Screenwriting : Golden Rule of Screenwriting #5 by Pj McIlvaine

Pj McIlvaine

Golden Rule of Screenwriting #5

There should always be a scene or moment in your script that YOU MUST WRITE. It may be the only reason you're writing the script, to get that moment out of your head. That scene or moment and the passion you have for it can carry you all the way to fade out.

Barb Arnett-Combs

Thank you for saying that!

Robin Squire

You're absolutely right. In my latest that moment comes close to the end.

Eric Ian Steele

Interesting. I guess that's a way of saying that you must at some point deliver on your concept. To me, it seems that the "one scene" you mention could be the distillation of the concept that got you fired up to write in the first place. I think building up to that scene and following it to its logical conclusion is what we commonly call story. Hope I'm not too far off.

Stacey Stefano

You're right . An lluminating piece

Pete Rosen

I have always found that the one moment I take away from any movie i see is most often far different from anyone else's. And the one moment in my own stuff that I must write and have the most passion for is not necessarily what other people who read it has, even and especially if they love it. Which can only mean one thing. And I don't know what that is. ;)

David M Hyde

I often find that those scenes that I absolutely love don't fit what I've written, until about the third re-write. That's when it become clear why it was there. I don't suppose anyone gets it perfect the first time through, or is it just me?

Wallace Brown

Not just you :-)

Kerry Douglas Dye

What the hell, I'll play devil's advocate on this thread: I find that often the awesome scenes (or characters, or lines of dialogue) that originally got me excited about the script end up not fitting at all by the time I've gone through a half-dozen rewrites. The most difficult thing in the rewrite process is the darling-killing phase, where you have to say, "crap, that scene is AMAZING, and it now has absolutely nothing to do with the story I'm trying to tell. I have to cut it." Very painful, and always makes the script better. Here's Samuel Johnson, talking about prose: "Read over your compositions and, wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out." For screenwriting, I might adapt that as: "Read over your script and, whenever you find a scene that you absolutely LOVED in the first draft, strike it out (unless every objective reader you have tells you that the scene is absolutely essential)."

Rebecca Schauer

I'm going to play Devil's Advocate to your Devil's Advocate: I agree that if something just doesn't fit, especially in later rewrites, it must be let go. However, if the scene that you were MOST excited to write in the beginning isn't fitting, what does that say about your original idea? Does that simply mean that you allowed it to evolve, or that you perhaps lost your sense of why you started working on this project? This has happened to me, so my comment is not meant to be judgmental at all, but in my case I fear that the latter was true.

Pj McIlvaine

Please don't mix apples and grapefruit. The editing process once your vomit draft is done, that's a different topic. Sure, you can kill your babies all you want--I've done it myself many times. But 99% of the time, it's been my experience that the scene or moment I had to write--the one I dreamed about, slaved over, bled buckets of blood over--stays in the script.

Pj McIlvaine

What I'm talking about is PASSION.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Yes, Rebecca, usually it means you allowed it to evolve. I find that usually I get the momentum to start a project when a bunch of ideas that have been floating around in my head (a scene, a setting, some characters, a line of dialogue) coalesce into something I recognize as a coherent movie. But in the actual writing process some of those elements fall away. Metaphorically it feels to me like gathering up enough lumps of clay from around the house to pack into a lumpy shape that kinda-sorta looks like something beautiful. Then after shaping and carving, some of those lumps are unrecognizable or long gone. To bring in what PJ is saying, maybe that does reflect a lack of passion on my part. It's usually passion that gets me started, but then along the way I find I have to be DISpassionate to write a coherent, marketable script. Metaphor #2: it's like a relationship. Passion causes you to fall in love, but in a long-term relationship if you're all passion and no practicality, you'll end up flaming out in some headline-grabbing murder/suicide. I want to celebrate a nice comfortable 50-year anniversary with my scripts. This is me. I'm certainly not going to stake out a position against passion.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Also, apples and grapefruit taste delicious together. :)

Rebecca Schauer

Kerry, your statement about passion reminds me of this quote: "When people get married because they think it's a long-time love affair, they'll be divorced very soon, because all love affairs end in disappointment." -Joseph Campbell Writing, like any love affair, is a balance of thinking practically the re-igniting the flame that brought us to it to begin with.

Wallace Brown

Rebecca, I love that quote. Hahaha. (Hmm. Could be a premise of a RomCom, non?)

Kerry Douglas Dye

Ha, great quote Rebecca, thanks. I'm (now) embarrassed to say I've always avoided Joseph Campbell in the original because the mythical structure thing doesn't speak to me. But maybe I have more in common with him than I realized. And I agree with your summation. I certainly don't want to get the reputation around here for being passionless. :)

Rebecca Schauer

I've been thinking about your comment, Wallace. I think disappointment/unrealistic expectations may be the premise for EVERY romcom! Particularly so in "Don Jon." Great film if anyone hasn't seen it.

Dorian Cole

The "must write scenes" are scenes that I write into my outline. They are usually pivotal ones.

Andrea Balaz

Ah, how very well described how you go from one center idea to a story, how the wish to display it drives you forward. Generally I have a scene like that too, for others it maybe a place representing a certain state of affairs, or a state of mind they want to show. Occasionally I’ve had to kill at least part of my darlings, but then I am certainly not perfect in getting everything right the first time. And it makes great sense too, that for the writer the representation of a screenplay’s concept should be a visual scene.

Pj McIlvaine

Whatever works. There's no one way to skin a cat.

Dorian Cole

Alle, "Tie me kangaroo down sport.... tan me hide when I've died, Clyde..."

David M Hyde

This conversation is going downhill fast

Dawn Gonchar

Redirecting the conversation in the spirit for which I think it was intended - keep your passion for writing alive!

Maria Pretorius

I always look for that sequence in a script that brings magic to the text.

Doug Nelson

Pj It’s called a button – enter your scene late, hit the button and go on to the next scene – that’ll propel your story forward.

Daniel Stewart Levy

More than just a "button". I think PJ's talking about the fire in the belly that make us willing to put the hours and hours into completing a great script. It's what we're trying to say. Without that, why make the effort?

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