Wading Through Treacle

There are times when the writing flows, and other times when it’s as slow and laborious as wading through treacle. I confess I’m feeling particularly unfocused at the moment, and although I try to adhere to the maxim of writing something every day, I keep finding myself going up blind alleys; nothing is really grabbing my imagination that much. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing; part of me misses the days when I was typing away in blissful ignorance, going wherever my imagination took me. Now I know about the three-act structure, characterisation, plot development, visual grammar etc etc, I’m finding it much harder to imagine stories that will also work effectively within this structure. I know my writing’s stronger for having learned these things, but at the same time, I’m much more aware of the difficulty of what I’m trying to achieve, and at times that can feel more like a burden than a help.
I guess in general, developing stories and writing film treatments is something I’ve always find hard. I want to create something that’s emotionally engaging, with fascinating characters driven by powerful desires but which is also magical and visually gorgeous. Something that’s original and surprising, but also believable and rooted in real human experience. I don’t find it particularly hard to come up with a basic premise for a story; a character with a powerful desire who must battle contrary forces to achieve their goals and who changes along the way. But imagining all the details of a credible journey for that character, with a growing sense of jeopardy, which is real, consistent and meaningful in the context of the imagined world and which culminates in a suitably mind-blowing climax – that’s really hard. Or at least I find it is.
It doesn’t help that writing’s a lonely business; it’s all too easy to start feeling completely isolated and cut off from the real business of life. When you’re sitting alone gazing at a blank computer screen, it isn’t long before doubt seeps in and you start questioning everything you’ve written. Having someone around to pitch ideas too, or talk through a particular problem can really help. Even the presence of others near at hand somehow makes the whole business seem less remote. A lot of teachers are on strike today, meaning my kids have got a bonus day off. Having my daughter and her friends chattering and laughing in the next room is actually a comfort, rather than a distraction.
Then there’s the question of what happens when you do finish a script. Increasingly, the advice is to grab a cheap camera, or even just an I-phone, and go out and make a film yourself. One of the great miracles of modern technology is that this is now possible. These days, film-making is more accessible to more people than ever before. For the first time ever, you can shoot a film and air it without needing a huge production budget, or at least rich parents. I truly welcome this revolution, but at the same time, it scares me. I grew up at a time when personal computers where just beginning to be available and the internet was little more than a twinkle in Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s eye. Completely self-taught as most of my generation are, I manage to find my way around a few basic programmes. When it comes to gadgets, I tend to use their simplest, most basic functions and shy away from the whizzier things they can do. Apps remain pretty much a closed book to me. I know I need to suss all this stuff out. I know I should be borrowing the daughter’s I-phone, shooting my own scripts, editing them and putting them up on You-tube, but actually, all I really want to do is write!

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3 Comments

Filed under Film, Screenwriting, Writing

3 responses to “Wading Through Treacle

  1. I know those feelings of self-doubt; I think they stalk anyone with a creative heart. You can write; just do it. Worry about the knocking it into shape once you’ve poured it onto the page. As for the technology, I am like you. And yet, here we are, blogging and Facebook-ing and goodness knows what else! Tomorrow is a new day and those plots and characters will only leave you alone if you put them on a page.

  2. Tom

    Hi Veronica. I started following you in March, or so I thought, but nothing came through about your two most recent posts, but I’m here now. I’ve cut out some of the contacts from my Blogroll because I want to be able to get to everybody on there on a regular basis.
    I wondered if you might attempt the A to Z Challenge. It’s harder than it looks, but maybe by next year you’ll be up for it.
    Don’t you worry if you feel like a bit of a technophobe; we’re all feeling that way at different levels I’m sure. Few people over the age of 21 are writing well and up to speed with the electronic age.
    I agree with Julia; just write. Whether I’m working on a novel or a short story, I sometimes feel the need to leave the planning and organising behind. Even if it’s only for a couple of sessions, I simply write and sometimes a good idea evolves from it.

    • This is really kind of you Tom. I may well have a go at the A-Z Challenge, though I’m a screenwriter first and foremost. I wonder if I could do in the form of short screenplays each incorporating the relevant phrase? Hmm that might be interesting!

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