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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Then There Was The Junior Script

Rouge Waver Diane had this comment to make of yesterday's post:

I agree with so many of your insights on starting a new script. But the one thing that I do - to get the creative juices really going - is write the scenes that have given me the inspiration to write the script to begin with.

Diane - you took today's post right off of my keyboard. I do like to organize my premise and do some character work first before I can write any kind of scene, but I get your gist and what you are proposing is what I actually do as my second step in the Frankensteinian process of giving life to an idea.

I write a Junior Script. Or Script, Jr. as I affectionately call it. I know the Wave-inatrix often proclaims this or that God's gift to humankind but truly, the Junior Script is, well, God's gift to humankind.

Here is the academic definition of the Junior Script (patent pending): A short, half-assed script in which the writer jots out sluglines and brief, on-the-nose scenes nailing the intent of the scene with almost zero grace or redemptive qualities except that it is now on the page.

You know those kitchen sponges you can buy that are completely flat until you put them under water and then they expand? This is your Junior Script. It's the matzo of scripts. Unleavened, kinda flavorless but you have a weird, inexplicable attachment to it anyway.

So you've written an outline and you're feeling pretty good about it. Mostly. It's always a work in progress. The Junior Script enables you to start writing scenes - the scenes you know you want to write, the place-holder scenes and anything else that inspires you at the moment. Your Junior Script can be 32 pages long - we don't care at this point - it's those first pages, those initial scenes that you need to get on paper before they dissipate, never to be retrieved.

A scene in a Junior Script might look like this:

INT. Candy Store - DAY

Our main character comes in, freaks out and robs the place.

Main Character: You LIED about the Abba Zabba! You LIED!

INT. Hamlisch County Sheriff's Office - LATER

Main character shuffles in, manacled, then kicks the sheriff in his paunch and manages an amazing escape.

Main Character: You'll never catch me! NEVER!

And so on. A Junior Script is really just a way of saying Your Script In It's Infancy - but I call it by a totally different name because the Junior Script is its own, sovereign country. It has different rules.

The Junior Script can be super long - or super short. It can be crappy. It can sound stupid. It can be brilliant. It can have typos. It can be on the nose. It is free from judgment or neuroses. It is a way of just putting place holders and half-scenes in place so that it can slowly evolve into the First Draft.

Recently, I heard an great little anecdote. A caterpillar was struggling mightily to get out of its chrysalis when a woman, watching this struggle, couldn't help but lean in close and help the little guy out just a little bit. The new butterfly emerged quickly, flopped around and promptly died. Because caterpillars need that struggle to get out - it builds the muscle-strength and circulation they need to be able to fly moments later. Now the lady is a butterfly-killer.

Oh, Wave-inatrix, love you do but damn you're circuitous sometimes...

Like a caterpillar crawling out of its chrysalis, the Junior Script needs to be imperfect and to struggle and it cannot be judged and found wanting because it's evolution is the struggle. Often, screenwriters, no matter where they are on the curve, get squeezed in the vice of the expectation of perfection. They think it has to be great the first time. On the first page. In the first scene. Untrue.

After you've organized your idea and worked out your main character, let loose on a Junior Script and just get on paper what you want to get on paper. Don't judge it, for god's sake don't show it to anybody, just let your fingers fly. If you really aren't sure what will happen in a scene, don't jot it down, it has no place in the Junior Script. Only get down those scenes in which you know what the beat is - but don't worry about writing it well. Suspend judgment during the writing of the Junior Script. Learning to do so will allow for your evolution as a writer, from one draft to the next and beyond.

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Laura Reyna said...

I did this on my last script. But I call it a Mini-draft. It sounds like the same thing.


Diane Stredicke said...

In Writer's Boot Camp terminology it's a mini-script or short scene conflict.

But whatever you like to call it, this is absolutely a great way to take your outline and apply it - script fashion - to the page without making all those pesky detailed decisions.


Before outlining, before premise-lining, I write down the scene (if there indeed is one) that got the whole thing going in the first place. More often than not, for me, it is the beginning, the opening image, or sometimes the end. I write it in all its blazing glory. I know it will end up in the trash.

And, sometimes I'm very stubborn.

Julie helped me on my last one. I had an opening image, a scene, I loved it. Wrote it down before I had characters. Before I had the story. Before I had any plot. I knew my arena, and I had this great scene.

It survived many, many drafts. That is... until I got Julie's feedback.

Now it's gone. I still love the scene. Just not in this script. And it was one of my sources of inspiration.

A Who said...

Just wanted to tell you -- your butterfly analogy helped me today.

Thank you.



PJ McIlvaine said...

Check out

They have a free Screenplay Outliner that looks pretty cool.

JPS said...

Boy did that bring back fond memories! Made me laugh. ("Earl walks in, says something, does something, hits something, staggers away.")

scottycwilliam said...

ummm... isn't a junior script also a step-outline?

scene heading followed by a summary of what happens in the scene?

each scene is numbered etc.

It's what I use to outline. Mine came out at 20 pages.

It's what I was taught anyway.