Lesson from scriptwriting:
It all began with simple story telling driven by character and plot. Not a bad start but not all there is to making a compelling read. I admit to having a bit of an agenda to educate the reader (and myself through the background research) on the history of places, events and institutions. That results, inevitably, in long passages of ‘exposition’, i.e., explanation without much dialog.
In the course of my struggle to find a proper home for my brilliant stories, I came to recognize that the stories – particularly the twelve (12) Josh & Dana adventure novellas – might work best as either a compendium with each novella constituting a chapter or as a TV mini-series with each novella an episode. If the latter was to be considered, I was advised, at least the major ‘establishing’ show – the ‘pilot’ — should be presented to candidate producers and agents in script format. Geeze, what did I know about script format?
As it turns out, software wizards had long since taken the pain out of the peculiar and exacting formatting of screenplay writing with a marvelous invention called ‘Final Draft’ that has been adopted as the ‘industry standard’. I acquired the program, learned its protocols and began converting ‘The Maine Event’, the story that establishes my primary characters, into a script.
Now to the lesson that this provided: there is room for exposition in novels and even novellas but not in scripts. Scripts are dialog driven and most of the exposition must come out in dialog. The transposition from prose to script has caused me to rethink the story telling. Instead of simply describing events or situations, I had to have them revealed in conversations which meant that conversational situations had to be invented and, sometimes, the conversationalists. Interesting challenge but one I’m getting on to.
The surprise to me has been how much this has enriched the story.