I appear to have two different ways of solving script problems – one is to just ignore it, let it fester and hope inspiration strikes; the other is to sit down with a pen and paper (or laptop and fingers) and work it out as if it were a maths problem.
I know writers who take great umbrage with one or the other of these approaches. Some who seem to believe it’s all art and inspiration, others who apparently think it’s all formula and beats and nuts and bolts.
Most, thankfully, realise it’s a mixture of the two.
Most art is, isn’t it?
Carpentry, for example, has a lot of maths in it. There are a lot of angles and sums and calculations and possibly even trigonometry … but the end result (can be) a work of art. There’s inspiration in there, talent, craft and an underlying formula … isn’t scriptwriting the same?
Inspiration, letting your unconscious mind sort it all out, is one tool; pen and paper plotting, calculating what goes where in a logical manner, is another. Both are useful, in different contexts for different reasons.
Generally, but not always, I find character and emotional stuff works best by just staring out the window or having a shower or watching the telly or otherwise just ignoring it until the answer gets pissed off and starts jumping up and down to get my attention.
Plot stuff, on the other hand, the nitty gritty of what bit goes where and what beat I’m hitting when and the order of scenes – that stuff I find best to commit to pen and paper. That stuff is like quadratic equations to me – there’s too much information for me to hold in my head, jotting it down makes it easier to solve.
I find it really useful to be able to switch approaches when solving a script problem. If mulling something over or talking it through with a writing friend doesn’t produce results, then maybe writing it all down in columns will?
Maybe what we need here is a spreadsheet or a table or a graph?
And vice versa.
When the columns are all full and the answer is no clearer than it was five days ago, when plotting out the character’s emotional state or journey isn’t helping … give up. Maybe throwing all that stuff away and letting my mind wander will help?
Or maybe I should just write a totally pointless post just to annoy everyone else?