Following my previous post on the subject, the way forward was to get some further notes from Lianne and a couple of overly critical friends and wrote a further two drafts. Zoiks!
* The ‘Coherent draft’ – a draft that keeps the voiceover and the non-linear structure but takes on board a lot of the more ‘minor’ comments – the aim here was to create a more streamlined draft without touching the more contentious elements of voiceover and structure.
* The ‘Hack and Slash draft’ – the equivalent of a Canadian seal cull. Voiceover? Gone. On deleting it, it became readily apparent that no, it wasn’t needed as – guess what – it didn’t add anything. The non-linear structure is curtailed to such an extent that the opening scene now appears as the script’s penultimate act. And you know what? It works a whole lot better. I still feel the (insecure?) need to dangle a little visual teaser at the outset, if only to keep people intrigued (and therefore reading), but the structure is now more logical and coherent (and what's more, the page count is down from 102 to 95 - result!)
My favourite draft out of the two? The latter. Non-linearity and voiceover can have the effect of obscuring what the real narrative thrust of your script really is – I think by taking them outside and giving them a good kicking, things are starting to look a lot clearer.
However, the one thing I haven’t done with the Hack n’ Slash draft is to take Lucy’s advice on board about chopping out the first twenty pages. With the first ‘flash forward’ scene cut back from three pages to one (and with no offending voiceover), I think it (sort of) sits OK. As an experiment, what I might do at some point is to see if I can reconfigure the first thirty pages and see what happens.
Co-incidentally, the two previous scripts I wrote before this one were written with some very strict rules to the fore - no voiceovers, no flashbacks, and strictly linear structures. If in doubt, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). I know why I abandoned these diktats for this particular script – it’s because it didn’t start out as a script at all. I wrote the thing originally as a novel, and then adapted it. In the novel, the structure was tight as a very tightly wound tight thing – however, in adapting it for a screenplay format, something went strangely awry. To be honest, what I think I did was to rely too much on the structure on the novel to inform that of the screenplay – it simply didn’t work. However, in the newer draft, it works better. And no doubt in subsequent drafts, it will work better still (that’s what I’m telling myself at least).
All in all, I love getting notes on my work, as I am well past that stage where I take any criticism on my writing as a personal insult. And believe me, I’ve been set upon by experts. The secret is to temporarily jettison your house-sized ego, and take from coverage what you need, not what you think people want to see.
On a final note, just to big myself up, this is from the first page of Lucy’s coverage:
(I think) your voice... is one of the most interesting ones I’ve seen in a long time. Not to mention bizarre...
I ain’t gonna argue with that...
Right - enough of this self-indulgence - normal service will be resumed soon with a festive photograph of a dog in a hat...