Friday, July 30, 2010

Red Plaent Prize Problem

My ten pages are in and I'm up to page thirty on the rest of the script only to find I've come to a shuddering halt. I think I have a problem with pace.

The first ten pages has a man suffering amnesia arrested when he's found with the body of a dead woman. He escapes the police car he was being transported in when it is hit but a van and goes on the run. In an effort to clear his name he has gone to a jewelers to get some information on a necklace, only to find the place being robbed. He is now a hostage and must play the robbers and their victim to get the information he needs and get out alive....

....I've never written a hostage scene before. There is a danger, especially after the action of the first ten pages, the rest of the script will be very static by comparison. How can I avoid this?

Does anyone have any advice?


Preston Garrett said...

I don't know whether this is quite what you mean, but I'm writing an episode of a radio thing at the moment that, for various reasons, has to take place almost entirely in the back of a cab, and I'm having a similar static-scene problem.

It's boring! They're just bloody sitting there. Talking. FOR AGES. Ergh.

What I'm trying to do is create as much movement in the scene as possible. Like stopping and starting the cab, or having passengers get in and out so there are different pockets of characters together at any one time.

I keep thinking about contained episodes of things I've liked, like the episode of Friends where no-one's ready and it takes place all in Monica's living room with characters moving in and out of the room. The Smoking Room did the same thing. And there was a brilliant episode of Spooks in series one written by Howard Brenton where they did the EERIE training exercise and it all took place in the locked down office.

I reckon the pace comes from the movement of the people in and out to create new scenes within the same space and time period, and also by having lots of little reversals so that the story keeps moving.

Don't know if that's relevant to your problem or even helps at all, but that's my two penneth worth anyway!

Good luck with it.

Oli Lewington said...

I'd suggest there's two initial ways to get around the action-to-non-action problem.

1) Break up your current action with more thoughtful "pause" moments that let up the relentless pace a little bit, so that when you come to the hostage scene it doesn't feel like a full on, brake-slamming moment.

2) Plan to put some more action later on in the script, so you get action-pause-action-pause-action-end or similar. It's always hard to judge the pacing etc of a script when you're only halfway through, so try to get yourself to the end and revisit what you've got and see what adjustments you need to make then.

Hope that helps (even a little),


Piers said...

What Shel's talking about there are called French Scenes. Don't know what the etymology of it is, sadly.

In other words, when you're constructing the piece, you would consider a new scene to begin from the entrance or exit of a character. So although the audience sees it shot in one piece, you can construct it narratively using your usual toolset.

Another thing you might want to consider is cutting away to a parallel or thematically relevant plot (eg the police or relatives trying to find out where the hostage is being held) so that you're not in the same space throughout.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

I hope you've gotten over this fish. (I use the word fish to avoid the dreaded other words people use to explain y'know, that thing when a writer doesn't do the thing they're meant to...)

If not, my advice;

Take your feeling, your feeling of stuckness, of unsureness, of not having done it before, and feel how your character feels it too. You've never written a hostage scene before... I'm sure your character has never been in one ever. How does the character feel? What does he think is going to happen? Is he worried it won't end well? Is he confused?

Often, our, mmm, writer's 'fishes' are not actually writer's 'fishes' but are our character's... so, when you see it like that it can be an immense opportunity :)