Writing the final script


Storytelling - Working Method

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Summary

Part 4. Writing the final script

4.1/ Writing the synopsis

We can finally start writing for good!!

We write a half-controlled, half-improvised way: we follow our pitch, our outline, our sketches of plots, but we also need to invent many new details.

The plot structure becomes a synopsis

The synopsis is a sum up of a plot or a story.

It is short, from half a page to 3, 4, 5 pages maximum. It is written a dense and simple way. It should not be literary yet, but on the contrary it should show clearly the general movement and the main features of the story.

One way to write it is to take the list of plot points of the overall arrangement, and to reshape it, give it a bit of style, rhythm, ambient…

Thus, let’s imagine we have a story in 6 plots:

  • 2 major plots being quite long, told in 10 scenes each,
  • 2 secondary plots, told in around 5 scenes each,
  • 2 very minor plots, one short back-story told in 1 scene, and one short love story told in 6 brief scenes.

So in total, we have around 20+10+1+6= 37 paragraphs. Our synopsis stands in those 37 paragraphs more or less rewritten.

Often, we will have to make changes to the plots and characters,
adapt, re-cut, because of contradictions, disharmonies, gaps in time, problems of realism… Do not worry, this is normal. Edit it continuously, solve the problems one by one.

Better working progressively

From a first draft of the plot structure, develop a complete draft of each structure, when it is done make a more precise outline of the plot structure. From that, develop the plots again with more details. This way, our matter grows and we never lose the general line, the general intention.

 

Project 1 – Heroic fantasy novel

We can now write a synthesis. We have the main plot of the diplomat, the plots about the leaders of each of the 5 civilizations, a few side plots in each culture to allow the reader to explore those worlds deeper.

We cut some parts of the plots to make the story lighter and quicker, more essential. We decide how to tell each plot we designed: live, or told by a character, or told live during a flash-back?, etc. We distribute effects to improve the dramatic intensity. We give roles in plots to characters, the major ones being involved in 10 plots, the minor ones in only 1 or 2 plots.

Project 2 – Electroclash album

We start arranging themes that we find important. It leads us to develop several concepts of songs:

A parody of a Barbie doll song, sounding like Barbie under electroshock

An ironical song where a young woman begs a man to love her

A claim of sexual independence by a young woman who “does not need men”

We continue building a quick outline of around 10 songs to write, exploring the universe of this 17yo girl from various angles.

Project 3 – Hip-hop photonovel

Since the plots are in general unlinked and only share the rapper either as an actantial character or as a simple witness, and since the stories are made to be published in general separately, we do not need to write a full synopsis of all the stories. We just write those that inspire us and structure and sort them out only later on.

As a consequence, we write many short synopsis of plots that we will improve later on.

Since this work is a collaboration, the ideas of plots can come either from the writer or from the photographer. Then it is possible to realize one story of the series from a text by the writer, and another story from a picture by the photographer. The creative process in this project is a 2-ways dialogue.

Project 4 – The Squatt

This project is long and complex, and there will be several types of synopsis, at several scales.

We need to write a synopsis that describes the first season of the series. It is even better if we can write a quick synopsis for more seasons – to inform our producer and the other decision-makers, and also to prepare better the first season, and not to forget to leave exploitable data for the following seasons.

We also need to write a synopsis for each 10 minutes episode.

4.2/ Writing with tools and softwares

Checking tools

Once our plots structure is built and our synopsis written, we can check it with tools, that will help finding problems to solve:

  • Ratio of actantial roles/characters
  • Improve dramatic tension
  • Balance of forces
  • Rhythms
  • Check the evolution of the prognosis
  • Characters and sets of characters
  • Places
  • Chronology and time effects

You can find detailed descriptions of those checking tools in Story&Drama 3. Experts.

Softwares

Many softwares can help the author during the various step of the creative process. Some have been made especially to help authors write scripts, while some others are more general tools that can be adapted to the specific needs of authors. We can use graphic tools to make plans and outlines, maps to represent networks of concepts, slideshows to show lines of action step by step, etc.

You can find detailed descriptions of those softwares and their possible uses in Story&Drama 3. Experts.

4.3/ Writing the treatment

Now the synopsis / outline becomes a treatment

The treatment is a 3 to 10 pages work document that describes the whole story in its main lines with a certain level of detail. It tells each plot point of the outline in the order of the telling. It sums up the action, but does not render dialogs, details, and non-actantial characters.

The treatment can be transmitted to our friends and working partners – agent, publisher, director, producer… It allows the author to get a first feed-back from a general draft of the story. If it is rejected, at least the author did not spend too much time on it and another development is still possible.

For short works, one does not need to write a treatment, except for very dense genres, like an advertisement or a music video, in which every detail counts and has to be scripted in details.

For long works with many plots and characters, it is often more relevant to write a synopsis then a treatment before starting to write the final script.

A synopsis over 5 pages will give birth to a 40 pages treatment that will get converted into a longer sequences description over 100 pages then a scene description over 200 pages and finally the complete 500 pages script of the first season of a TV series.

During the writing of the treatment, our spontaneous creativity can focus on and control:

  • The verbal or visual style
  • The psychology
  • The ambiance, the decorative elements
  • The precise timing of the narrative flow
  • And other parameters

 

Project 1 – Heroic fantasy novel

Our synopsis for the 300 pages novel is made of 3 pages.

After we checked it with tools (actantial roles, dramatic tension…) and edited it, we can now extend it.

We add details, short decorative plots, we focus on the atmosphere. Each event that was described in 1 line in the synopsis is now developed over 1-2 paragraphs. In the end, the longer version of the synopsis, the treatment, takes around 20 pages. We write it once, let it rest, re-read it and improve it if we can. When we are done, we pass it around to a few friends and work partners: do they think it is ready to get turned into a full novel, or is it still too perfectible?

Project 2 – Electroclash album

We take every song sketch and brainstorm it again: we define more precisely what it tells, how, to who, with which words, expressions, sounds.

We build lyrics from the music or the contrary or both simultaneously. It gives us constraints of quantity and size of the lyrics (count of syllables…)

We start writing the lyrics of the 3 first songs. It leads us to new ideas that we use to enrich the other projects of songs. We perform them in front of a small audience to test them, get a feedback and improve them.

Project 3 – Hip-hop photonovel

Now we reached the step when several drafts of short stories have been scripted, some others have been shot by the photographer either as pure tries or as propositions for final works. This first collection helps us designing and finishing some new stories. The world of the blind rapper becomes more precise, more textured, and some gimmicks start to appear clearly – a way to watch things, some places, some people, some slang expressions…

Project 4 – The Squatt

The synopsis of the first season gave birth to the synopsis of each episode. Now each episode synopsis is on its way to become a final script. To write it, just develop the treatment from the synopsis. Here, it consists in transforming lines of action into a flow of sounds (music, voices, atmospheres…) and pictures. In the treatment, we do not write the final dialogues and soundtrack etc, but we start thinking about it from closer.

Each episode synopsis takes around 1 page. We develop it into 3, 4, 5 pages in which we dedicate our attention to structure the rhythm, the intensity and the points of view of each scene.

4.4/ Writing the script

Finally we get to write the final script from the synopsis and/or the treatment

Since we prepared our writing from the beginning, we finally just have to follow our plans, scene by scene.

One great advantage is that we already know all the drama, we do not have to care any more about the structure of plots or intentions of characters or “what will happen next”: we know it already! So there’s no risk to get lost in the plans if we created the story data properly – even in big projects with tons of plots and characters and connections between them.

This step should be a pleasure, it is the moment when our characters and scenes take their full dimension, the moment when we can really feel the dramatic tension everywhere.

We can even try several versions of the script from the synopsis or from the treatment, that will not change the structure!

If one day we are not in good shape for writing, we can just rewrite it from the plans the next day.

Edit the script

Once a first version of the script has been written, there are probably a few mistakes, hesitations, lacks of details, problems of realism, inconsistencies, etc. So let’s improve what can be improved in the details, cut, paste, delete, polish, rewrite, reshape, adapt… We obtain a clean, final script.

Project 1 – Heroic fantasy novel

We showed our treatment to some friends around and in general they said it was great, except a few problems here and there.

We solve the problem, then we start converting this treatment into the final script.

Each paragraph of the treatment that was a line in the synopsis will become a page or a scene in the final script.

We pay attention to the style of the prose and dialogues. We refine psychological reactions, we detail descriptions of characters and places and events.

Project 2 – Electroclash album

At this step, either we already had enough inspiration to finish some of our lyrics, or we have developed some advanced sketches for most of the songs we have to write. So, it is rather easy, we just have to find the right words and rhymes and melodies to make the final version of each song. If the inspiration is weak, perhaps some heavy bassline, a line of speed, a glass of Gin tonic and a joint can help? For many artists in music, it could work 🙂

Project 3 – Hip-hop photonovel

We can now finalize a first collection of short-stories from those we previously made. We restructure some of them, mix them or split them, re-cut them. We sort them out in a different order, so that the series starts by giving its reader the impression to be lost in the world, as the blind Hero was. It allows us to write the last stories we need to complete the first collection. But we know that the creation of this series will anyway be a permanent and daily effort over several years, according to its success.

Project 4 – The Squatt

The treatments over 3 to 5 pages become final scripts over around 10 pages (in average one minute of film is described by one minute of script. So, 10 minutes per episode = around 10 pages per script.)

We add the dialogues, giving each character a special voice and tone and register. We also add all the typically audio-visual layer.

In the treatment, some action could still be a bit abstract. In a final script on the contrary everything has to be translated into concrete words, pictures and sounds.

In the end, we obtain our first 6 scripts over 10 pages each. We test and check them, then they are ready to be made into movies.

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