Sunday, January 07, 2007

Scriptwriting Feng Shui (i)

To make a change from the scriptwriting information (found all over the web) I thought I'd start an occasional series of unorthodox tips for scriptwriters. A kind of fun scriptwriting Feng Shui.

One of the things that scriptwriters struggle with - particularly in the early stages of writing (or sometimes when writing the treatment) is structure. The overall. The big picture. That's why everyone wants loglines and pitches so they can tell straight away if the idea 'works'.

Scriptwriting is often piecemeal, bitty - and, caught up in the writing, it's easy to lose sight of the whole - particularly if it hasn't been resolved from the outset. Or sometimes the difficult part is actually 'writing out' the way the story fits together - even after it has been 'resolved' in the mind. Maybe the film's central metaphor is there and for the writer, that's enough to be going on with. As Paul Schrader said 'metaphor is the structure'

Design and scriptwriting are not necessarily mutually exclusive disciplines. Script manuals talk of 'thinking pictures' or 'painting pictures for the blind' They don't often discuss 'space' (apart from white space on the script's page) or 'symmetry' or 'chi'.

So here's a straight forward approach to script structure for those who want to try it - using pictograms. Yes that's it. So what is a pictogram? Well it's a kind of simple diagram that represents something more complex. Here I'm suggesting using a pictogram to represent the structure of the script.

Ok first to get the idea - here are a few examples. These films may seem a bit dated or random - but other folk out there can always come up with (and even email me) more recent ones.

This one is for SHALLOW GRAVE
'Three friends discover their new flatmate dead but loaded with cash'
Look again - see how the pictogram is a visual reference for the whole story

Triangular-type diagrams tend to be good for working out stories centred on three characters and triangular relationships:

The same pictogram could maybe be used for the classic RASHOMON. But the one below would probably be more suitable. 'A heinous crime and its aftermath are recalled from differing points of view' (the one below also references illusion/deceit)

Or perhaps even this one?

I'm sure you've got the idea.
Ok now what about this?
JOY LUCK CLUB - perhaps.
Circular linking narratives told round a dinner table. See it? Well perhaps the petals need to overlap a little more - but pretty near. Try your own

And if you want to have a really complex story structure there's always something like...

So what do you do with the pictogram? Use it as a reminder or a prod. You can stick it to the top corner of your PC or Mac before you start writing - see the structure as you write.


The use of pictograms is not for everybody and, as an aid to scriptwriting may not always be appropriate, useful or possible.



Pillock said...

What fun! I'm going to see if I can think of a pictogram for my story, and put it up over my computer.

Far Away said...

well P if you do l- et me have a look too (or put it on your blog)

Optimistic_Reader said...

You know, I think I've encountered this before but I've never quite grasped it. Is the idea that the pictogram should help you work out your structure before you get down to writing? Or just as a way of reminding you about it as you go along, once you've already worked it out? I'm interested because I have a script centred on three characters and the structure is proving problematic. How exactly do you use the pictograms in your writing Far away?

Far Away said...

Hi OR. Yes - the idea is that if - the pictogram 'works' then the script should too.

That's why when I saw Pillock's on his blog just now {fab by the way} I was a little worried a bit about the ball rolling off the top!

You can draw one before you write -but an ideal time would be - when you're having problems.

Let's say it a visual way of trouble-shooting that appeals to some scriptwriters more than others. What part of your script structure is proving problematic?

I do find myself drawing diagram type things (not always pictograms)especially when trying to work out symmetry in a script or 'cause and effect' pay off' and that stuff.

far away said...

By the way OR - do let me have a look at yours, if you try one...and anyone else