This week I’m continuing my series and looking into how to fix up common mistakes in 2 more types of scripts. Enjoy.
Action for Action’s Sake
This type of film, as implied by the name, is more interested in showing off flashy visuals and fast pace action then developing characters and furthering the story.
If the major fist fight in your script can be reduced to the words, “Punches are thrown until eventually Steven is knocked out.” or your dance scene can be written as “They pull of some sick moves and dazzle the crowd.” or your car chase written as, “The cars race down the street at top speed until the spike strip pops the tires and the car flips into the ditch.” then you are writing Action for Action’s Sake. Sure I wrote all of these examples in simple and uninspired language and therefore I could make them much more interesting and sure, the police catching the criminal after the police chase furthers the plot. However, if the only part that furthers your plot is the end of the action scene, then ask yourself; how long should the action scene be? 1 paragraph? 2? A page? 2 pages?
If your action scene relies soley on a single plot point at the end of the scene then every moment of that action scene simply exists to pad out time before that plot point. Therefore the more plot points (or even better, character growth) you can put in an action scene, the longer and more fullfilling that scene can be.
For an example, look at the 3rd act of Hot Fuzz, it is almost completely action scenes. However all the moments are payoffs to jokes and plot points that were set up earlier in the story and it makes the 3rd act fun and exciting. If you are not looking for comedy in your script, look to the Star Wars movies. The lightsaber fight between Luke and Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back is way more interesting then the flashing climatic fight at the end of The Phantom Menace. Why? Because in Empire they were interested in characters and not in action. Even though The Phantom Menace has flashier action, it is worthless without strong emotions and plot.
So take a look at your action scenes and make sure that your scene cannot be reduced to a single sentence. Make sure your scene if full of character moments or plot points that push the plot forward.
Slice of Life
On the opposite side of the spectrum from Action for Action’s Sake we have Slice of Life. This story is focused on the sort of troubles that regular people face in their day to day life. Therefore there are no crazy action scenes and often no life changing events. Slice of Life is interested in the idea of the audience being a fly-on-the-wall and observing a typical day in the life of another person (and life changing events are not typical events).
This type of script is really it’s own genre and is quite popular. The Italian classics The Bicycle Theives and Umerbto D could be categories as Slice of Life, as well The Tree of Life and Inside Llweyn Davies had many of the qualities of a Slice of Life script. The trouble that one can find themselves in writing such a script is that ultimately there must be some reason that the particular story being told, is being told. By this I mean, if you want to show the typical day in the life of a character, then why did you pick the particular day that the story takes place? Why not 10 days before? Or 6 years after?
The day you pick must be because something not quite typical is happening. Over the course of a person’s life (in Canada at least) there are going to be more run of the mill days than life affirming days.
This isn’t to say you must have something monuments happen in your script, because if it did it would no longer be a Slice of Life. In Inside Llwyen Davies his ultimate arc is that he must decide whether to continue his music career or not. This isn’t a typical week in his life because (presumably) he doesn’t face this decision every week. Therefore there is something important about this week and thus there is a reason why this week is being depicted in the story.
So if you are writing a Slice of Life you are interested in the day to day life of a character, however, you must still have something that makes it a not-so-typical day. It just isn’t some grand monuments thing like learning you are The One, or saving the world or deciding to cook crystal meth. Instead you are interested in the quieter moments of life such as deciding to break up with a partner, taking the stage at a comedy club or searching for a missing bike.