Experimenting With Story Forms

I’ve recently noticed an old post about taking an adaptation approach versus taking a transmedia (or crossmedia, as they say these days) approach gaining a lot of traffic (thank you). When I wrote that post, I was trying to learn everything I could about both adaptation and transmedia (crossmedia), but it was all reading and not a lot of practical application.

Nearly two years before I wrote that post, I was starting to work on an aspect of my story world, which led to my writing a lot of little scenes exploring netrunning and the more cybernetic aspects of the world. One of those stories, the vignette “Wired Out“, has found new life over the last month or so as I’ve recycled it a couple of times over.

It kind of started by accident. Last month, wattpad announced they had partnered with SoundCloud to allow writers to add sounds to their stories through the Android app. So, I decided to try it out and see what was involved. It was not easy. It was not intuitive. But if you check out “Wired Out” through the wattpad Android app, you can now hear me read it to you. (I’m still not even sure I set it up correctly. How’s that for sad?)

But just narrating a story as it’s written with no changes or embellishments really isn’t an adaptation. You’ve simply changed its form from text to audio.

Last week, hitRECord’s Comic Collective asked participants to to create a comic with a personified character. At first, I thought about a story I’m working on where elementals run a bit rampant. I thought about how elements are portrayed, their symbolism and associations, and it gave me a headache. (I’m more easily overwhelmed these days than I thought.) But as I lay there, hiding my head under my pillow, I suddenly had the thought: The data ghosts in New Glory’s net are energy personified. I had quite a few notes on how they worked…and I had a vignette where one of these creatures was wandering around.

So, I sat down and spent more time than I probably should have converting a scene of roughly 100 words into a six-panel comic script. It was an experience. I really had to think about how to convey what I see in my head so that someone else could do something with it (assuming they didn’t go their own direction with it). Effectively, the story has been split into its dialogue and its visual elements. To me, that feels more like an adaptation.

I’m going to keep looking for ways to change the form of some of my older stories. Who knows? I may even find another way to use “Wired Out”. It’s interesting to see what a story can become when you present it through a different medium.

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Planning Life By Writing a Screenplay

Goal-setting can be a daunting task. It’s easy to set small goals because you can see where they’re taking you.

Long-term goals, especially ones changing a part or three of your life, are a bit harder to see because you don’t actually know what the end of the rod is going to look like. You can make your best guess, and try to visualize it from your current knowledge, but even that can be a bit taxing.

Lately, a number of people have been talking about writing these goals into a screenplay rather than a to-do list. Screenplays, by their very nature, are visual creatures. They are scripts to be followed, and reworked when a scene isn’t working.

It’s a great visualization tool because it really forces you to think about the story, or the flow, of your life, and then allows you to find your path through the flow scene by scene, act by act. You can measure the actions of the character (yourself) against a character bio that you’ve hopefully drawn up.

If you’re a visual person, give this method a try and see if it helps you move forward more than other methods. You might find it fun and productive.

(In case anyone wonders, I’m laying the groundwork for my “screenplay”, which is more a television show than a movie because an episodic structure fits my life much better at the moment.)

Book Review- Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting

Before anyone worries, I haven’t suddenly decided to take up screenwriting. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting was recommended to me because I’ve been working on scripts for math video tutorials and a graphic novel, and I can understand why it was recommended to me.

Through examples from the same seven movies (I now never have to watch Chinatown thanks to this book!), Syd Field covers the basic layout of a screenplay, and then offers suggestions and tips for how to develop an industry-standard screenplay. For those aspiring to sell their screenplays, there is even a chapter dedicated to doing just that!

I took a lot of notes on structure and the role of the writer in the script. Much of what Field covers can be used by writers creating just about anything. You just have to tweak bits of the paradigm to make it work. I’m already looking at how to apply some of the advice to the graphic novel script. His revising suggestions will also help me as I tackle the two oversized editing jobs sitting in my to-do list (one of which people have been asking me about, the other one should apparently go gather a pile of rejection letters).

If you write, regardless of what you write, you should thumb through this one. (Me? After I finish the three books on my shelf, I should ban myself from reading another writing book.)

Scriptwriting as Business Planning

As usual, I’m marveling at how the seemingly unconnected areas of my life intersect yet again. I’ve written about business planning through writing a query letter, and today I’m looking at scriptwriting as another possible method of business planning. This is perfect timing, actually, since I’m studying for my project management certification as well!

Oddly enough, trying to write a script and developing a project management plan aren’t too entirely dissimilar. You have to determine the events and their proper sequence (scope), the characters (team members), and you’re constantly revisiting your plans to re-evaluate them.

I’m going to have to do some experimenting to see if I prefer the query letter method or the scriptwriting method for business planning, but I suspect they’re both going to end up as tools I pull out depending on the situation.

Creating a Script

Over the weekend, I sat down to tackle a script for a fan girl. I’m used to doing a lot of work when I edit her pieces, but this times was a bit much.

I spent quite a bit of my childhood involved in drama. I think I was seven when I saw my first script. I’ll never forget being handed my very first side when I was sixteen. Last summer, I spent a good chunk of time researching the writing of scripts when I was starting to tackle my graphic novel script.

It never actually occurred to me until Friday that it was possible for someone to take on writing a script without ever having seen one. Even more disturbing, there really don’t seem to be any good articles discussing how to write a script. Part of this is because script styling really depends on what you’re writing and where you’re writing. Despite the styling issues, I think there could still be some sort of article discussing the differences between writing narrative prose and writing a script. It would certainly have made my life easier this weekend.

From my experience (and those of you with scriptwriting experience are invited to correct me), the script itself is basically made of three parts- the dialogue, the stage direction, and the setting (often times presented with stage directions). The dialogue is fairly obvious. It’s what being said. The trick is that the dialogue is also pretty much the only way to convey information about characters and the plot. We really don’t give the stage direction much thought when they’re done correctly, because they are directions to the actor. Unless we have intimate knowledge of the script (or the setting, in the case of many sci-fi shows), we have no idea when an action has happened out of place. The same is true for the setting.

To recap more simply, the dialogue is what is said by the characters. It’s public knowledge. The stage directions are what creates the scene, the atmosphere around the characters. They are not public knowledge. If you want your audience/readers to know something, it needs to be worked into the dialogue.