[Post Updated August 7, 2018] (I need to write a new artcile updating my current boarding process… bother me enough and I will.)
I got five whole pages done this weekend on my screenplay. I think I am going to write an article soon on finding the time to write. Hopefully, I will learn some things.
Today I am going to talk to you about The Screenwriter’s Board — and how it is fantastic.
WHAT IS A SCREENWRITER’S BOARD?
In developing my script, I decided to set up a screenwriter’s board for the first time. I have always wanted to do this, and it’s a lot of fun. Screenwriter’s boards come in all shapes and sizes but perform the same function. They are tangible forms of your story and how it is structured. Some boards are small and use post-it notes, some are bigger and use index cards. Some boards are on a wall; others are on a flat surface. I enjoy using colored index cards and a cork board. For now, I will assume you know what index cards are as they relate to screenwriting. I may write an article on index cards later.
WHAT YOU NEED
First, go out and buy your board! Figure out what size and type you want. I got a cork board for $15 at Walmart. Once you have your board, divide it into four sections using tape or a marker. Top row is act one, 2nd row is the first half of act 2 ending at the midpoint, 3rd row is 2nd half of act 2 ending at the act 3 break, and the last row is act 3. From here you just take your index cards and put them up on the board. You should end with around 9-11 cards per row. Each card represents a scene, or sequence of scenes, such as CAR CHASE. I use colored index cards. In the picture above I have BLUE cards as the main story, RED cards as action, PURPLE cards as B-story, and GREEN cards as C-story. This helps me visually see the flow of the story and improve on my pacing. You can use whatever colors you want, or no colors at all.
WHY THE BOARD IS HELPFUL FOR STRUCTURE
I find the board extremely helpful. Look at the end of act 3 in the picture. There is a big hole in my story, and I know this because it is right in front of my face. The board lets you know where your story is light or heavy. Another great thing about the board is how you can switch index cards around at will. Changing the sequence of scenes has never been so easy! If you want, you can take all the cards down and bring them with you. Shuffling them around and improving on them during class, church, or the bar. The board is also a great way to procrastinate before actually writing. I have procrastination down to an art form. In the end, the board means nothing… but I think it greatly helps the writing process.
My current project is a post-apocalyptic adventure/zombie road movie. I just finished breaking the story and have started writing.
I’m on page 10. I believe something important is supposed to happen on page 10. I believe it’s called the ten-page twist. Do I have a ten-page twist? I do. But at the moment it doesn’t quite hit page 10. Am I supposed to write the whole screenplay first, and then come back and rewrite to hit my marks? I’m not sure at the moment. Although, I do believe something important should happen to grab your readers attention on page 10.
A fact of life: People do not have a high attention span. If you cannot hook your audience into the story in 10 pages, my screenwriting teacher says you’re fucked. I believe him.
Another fact: The ten-page twist does not have to be a twist necessarily.
It has to be something that catches the readers attention and makes them say, “I want to know what happens!.” This is especially true if your screenplay to magically falls into the hands of a producer/script reader. These people read so many damn scripts a week; they’re just looking for a reason not to read your script. DO NOT GIVE IT TO THEM! When they get to page 10, they’ll know if they want to continue reading. Give them something that makes them want to turn to page 11.
That’s where I am at, and that is what I’m trying to do.
[UPDATE: The theory behind the ten-page twist still holds. You do want to hook the reader in the first ten pages and keep them reading. But I’ve come to learn over the many years since I wrote this article, that these hard and fast rules don’t matter. You can write anything you want, any way you want. You don’t need to land anything specific on page ten. As long as there is something that keeps the reader reading, you’re good.]
As if I didn’t have enough distractions in my life already, I have finally decided to follow the crowd and start a blog. Yay for me!
Why don’t I take this time to tell you a little bit about myself…
I am currently a film major set to graduate in December. After spending a small fortune on school, I will finally receive a worthless piece of paper that reads B.S. Film Production. …Finally. It’s really weird to think about not being in school. I have been going to school every fucking year of my life since kindergarten.
I have recently decided that I would absolutely love to be a professional screenwriter. Everything about it seems attractive to me. The ability to set my own hours, and work when and where I please. The chance of selling big and paying off my student loans. Taking a simple idea and developing it into a monster of plot, conflict, character, and emotion. And in the end, being able to hold in my hands 120 pages of ideas that came out of my head. Something I created. Something I can be completely proud of no matter how much it sucks ass. An assortment of thoughts and ideas that somehow, over the course of many months, has come alive. A Frankenstein, written in 12pt Courier, with two brads holding it in place.
This blog will turn into a story of my life. Finishing college, hopefully getting a job in the industry, writing screenplays and trying to sell them.
Between updates on my life and screenplays, I will write rants and random tidbits about life. I will also occasionally review a script I have recently read. I aim to journal my life in pursuit of my goals. Hopefully, I will inspire others to pursue their goals, and maybe they will find some useful information through my journeys. Perhaps we can go on this adventure together.
So sit back and enjoy the ride. (Can’t believe I just said that.)