Time to Write... The Outline

The writing has begun! Well, the pre-writing. I'm a little behind schedule, but I think it was worth spending a lot of time on research and answering key questions about characters, themes, plot.

Some of my writing friends use note cards to figure out the structure of a movie, one card per scene. I prefer to write a detailed breakdown of the entire film, scene by scene, with details of basic action and dialog. I'm often putting all my ideas into the outline so that I have options when I write the first draft, or because I haven't figured out all the questions yet. The dialog is very rough. I'm able to pull snippets from the blog, which is helpful, but also difficult because there's a lot of repetition throughout. Which line works best? Which conveys the greatest meaning? Can I pull lines from some blog entries and use them in unrelated scenes in the screenplay? I'm also finding some major problems structurally. As interesting as the blog is, it's not written as a movie. There's some things that need to be changed to make it work as a fictional narrative. Some artistic license is in order.

For instance, there are a lot of characters that Jaime (the author of the blog) encountered in LA. I need to consolidate and even create a few that will represent a handful of people she knew. Did you know that Oliver Stone did this for at least one character in "JFK?" I had a little less respect for him after learning this. However, I'm not telling a historical drama. Well, not really. I'm hoping that as long as I tell this story in a voice consistent with the blog, and capture the spirit of Jaime, I'll be able to take some necessary license.

There's also the issue of getting from point A to point B. How do I bridge scenes? How do I get from one seemingly unrelated blog entry to the next? There's really three distinct parts to this story which will work well for a three act structure. The LA/movie industry part, the crash and burn (marriage and mentally), and the rediscovery/rebirth in Orlando. But there's some missing pieces. How do I transition the MC (main character) into each? What are the key conflicts or events that precipitated each act?

What's the key that binds this story together? Professionally, there's really an interesting story to tell from Jaime's time as a pornceptionist (Pt1, Pt2) - even the history behind the company where she worked. I know some people may be squeamish about this subject (as was Jaime), but I think it's hilarious and fascinating and seems like such a pivotal part of her journey. Should I take the risk of alienating some folks...?

On a personal level, the story seems to revolve around mental health issues and the need for affordable, accessible health care. The blog doesn't shy away from depressions, and suicide, and all the things we face as artists but are often afraid to discuss. There's such a powerful story throughout the blog about Jaime's heart condition and the fear of not being able to pay for life-saving meds - how life was pre-Obamacare, especially with a pre-existing condition.  Her discussion of the homeless population in LA and the fear of Jaime losing her mind, losing her savings, and ending up on the streets with the people she fears the most needs to be a key part of this story. How can I show the homeless in a way that explains why MC is so afraid while humanizing rather than marginalizing them? What was the history of healthcare and mental health services in CA that led to such a large homeless population?

Still need to determine how I can make the ending I want fit so that I can work towards that. Endings can be a tough nut to crack, but I knew from the beginning, even reading the blog for the first time, that the return of the wedding album would be a great ending for a movie. It's pure action. Pure revenge. Pure fun.

This has to take no longer than a few more days. I need to start writing a first draft...

The Writer as Editor

Have you ever watched a movie a second time and felt like you watched a completely different movie? It's amazing the details you miss on the first viewing. To find the story, I had to reread the entire LA Stories blog. It took a lot more time than I was anticipating, but it was worth it. There's a lot of great material here - in fact, a ton of it. A few key entries that stood out even more this time: Red Flags & Cockrings, California Dreamin', Best Served Cold. There's something about this line that I love: "...he is not exactly what I'd imagined, but everything I'd hoped for." Where in the screenplay can I use this?

Editing normally happens after you write a first draft, but with adaptation, I'm finding it comes into play early in the writing process. So it's time to put on my editor's cap. I need to find key elements of the blog to be able to create a concise narrative suitable for the screen:

Theme/Message: What is the thesis? Purpose? What am I trying to say?

Metaphors/Objects: Jaime Jessup, the writer of the blog, is a very figurative writer. Lots of metaphors. Objects are symbolic or have specific meaning to characters. An eagle feather, wishbone necklace, butterfly journal, red '67 Mustang.

Characters: Who are the key players? MC (Main Character), MC's husband, MC's close friend in LA (Hope?), Tribe of artist/street performer friends, homeless man in parking garage, Shit-Tits!, LA - the city is a character in this story.

Character Traits of MC: who is she, what does she want, where is she trying to go? What are her flaws? What's preventing her from achieving her goals? Why does she want to write for TV and movies? Did specific shows or films influence her as a child? What is her arc?

Character Traits of MC's Husband: What drives him? How and why does he change over the course of the film? How to portray him honestly without being one-sided in favor of MC.

Character Traits of supporting characters: see above.

Structure: What are the basic plot points for a three-act screenplay? What conflicts move the story along?

Scenes: What are some key scenes I see being part of the movie? How does movie begin and end?

Specific Lines: See highlighted lines from blog

Tone/Visual/Music Elements: What genre is this? Comedic drama, dramatic comedy, dark comedy? How should story be told? Firs person? Voice over? Relatable to girls and guys - window into a girls mind, but not simply demeaning towards men - NO F'ING LIFETIME MOVIE. Magical realism, but not too much. "Ride" by Lana Del Rey. Cheesy '80s power ballads.

 

Thoughts/Ideas/Questions: What stories are missing? There's some stuff Jaime has told me that's not in the blog but needs to be in the movie. How did certain events/places look? What can I change or alter? How much artistic license can I take? Focus more on relationships vs. entertainment industry. Needs to be a story that's bigger than a single person. Need an awesome title.