1. Ron Aberdeen
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    Ron Aberdeen Banned

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    Avoiding “The Second Act Blues”.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ron Aberdeen, Aug 31, 2010.

    When we watch a movie that we are engrossed in, we are probably engrossed in it because of the second act.

    Maybe it is the way the story twists and turns, throws curve balls at us, the audience, and sometimes takes us in directions we didn’t expect.

    I am sure it can be because of the layering of sub-plots, the cameo roles of intriguing characters added into the mix that contribute to the story without appearing to do so, or just the sheer magic of the dialogue and intrigue.

    Many of the movies I admire and enjoy the most are from screenplays that are adaptations of novels and I am convinced this is because when a screenwriter has a novel to base the script on, they have much more back story to work with.

    In fact, they probably have so much they have a job being selective as to what to include from the novel or not.

    It is recognised that many screenplay writers write an outline before they start on their script, but that is chicken feed in comparison to having several tens of thousands of words in a novel to start with.

    With that scenario, it becomes a question of editing not creating something to pad out time or fill in gaps, which is often the use of the second act, particularly in poor movies.

    As a screenwriter I am as guilty as the next person in rushing to get to the end of my work. Holding the first draft, sighing with relief and satisfaction that the cat is out of the bag and it is finished.

    It is only later, in the clear light of the rewrite that I see the mistakes, gaps and omissions because of my haste.

    When I start a screenplay I am sure I am not alone in being unprepared for the journey ahead of me.

    Sure I will have a concept of where I want to go, but I will be itching so much to start my journey, (as I love writing the opening of a screenplay), that I will probably forget to pack everything I will need for my trip.

    In a way it’s that sense of taking a long flight and the anticipation of reaching your destination.

    But like most people once I get on the plane I pick up the in-flight magazine to see what movies will fill the many hours I will be in the air.

    Well I used to; now I take my laptop and a selection of movies I want to watch.

    I go prepared for the time between the start and the end of my journey.

    A screenplay is not that different and the writer needs to be prepared for the whole journey before starting out.

    Knowing how your story begins and what you want the outcome of the story to be, is just the beginning.

    Personally I have a tenancy to write an outline and the first five to ten pages of the script and then let them sit for a few weeks.

    When I review these pages of ideas, fresh thoughts normally rush in and help me shape the structure more carefully.

    Once I begin to write the screenplay I break my work into targets of completing a scene before considering the next and although I am working to an outline I retain the freedom to go off-piste, and throw a spanner into the mix.

    So as I write I will create an unexpected, unplanned diversion, which is not in the outline and it gives me, as the writer, a real problem to deal with.

    It challenges me and my protagonist or at least somebody close to them, in how to find a solution.

    Sometimes my diversion will give the antagonist a sudden edge.

    Whatever it is it will be a form of conflict that will put pressure on me and one or more of my characters achieving the final outcome that I initially envisaged.

    Not having planned for this problem pushes my imagination that extra mile but it helps mostly with making the second act interesting for me to write and hopefully for others to read.

    Apart from under standing format, screenplay presentation and knowing when your dialogue works or it doesn’t; controlling the pace of your screenplay, particularly where the second act is concerned is probably one of the most difficult aspects of scriptwriting to perfect.

    And I am sure it is the key to making movies engaging.
     
  2. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Would you mind awfully editing your post into paragraphs? It would make it so much easier to read :)

    I'm not really sure what kind of response you are expecting to this - it seems to be more of a blog entry than a thread post. I will say this though - what do you mean by "engaging"? I've seen this word repeatedly and have never really got a sense of a single defintion. In my opinion, it's an entirely subjective term - what engages one person will turn another off. So how can one talk of creating an engaging piece of work without constantly seeking verification from readers?

    How would you define "engaging"?
     
  3. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds like the "blues" part of building the second act in your comes from the uncertainty and vagueness in gradually let the second act finds it form? If i understand your post correctly? And that working with complex problems with aspect you haven't planned in details is a part of the creative process for you to archive the richness in details you appreciate with a good second act?

    (Erm. Putting -every- sentence as a new paragraf in a forum post makes you post harder to read and your point a lot harder to find.)
     
  4. Ron Aberdeen
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    Ron Aberdeen Banned

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    You were engaged enough to reply!

    BTW I submitted the post structured into short paragraphs, I find people are normally more engaged when text is easy to read.

    But I am sure it is entirely subjective.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you for this, it was nice to see a bullet point way of going about things.

    How do you work out timings for a script? I know with a speech it is roughly three words per second, but I have never written a script (well except early in high school). If I was to write out a screenplay how would I know it will take say 45 minutes to play out? I am aiming to write something for one of the characters from my novel
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Easy to read do not in my opinion equal one sentence per paragraph. Both me and stubeard seemed to have hard time finding what points you argue, since me at least finds it hard to make sense of what bigger points you try to argue, when you split up every sentence to stand alone rather then to group them together in groups that together in groups that makes you points and show how the different sides of you arguments interact stronger.

    Take a look at editorials, average essays and newspaper articles and imagine them split into every sentence to stand alone without any grouping. Would that help the understanding of the overall points and context? In my view and if you see how most things are written in our society most other people opinion the answer is no. Even magazines aimed at kids tend to write paragraf consisting of a few sentences rather then just one.
     
  7. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    With all due respect, it's not a bullet point list. Bullet point lists are composed of entirly separate entities (or "points"), yet some of the sentences in the original post flow into each other (needlessly spreading those "points" into two separate paragraphs).

    And Ron - I read your post and replied because this is a forum - that's how it works. People come for help and other try to provide it. However (and I'm not having a go at you), it would be nice if those original posts were written in a way that people are used to, i.e. in paragraphs.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    That was merely how I chose to read it. As a result it wasn't difficult to follow - my exact words were bullet point way not bullet point list,
     
  9. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Forgive me.

    I tried to read it as a bullet point list but found the points kept flowing into each other so I had to go back and read it again to get the right rhythm. A bullet point list with sub-bullet points might've worked though.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    :) Your forgiven lol thats how I read it just as a list of ideas and points. For me it was written more like I may write a speech for myself than an essay or piece of prose.
     
  11. Ron Aberdeen
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    Ron Aberdeen Banned

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    It averages at one page a minute.
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am guessing that is A4 sorry I am really ignorant. I had the idea less than a week ago but it is growing:)
     
  13. Ron Aberdeen
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    Ron Aberdeen Banned

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    I print all my screenplays to letter size paper. (11" x 8.5") as most are for production companies in the US.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks I will use that as my guide to give me an idea of length, it is just for fun right now. Need to get the books sold first:) Just love the idea of writing about my immortal character a hundred years after everyone else has died.
     
  15. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Off topic: (but a very interesting topic in itself :))

    I finished reviewing a story some hours ago, and I'll repeat the same comment I made there:

    Reading your one or two short sentence(s) paragraphs is like going for a ride on a bus and the driver slamming the brakes every few metres/feet. Beware of compromising continuity of the 'train of thoughts'. But I think the frustration in reading your post is more to do with it's unusual nature as a thread posts. We usually expect people asking for ideas and solutions in such thread. In the first read I skim through it looking for a question at the end :) Yours is more like a blog posts or a discussion post.

    Also, in Ron's defence I find the following paragraph even more harder to follow (although it has more to do with the long sentence):

    On topic:

    I find screenplay writing very fascinating. I am right now concentrating on writing stories and novels, but I hope to someday try my hand at screenplays. I think you have a lot to share which can be very helpful to this site.
     
  16. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    The above isn't proper use of English grammar.

    Just adding my bit to the general nitpicking trend in this thread. :cool:
     
  17. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Thanks for pointing that out.

    And oh you miss one more thing. I have written "a blog posts" which is also not proper use of English Grammar ;)
     
  18. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    In w176's defence, English is not her first language.

    And I did like the imagery of the original post as a bus putting the its brakes. I was trying to think of a metaphor like that but couldn't grasp one.
     

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