I can only answer by saying, I had an idea for a story that I wanted to tell, I wanted to stay creative between acting work and I wanted to carve my own jobs instead of waiting for the phone to ring.
With a blank page and no experience I could only draw on those times as a child when storytelling and playing “make believe” seemed natural, instinctive and fun.
Aged 10, after my parents divorce, we moved to a new house. I chose the box room because it reminded me of a secret den. It was too small for any furniture except a cabin bed… perfect! I turned the tiny space under the bed into my magic world. Each day after school, I would crawl under a curtain of material and enter this world. The population of choice were PlayMobil people (infinite characterisation with their neutral structure?) and their environment was the exquisitely detailed Sylvanian Family furniture sets. This is how I spent my extra curricular time… until I discovered cider and boys with blond curtains.
This, and working as an actor for the past eight years (more “make believe”) was all I had to work from. So, as I went, I paused along the way to find inspiration: from the kind and clever friends who have offered me their advice to the online lectures (http://www.bafta.org/access-all-areas/screenwriting/lectures/) to the infinite internet blogs (I like this one- http://www.crackingyarns.com.au/)
But we can’t discount those early childhood games. I experimented with this to see if the tried and tested rules of screenwriting are present in instinctive play
1) Throw as much conflict as you can at your protagonist.
Yes. My PlayMobil people had lives filled with conflict. The fact that you can pull off the PlayMobil people’s legs proved opportunity for dire consequences
2) Show not Tell
Yes. I don’t remember sitting them down and letting them exchange wise and witty monologues of linguistic expertise
3) Character arcs/wants/inner journeys
Yes. I was a kid… all my characters were driven by wanting.
Yes. My antagonist was usually whoever scared me at the time. Teacher, school bully…
No. I don’t think I tried to condense my plot to 27 exciting and compelling words with which to pitch to the money people.
5) Structure (Three acts or Syd Field’s even more detailed map of a film)
No. This reminds me less of make believe and more of a kind of multi sensory maths puzzle:
(Protagonist + antagonist = conflict) + (character flaws + wants = tension) + (sexual tension + pace + comedy) = A three act emotional rollercoaster…
6) Create don’t impress
Yes. To me, this is the most important lesson that I sometimes forget. We did it because we loved it. No incentive except the act of doing.
There were times when writing felt like trudging through mud with no map and a brain full of fog but I’ve reached page 118: the final page. Like inside my cabin bed, I’m created a pocket of life populated with imaginary people. No one else has met them yet but hopefully, one day soon, at a cinema near you, you will
See you next week…