, he is stranded like Cinderella after the clock strikes twelve and is now reliant on her to pull his bacon out of the fire. Nothing very complicated but a fun exercise nonetheless.

Looking back, I probably took the premise too literally in choosing to keep the action strictly between Chris and Sandy. In reality, Victoria Station is never completely deserted and I could have had other people wandering in and out as the two main characters do their little verbal dance. And was I too limiting in keeping every bit of action in the station area? Maybe Sandy is really a spy and Chris's unexpected arrival has interrupted a planned late-night rendezvous? Her contact could have been observing from afar and mistaken Chris for a rival spook. Complications would really ensue then, eh? But in the end, I like their little tete-a-tete and the dialogue was what I focused most of my attention on. Most of all, getting me through the first round, it showed me that I at least have the basic tools from which to build bigger and better things. So godspeed Chris Marquez and Sandy Fletcher, wherever you are.


  • Good job. Your dialogue was pretty damn good... flirty, and believeable.

    Thanks for posting!

    By Blogger writergurl, at 7:39 PM  

  • Nicely done! Charming indeed.

    By Blogger Fun Joel, at 10:09 PM  

  • Rock on.

    And thanks for posting the creative decisions made on the way to the first ten pages.

    By Blogger Iain, at 7:09 AM  

  • Charming! Keep it up!

    By Blogger ggw07, at 8:34 PM  

  • Hey, I'd be really interested in reading this but I'm having trouble with the link. It kinda, half downloads...

    Is the link still ok?


    By Blogger Ella, at 5:14 PM  

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