How to handle an impasse
Published: July 8, 2009
|In the August 2009 issue of The Writer, Paula Brancato described how to create the perfect three-act structure for a screenplay. Following are some exercises from her to help you handle a particular kind of screenplay obstacle. |
Ever reach that point in a story where you aren't sure what happens next? You have a protagonist. You have an inciting incident. You know the protagonists' false hope, and you've nailed down the Holy Grail--what he's after. You've even gotten him into trouble. So much trouble, in fact, that you cannot think what happens next.
This is excellent writing. If you don't know, neither will the audience. The trouble is, you still have to write the next scene.
Here are two exercises to help you reconnect.
1. You are alone in your bedroom, sleeping late at night. You wake up. There's a sound at the window--someone breaking in. Your heart races; the intruder is inches away from getting in. You remember that you have a gun, but you've hidden it because of the children. You can't remember where you hid the gun. And then ...
Jot down 20 possibilities of what might happen next. DO NOT THINK. Just jot.
Take a few minutes then reread the list. Are there any scenarios that make you laugh, cry, cringe or otherwise affect you? Write on.
2. A man lives alone in the mountains. He writes jingles for commercials, song ditties. One night in the lot near his house, he hears a car pull up and a woman scream. He thinks nothing of it. He's hard at work, writing a ditty. There's angry talk, then the car takes off, screeching away in the night. He is so involved in his writing that he hardly hears it.
The next day the police knock on his door. They want to know what he knows about what went on in the lot next to him last night. He says he heard a car pull up and a woman scream, but that at 3 a.m. he was working on a Pepsi commercial and heard little else. The cops tell him a jogger found a body in the lot at 5 a.m. "Don't leave town," they say. "We may want to talk to you again."
That night, having completed his work, the man goes out to his regular bar. It's crowded, with lots of people eating, drinking, celebrating. From across the bar he suddenly hears, quite distinctly, a man whistling a tune--the very same ditty he's been working on for days.
Write a five-page scene that shows what happens next.