I wonder - do I set myself unrealistic goals in order to stop myself becoming complacent? You know, the bit about notching up 10 scenes a day in my last post. But I guess the upside is, only being able to notch up 6 or 7 scenes a day means I wander back into the house a little niggled, eager to get back to it the morning.
An average Casualty episode can have anything between 50 and 60 scenes. So writing the scripts is (forgive me) like painting a picture, I get the scenes down pretty quickly - the background - then I go back and re-work the detail, the light and shade. Finally I put in the highlights and stand back for two days and simply look (read) at what I've done, does it make sense? Does it jar? Is it entertaining?
I remember sending off my first draft of my first Eastenders to my editor, full of anticipation, scared witless. As Academy writers, we are encouraged to send drafts of what we write to Academy Boss so he can gauge how we're doing. I got a call from the Academy Boss about my Eastenders draft. He thought it was great (bingo!), I was doing really well (Oh joy!) but my draft was too 'dialogue heavy' he suggested, (Ah...) I should look to cutting the dialogue by two thirds (.!.).
There were no scenes without dialogue, what I needed was action, not words. This had been a thorn in my side during Classroom work at Elstree - essentially a prose writer, I could be way too verbose. I had to start thinking in pictures. It's a visual medium. Duh. It was at this point the penny started dropping, my second EE draft was a lot better, the subsequent episode was good (I'll blog about actually watching your own work at a later date - scary).
It was also at this time I discovered the joys of Final Draft - the software as opposed to the end product. There are times when I just can't find the right words, you know - you're putting words into Charlie Fairhead's mouth that sound so ... hackneyed and somehow Dot has come over all Northern, calling people duck or pet - whatever, it's just not working. Time to explore the Final Draft tools!
Change the font. Change the spacing, make your script longer as if by magic! Put it all on index cards! And low and behold the Reports tools! Now this is a fab little gizmo and one I use quite a lot. It will magic up a report about your script with all sorts of interesting data - how many times Josh has spoken, in which scenes and to whom for example. The best tool for my prosaic ailment is the 'Action to Dialogue ratio'. I can now see, as a percentage, how much 'action' I've created compared to how many words are being spoken. I aim for 50 / 50. It may not be very accurate in a visual medium kind of sense - but it's fun. And a healthy distraction.
Some scenes I can whiz through.
"Sc 12 Johnny pulls the sheet back from the lifeless body on the trolley, out on Johnny looking devastated, a single tear cascading down his grizzled cheek. CUT TO:"
It can be a real relief to see these type of scenes coming up out of the corner of my eye as I convert the Treatment to script. I have found writing this first draft of Casualty quite a challenge (and as you know, I like challenges), know why? Steadicam, that's why.
Die hard Casualty fans may have noticed a new look in the ED, grainier, darker and more frantic conversations on the hoof as Tess and Charlie march round the department locked in discourse (hang on, didn't they just pass that old boy on the trolley once already?).
What once may have been a clutch of 3 short, sharp scenes in the ED can now be written as one long scene with characters weaving in and out, passing the narrative baton to each other en route. Erm, quite hard to do. I'm choreographing my scenes a lot more, only to find that I've left the nurse with the important information in resus, when I really need her to walk past Charlie in cubicle six, to pass this info on...
I'm toying with the idea of making a set of miniature Casualty figures and a box set of the ED (see my former career, set designer) so that I can walk them through the scenes I'm writing. It would be a lot easier.
For the time being, I've joyfully lost count of how many scenes I've written this week as I tease out some of the story into elongated scenes. But it all feels in hand. I can't wait to access the 'Number Scenes' tool on Final Draft, pressing that button will render all my scenes numbered like magic.
Then the I'll try the "Profanity' statistic which is always good for a laugh (see blog title).