Monday, March 30, 2009

On Writing

Anything, including film starts with an idea.
My initial idea for a film project started as a Half Life 2 short. I wrote about four characters who were trying to find others in the post apocalyptic Half Life universe. So, I wrote a forty six page script (that I thought was awesome) and sent it around to my friends and family.
Found it was pretty bad.
Some people responded with fluffy sentiments like, 'it's great, stays true to the source material!' while others (the honest ones) told me it was either 'just OK' or 'Not very good'. But that's OK, good even. Anyone who's interested in writing knows that for most people, it'll take ten or fifteen scripts before you get something decent. The most important thing is to actually start writing.
That first forty six page script was good for me. It taught me mostly what not to do (cliches, forced exposition, and plot hammers). It also taught me that, hey, I can write. Alright, I'm no Cohen Brother, but heck; I've got me about fifty pages of script here. That's a starting point, and my idea lived in there somewhere.
But, my idea needed a new home, and I knew I needed help to get it there.


I began reading professional writers blogs. There’s a ton of them, but I fell in love with John August's blog as well as Jane Espensen's and from there, found I was doing it all wrong. I was using a jack hammer instead of a chisel. JJ Abrams has some interesting things to say about story telling, and the year before I read On Writing by Steven King (a must for anyone who wants to write at any level).
Those are all amazing resources, but the real kick came from a friend of mine who encouraged me to take the story out of the Half Life universe, and make it something my own. I heard my idea yell ‘YES!!’
Oh, and uh, these guys were already doing the Half Life survivor story better than me anyway :)
Anyway, by making the story completely my own, it meant I was free to use my own ideas, it also meant no rules and (more importantly) no copyright infringement! Hurray! I preformed open heart surgery and removed my idea from the Half Life body and started writing from the ground up, now developing the content for the Internet.
Ahh the Internet.
Storytelling on the Internet, isn’t movies, it's not books, and it’s not television. The Internet is a new medium where the rules of conventional storytelling are not set. It’s an open range, and I’m Wyatt Earp. I can do whatever I want, as long as it doesn’t suck. I’m not saying that story telling on the net needs to be completely different from the way television and movies (generally) tell stories; just that there is no convention. So for me, that kinda blew thing open a bit.
The idea of writing for this new medium got me thinking. I wrote my second and third drafts around this but they were garbage too. Better, but still garbage. Honestly, I think it was either the seventh or eighth script that I knew I had something that wasn't bad. I knew I had something good when my wife told me she thought it was 'cool' and that she wanted to ‘find out what happens’.
My idea was coming to life. The next step was storyboarding.

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