Tag Archives: How To Write for Screen?

Writing The Secret Keeper (Part 2)

The trouble with starting again is that you get very attached to scenes and dialogue that you’ve already put together. Something said by your main character gets a giggle or sounds profound,… is there a way to keep it?

Simply put: No. You can’t be precious or sentimental when writing fiction. You’ve got to be brutal and ruthless or you’ll end up going in circles.

I wrote three chapters of a disaster story many years ago and I could not, for the life of me, figure out why chapter four wasn’t working and why I couldn’t get beyond it. Eventually I realised that I’d made some psychological errors back in Chapter 2 that meant the main character’s headspace was wrong by the time it came to concluding that act. Two chapters had to go. And they did.

Because the beauty of starting again is that sometimes the new stuff that you write is better than you wrote before. You’re working with new ideas and new challenges and that takes you in different and interesting directions.

Sometimes you can recycle a line or two, sometimes not. The trick is to not get attached.

I’ve now worked out a new plot to run through the series. It’s more intimate, more detailed and more interesting than the original. Starting from scratch allowed me to look at the format again and concentrate more on individual motivations. Maybe it’ll make the crafting and shooting process a bit more complex but it’ll also make the finished series better.

And that’s the aim.

The Secret Keeper will be as rich and fully-formed as any HBO or BBC drama. It’s a full-fat sci-fi thriller,….. just animated with shadows. A Film Noir mystery in light and dark.

The pilot version of episode One is in Pre-production, with puppets now being drawn and cut. Audio for this rough-cut (to be used to gather funding for the series) will be recorded in the next two weeks. Filming is likely to start in November.

For more information visit Rough Magic Theatre’s blog puppetlady.wordpress.com. See you soon!

Writing The Secret Keeper (Part 1)

Full steam ahead on The Secret Keeper, the shadow-puppet web/TV series I’m writing for Rough Magic Theatre. Episode One – IE “The Pilot” – is written and has been signed off.

We’ve begun to storyboard the episode and settle on the different puppet types and effects we’re going to employ to bring it to life – it’s extremely exciting and is going to look so distinct and unique. For more information on the creation of the puppets and the production itself visit puppetlady.wordpress.com.

But what about that writing process?

Originally the show was going to be a continuation of characters and ideas I’d used in “The Santa Beneath the Ice”, a short novella I wrote many years ago based in 1900 New York. I was keen to re-visit and expand on the world I’d created for that story and I did draft a basic treatment with a mystery set in a slum hospital.

It was decided, however, that the amount of research and the work needed to accurately re-create the accents (RMT being a British outfit) would be too much.

Collette Knowles (AD of Rough Magic) and I sat down and hashed out a basic scenario based on genres we both enjoyed and ideas that we both agreed hadn’t really been tried before. The basic premise became: “What would the world be like many years after civilisation ceased to exist? And what would that world be like if nobody knew how things worked any more but were faced with a threat that needed people to know this stuff?”

This morphed into the idea that the most important (or feared) people left on the planet would be the ones who still knew things – people who still collected and read books (the internet being long, long gone),… Librarians.

The threat then became a murder mystery and our protagonist became the last person on earth to read detective fiction and criminology books.

That was where it began,…. then came the process of forming that notion into an actual script. And the biggest hurdle?

Whodunnit.

A huge array of colourful and exciting characters span into life during early spit-balling sessions but a murder mystery stands or falls on,… well, the mystery. I knew who died very early on. I knew why it mattered. What I didn’t know was why he had to die and who would really benefit from him snuffing it.

Weeks rolled by with me dwelling on this single issue! I have a new admiration for people who write detective fiction for a living – how do you keep all those plates spinning?

Because every descision creates ripples in your script and those ripples bounce off the shorelines of your story in unexpected and chaotic ways. Being a mystery, you’ve got to make sure that the killer isn’t so obvious that your audience catches on immediately (I’m looking at you, film version of “From Hell”) but not so left-field that your audience feels cheated. It all has to make logical sense when you look back at it.

This is a major headache.

The moment you say X does this you have to justify Y’s reaction or Z’s deduction. You have to think “well if X did this then how did they get that thing there?”

My initial decisions worked out perfectly,… right up to a casual remark. “X’s motivations don’t really fit him very well.” And they were right – I needed to re-write X’s motivations.

That single character re-alignment impacted the entire mystery. Suddenly I needed to write in new characters and new scenes. Suddenly I needed new antagonists and new reasoning. Suddenly the Whodunnit was just too damn complicated.

So I did what writers frequently do,… I started again,…

To be continued – see you next week!