Today Lindsay Sedgwick is my guest on #IrishWritersWed with a post entitled ‘From Inside the Snow Globe’
As an author and a screenwriter, Lindsay Sedgwick explains how both have become interwoven in her approach to writing. She also shares a few handy tips for writers!!
‘Those lovely long scenes – a three line snap of dialogue or a slammed door might be more powerful. An understated reaction, an attempt to hide an emotion that is revealed by their behaviour… Readers will get it.’
Please do read on for more…
It’s March. I’m at my desk, trying to meet deadlines but it’s distracting. There’s swirling snow outside and I feel as if I’m sitting inside a snow globe. If it was hail or driven snow, I think I could resist better but this is mesmerising, fluffy snow.
I find myself thinking about writing, rather than writing. I’ve only used a snowstorm once in a screenplay – right at the start of a prison break in a violent psychological thriller film. Probably my only blockbuster. The novel I’m working on now is set in summer so I can’t put these swirls in there either. It seems a shame.
I’ve been a screenwriter since the 90s. It’s a disciplined, tight medium in which every second counts. You pare scenes back, strip out dialogue, add only the details that are important… But you also learn to show how characters feel by how they behave. There’s no space in a script for internal thoughts and nobody wants dialogue that is literal or that tells us what we need to know.
Around 2010 I began turning my family feature scripts into novels. Several had been optioned by production companies but they hadn’t made it to the screen. I still loved the stories, I thought this was another way to get them out there.
Forgive me but I thought it would be easy.
I’d turn each script into prose and flesh it out. Sure the stories were there. They had been agonised over, draft by draft. I’d written three novels over the years so I wasn’t a novice (I thought!).
That was my first surprise: It wasn’t easy!
For example, one script, when prose-ified, had three Sundays in a row. Since the script was visual, it had to be chronologically logical but in prose form, I was left with these gaping holes! I started filling in the gaps. It got longer. Less exciting. I sent two books out, absorbed the feedback, nursed my wounds and rewrote. I did draft others, one via Nanowrimo and one based on stories I’d created for my daughter. By 2012, the books had taken a backseat to the screenwriting and teaching, by necessity.
The Screenwriting Residency in Maynooth University and Kildare Library & Arts Services, 2016-2017, gave me time to return to them. I love the freedom books allow me, to go into my characters’ minds and live longer in their world.
These are some of the skills screenwriting adds to the mix:
Everything counts/ nothing is wasted
You don’t put anything in a scene that doesn’t have a purpose then or later on, whether it’s a dust cloud, a shootout or a centipede running over a polished boot.
Less is more
Those lovely long scenes – a three line snap of dialogue or a slammed door might be more powerful. An understated reaction, an attempt to hide an emotion that is revealed by their behaviour… Readers will get it.
Only tell us what we need to know when we need to know
Revelation is key, especially since most screenplays follow the three-act formula which is all about redemption (and therefore a flawed central character). Exposition is ammunition. Treat it with care. Only tell us what we need to know when we are desperate or you need us to know.
All scenes must have a predicament
Conflict drives the story forward. It can be subtle and internalised but in a script, it has to be on screen or we won’t see it. How does each character feel entering a scene, about herself and the other person(s). Every character wants something from each scene. Mostly, you won’t let them get it but that’s the fun of screenwriting!
Any scene has three goals
To move the story forward, to reveal something about character and to entertain. Every scene should accomplish at least two of these.
I published Dad’s Red Dress in Feb 2017, The Angelica Touch in Feb 2018 and on April 5th, I’m launching a book on screenwriting (Write That Script!). Exciting to think I’ll finally have both my writing ‘loves’ side-by-side on the shelf.
Now, back to the snow. I think it’s getting heavier…
Bio about LJS
A former journalist and award-winning screenwriter, Lindsay has over eight hours of credits for TV and film work, including her series, PUNKY, which has been recognized as the first mainstream cartoon series in the world in which the main character has special needs (Down’s syndrome). She published her first novel, Dad’s Red Dress, in March 2017, her second The Angelica Touch in March 2018 and Write That Script!, a comprehensive guide to writing your first screenplay, comes out in April 2018.
She has had stage plays produced in Ireland and the UK as well as one radio play for BBC4 and is also involved in developing and writing game narrative and characters. She regularly runs writing courses and workshops in libraries, colleges, universities and festivals around Ireland.
Twitter ~ @LJSedgwick
Website ~ www.lindsayjsedgwick.com