Day 356: Back on Track

August 21, 2016

 

At long last, screenwriting! It wasn't much in terms of page count, only about 3 new pages, but there was a considerable amount of restructuring work on the first 60 pages of The Devil's Tramping Ground. However, after trying out some new structure, I ultimately returned to what I had. Some would say this was a wasted venture, but it actually was a great exercise in rewriting that seemed to indicate I was on the right path. And it is easier to restructure half a screenplay rather than a completed script.

 

While the restructure did move some of the action forward, it also had the negative effect of changing the perception of the lead character of Doug. In reordering scenes, I began the story with the party scene where there is an implied rape. This immediately puts a negative spin on Doug. It's the first real bit of information we get about him and makes the audience not like him from the get go. Doug is the villain of the piece, but with this structure there is no transition to villain; he just starts off that way.

 

In the original structure we meet Doug and he seems like a good guy, All American type. Things start to spiral out of control and we see Doug begin to change leading ultimately to the party scene. In this version we have some empathy for Doug, we have an understanding for the psychosis he will eventually submit to. It's not only a journey for Doug, but for the audience. The new structure eliminated the journey and Doug started off as a bad dude we didn't care for. So, back to the old structure.

 

I then decided to test the structure further by comparing it Blake Snyder's Save the Cat (STC) beat sheet. I wasn't consciously following STC, but was curious to see how closely I came to Snyder's directives. As it turned out, pretty close. I had a great opening image with the ticking clock that kicks off the cold open. There are multiple themes about God, religion and humanity in the Dr. Mott classroom scene which landed on page 5 as Snyder calls for. There is plenty of setup in the first 10 pages. The catalyst that fuels the story happens on page 9, a few pages earlier than Snyder calls for, but I think that kicks off the action a little better. The break into Act 2 lands right at the top of page 26 versus Snyder's page 25. And the B Story and Fun and Games sections begin right on page 30 as Snyder calls for.

 

It was amazing to see how closely the story hewed to Blake's outline since that wasn't what I was going for. I simply tried to tell the story as creatively and concisely as I could. Coincidence?  Maybe, or perhaps Snyder really has figured out an outline that works well for screenplay structure.

 

Currently, my story begins to diverge from Snyder's 'beats' with the mid-point around page 55. This may be because I haven't worked the second half of the screenplay yet, or it may be an example of breaking the rules to create something unique and different from a standard formulaic script. As I work on rewriting and restructuring the second half, perhaps it will come in closer to alignment with Snyder's beats or it may blaze its own path to the end. The only way to tell is to keep writing. 

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