Screenwriting : Shortfall by Fiona Faith Ross

Fiona Faith Ross

Shortfall

(Not an 007 sequel). What do you guys do when you're short of story ideas? I have my main story, characters, opening and closing, and theme, etc. etc. I'm fine up to the mid point and I know where the character is at the All Is Lost Moment, and Dark Night of the Soul, but I'm short of stuff for Act 3 to the Climax. I know what happens at the Climax and how the story ends, but I have these gaps in my story. How do you get over this?

Fiona Faith Ross

Patricia, sorry, you're right. I've been staring at the screen for too long. Edited my post to correct it.

Jorge J Prieto

Fiona, try first going back a few scenes up to the point where you got stuck, then take a break - an hour, a day or two, but do keep your characters in your head while you are alone, walking or meditating. Thses are some of the things that work for me each and every time, to the point that I miss my train stop and end up in Brooklyn on my way to Manhattan and they keep me up most of the time and even stop me from enjoying a movie. Listen to your characters VOICE. Here's a quote, can't remember who said it: "Lots pf writers hear VOICES - indeed, its one of the major ways in which ENDURING CHARACTERS enter the world. So let them say it once and for all - the channeling of VOICE is KEY to the realization of successful, dramatic, character - based screenwriting. If you are an obsessed storyteller with a passion for vivid characters and a desire to make them fully present to your audience, then YOUR CHIEF TASK is simply TO LISTEN." Hope this helps you a bit, my friend, but then again, you better than anyone knows what works or doesn't work for you, follow your INSTINCTS.

Andres Ramirez

I've had this same issue happen to me recently. What Jorge suggested is great. Sometimes you need to walk away from it and let the story start to re-marinate on its own in your thoughts. I try to approach it with fresh eyes after leaving it alone for a while and then I'll start playing with an idea. And if that idea fits within my structure and pushes the story forward as opposed to sideways, then I know I'm heading the right direction. One of the "exercises" I do is what John Carpenter once said in an interview. Revisit a film that's the source of inspiration or watch one of similar genre and while you watch just ask yourself, what would I do differently.

Fiona Faith Ross

Thanks everyone. It's late here now, so I can reasonably leave it until the morning, and listen to my character in the meantime. Oliver, I definitely have enough for a feature. I think there is a bit more story to uncover, that's all.

Fiona Faith Ross

I do agree with you, Patricia. I'm a great fan of Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet template (whoops, I've started a debate there), but I don't use it slavishly. In this case, the template has revealed that I don't have enough action to take the protagonist from his Dark Night of the Soul experience to the Climax. From Climax to the Final Image, I know what he does. So as you all suggest, I'm going to take a short break and ask my protagonist what he needs to do. I don't think I've uncovered all the obstacles he has to overcome. One thing I need to do is list the unresolved problems he has collected up to the moment The Really Big Problem arrives. And yes, Oliver and Andres, because I am still at the synopsis/planning stage, I can go back and restructure the story. Attempting to sketch out a 10 page treatment has revealed the "holey" bits. I guess, looking at it this way, it's progress rather than a setback. Thanks again, everyone.

Jorge J Prieto

Excellent point, Andres, from J. Carpenter, music is a big part in his movies, which I always use as well on every story I write.

Terri Viani

Hi Fiona! It may be that your All is Lost and Dark Night need to be bigger and/or the climb and fall to them more drastic. I'd check in with the overall story and make sure I'm not playing it safe - push the story, go there with the characters, get them stuck up that tree and then throw rocks at them, as the saying goes. =) I also second putting it aside for a bit, and let it percolate as you go about your business. Hope this helps!

Fiona Faith Ross

Thanks so much, Terri. After 24 hours down in the dumps, I revisited Save The Cat. A trick of Blake Snyder's I tried before is to make the Mid Point the counterpoint of the All is Lost moment. Now, previously I had the Mid Point as a "low" and I'm sketching it out again as a "high", meaning I have to shift a major set piece from before the MP to after the MP. On the return from this major set piece, the protagonist finds that his world is horribly changed, leading up to the All is Lost. Now I'm beginning to find the missing story pieces, and as you say, the All is Lost and Dark NIght are bigger. Also, the Dark Night presents the protagonist with a horrible dilema representing a positive or negative choice on the theme. In summary, I can see now, it's the Mid Point that needs more work, and the next beats will fall into place. Thanks to all of you for your insights. It really helps to talk these things through. PS - Blake Snyder also said, "the section from pages 55 - 75 are the hardest going in a screenplay, and there's no other remedy than to muscle your way through it." (Note 55 - 75 is relative, of course, depending on the overall length of your piece.)

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