When time is short it’s a good idea to be succinct.
Time is short this week. I am up to my eyes in business plans and marketing strategies. Huzzah!
So, this week, I want to write about the dangers of over plotting. In basic terms, this is when a writer looks for all their answers on the beat sheet, instead of in the script.
I know that is a fairly contentious statement. These days, the fashion is for writers to nail their plot on file cards, or on a beat sheet, so they are sure that they are hitting the main structural points. That isn’t a practise I disagree with, I do the same myself.
However, the temptation when creating a beat sheet, is to over think and overwrite the structure. In particular, there is a temptation to not just identify the core of theme and situation of a sequence, but also to figure out what the characters do when confronted with this new dilemma. Personally, I think that kind of “solution plotting” can be a mistake.
For me, each sequence in a beat sheet is written as a problem for the characters to solve… but, the actual solving of the problem, I believe, should happen in the script. The drama comes out of the character’s unique reactions to the situation.
What this means in practical terms is that there are creative advantages to going into a scene with a dilemma for the characters involved, but without a solution already outlined. The scene remains open and problematic as it is being written, forcing the writer to reach out to the characters to find their own solutions to the problem. When you think about it, it makes real sense, because it is the characters who are interacting with the plot. They should be in a position, where they have to find some sense or solution out of the given situation rather than merely flapping their lips until they hit the point marked “exit” —-
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