Friday, June 29, 2007

Keeping It Simple

My RoboWriters evenings are probably the most fun I have all week. There's a lot of laughing involved. It's a silly world that I live in. I spend a lot of time sitting around tables reading scenes and laughing my ass off. I'm often quick to diminish the value of what I do. I'm not solving world hunger, I'm not curing cancer. At the very least, work is supposed to be hard. There is a service I am providing. Comedy is an industry. People want to laugh. They spend a lot of money on it. People want to make people laugh. They spend a lot of money in pursuit of this, too. I'm just the middle-man. I guess I'm sort of a drug dealer who also gets to sample all his wares.

Last night, the common theme that emerged among the writers was to trust what's at the heart of your scene. A few scenes started out with interesting characters, relationships and premises only to quickly devolve into "anything for a laugh," which usually results in zero laughs and the sense that the writer is trying to punch his way out of the scene rather than have it resolve organically. The lesson the writers learned is to take your time with your characters - explore their wants and desires, delve more deeply into their issues and emotional life. Give them some respect. Thanks to the magic of computers, you can always go back and edit out the stuff that doesn't move the story forward. You're likely to discover the stuff that really makes you laugh from deep down in your gut. A few of the writers successfully did this through rewrites retooled to focus on characters and relationships.

ROBOWRITER ASSIGNMENT - Next week, write a silent scene.

Literally, a "show, don't tell" scenario.

Things to keep in mind in writing a silent scene...

- The characters are silent because they choose to be. Not because someone suddenly turned the volume off or the characters were struck dumb.

- Keep it simple. The audience should be able to quickly grasp the who, what and where.

- Explore how people communicate non-verbally -from eye-rolling to throat clearing to foot tapping to eye contact to actively ignoring.

- maybe have an instrumental piece of music in mind that would accompany the scene. The scene should be able to play without it and would only be enhanced by it.

- keep it real. They are not mimes. Allow the characters to take their time and let tension build. Don't have them over-exaggerate their wants and needs through over-the-top actions just for the sake of making sure the audience gets it. Audience are smart!

Above all. Keep it simple.

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