I write treatments, character bios and arcs, plot points, story as prose, draw lines and mark the important bits on it.
In short: I know what I’m going to write before I write it.
I find if I don’t I spiral off into all sorts of problems.
Okay, yeah, maybe I can get away with writing a short film on the fly; but only because it’s short enough to hold the entire thing in my head before I start. Anything longer than 5 or 6 pages and I need to start with a plan.
And I’m good at sticking to that plan. The page count may go out a little, but it’s always proportionally correct. If I expect to hit the mid-point at page 45 and I hit it at page 55 then it’s a 110 page script and that’s all there is to it. I haven’t gone wrong, other than underestimated how much needs to be said.
I’ll say it again: I know what I’m going to write before I write it.
Imagine my surprise then when the latest project I’m working on (it’s a secret, sort of) just went completely off the rails.
There had been a nice meeting where the next draft had been discussed and a lot of ideas pitched. I took them all and wrote out a plan. I knew where I was going, what plot points to hit, how it all fit together …
And it didn’t happen.
That is to say, I hit the mid-point bang on. I got the main character to the right scene at the right time and she just lost her fucking mind.
She went nuts, she just went off on this massive bender and completely missed the end of the script.
Or at least the end I had planned for her.
It turns out the stress of the first half destroyed her mind and she just fucking lost it.
It may seem weird to talk about a character as if she’s real; but I sat on the train to London on Monday, with my fingers flying over the keyboard, and I actually shouted at my (gay) laptop.
“No! What the fuck are you doing?”
There was then some shuffling as people moved further away from me.
I couldn’t believe the mess she got herself into and I had no idea how she was going to get herself out of it. I swear, I was as much a reader as I was a writer. I just typed and read in shock and panic.
“Fuck me, no! What … what are you doing?”
And then I got to Victoria and had to shut my laptop down.
One page to go.
My protagonist has just hacked some bloke to death in the middle of a crowded area and I’ve got to go and be nice to people in the pub for hours before I can find out what happens to her.
I found out on the way home and it wasn’t pretty.
The end result?
So far everyone really likes it and has been very complimentary.
Um … don’t write on trains?
Sometimes planning is good and sometimes it isn’t?
Plan but don’t worry if something better comes up?
How about: don’t push your characters too far, they don’t like it?
I’m not sure if there is a moral, it was just a unique experience for me. One which might go some way to explaining why I was a little shell-shocked in the pub and talked slightly more shit than normal.
Then again, it might not.