Friday, July 22, 2016

Stream of Thought vs. Structure – How the Two Work Together when Professional Screenwriters Create

A filmmaker, George L. Heredia, posted on Facebook his technique for using index cards and a Large Board when he was writing his Screenplay.

I responded to his post, and one of the online responses to his post. I wanted to share his words and my words with those who are looking for Professional Screenwriting / Filmmaking guidance.

George L. Heredia: This is how I plot/outline my screenplays. 
We've heard of using 3x5 cards on a cork board (or software). Outlining software just doesn't work for me, I don't get to see the BIG picture and making changes is not always very visual. 

Instead I use a Magnetic white board so I can stick up cards and re-arrange, while giving me room to draw out character relationships and see how plots will work out. 

The top left card is beginning of Act 1, and the bottom right card is the finale. These are not scene cards but rather they are "sequences" which can be made up of 2-5 scenes. This way I am seeing the whole "film" idea from a high perspective allowing me the freedom to just sit and write. Knowing the sequences I can better write out all the scenes... for example, a sequence is two enemy agents are watching the hero from across the street and the hero needs to blow them up. That is about 6-7 scenes. You can already pretty much figure out what is going to happen, just write it as you see it.

John N Mare Washco: I'll bet you learned that back in the USMC. Let's move these troops here... then lets move those troops here. 

George L. Heredia: Yep I did a lot of that in S-2

Richard Finney: I'd like to build on what I believe is a key element to keep in mind when Outlining your Screenplay. 
Taking in the military reference above (from John Washco), I believe anyone who goes through the trouble of clearly laying out the "plan," (of the plot/story) before actually writing should also be doing it to gain another creative opportunity. 
The outline/plan should always end up being a strategy map that is fluid, a point in the creativity process that then is able to absorb what is actually happening on the ground (the day to day writing). 
I always strive to make my outline as detailed and as worked out as possible, but when moving forward in the process to the actual writing, I allow for the creative energy that could and hopefully does dictate changes in the story, or the previously created outline. Initially I use the posted, worked out plot as a way of boosting my confidence which will allow my creative mind to wander, to be cognizant of the opportunity to add additional creative elements to the work. There is a confidence of knowing that whatever happens as I wander off the path to entertain something new, I have a "compass" to steer me back in the right direction. 
Wandering off the planned path is a key to exploring and expanding your storytelling capabilities. What you discover when you are not a slave to your outline is often times the breakthroughs one makes when one creatively elevates their story.
Again, I want to reaffirm that the technique Mr. Heredia writes about is the same one I use (not software). What is important is loading up the outline with details prior to posting on the board the map of your story. And then with the plot in front of you, the goal should be to free yourself from the map you've created so you are able to be creative yet again during the writing process.