Shades Of Romance Magazine Selected by Writers Digest as One of the 101 Best Websites for Writers! 2002



JAN/FEB 2003

Issue #14





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One Screenwriter's Perspective
By
Paula Sanders Samad


FORMATING


In my first section, I suggested focusing on the story. Well, did you crank out that short story the potential to make it to the big screen? Did you name characters and jot down bits and pieces of their personality? Perhaps you've written outlines or scribbled pages upon pages of brainstorming? Good, that means you have captured the spirit of a great story and now you fingers will bring it to life on paper.

Before we proceed, please keep in mind this is a simple example of screenwriting with a focus on story telling. Once again, I highly suggest taking a screenwriting course as well as investing in a text* with step-by-step instructions, which will assist in perfecting your screenwriting

Story Development. What is your story? Is it action adventure, romantic comedy or tragedy? Who is your main character and how do they fit into this world you are creating? Most of the time we writers have wonderful stories swirling around inside of our heads like spring butterflies. This condition, we learn is a simple matter of capturing those thoughts and organizing them into the story. Don't be afraid to lose yourself for a moment in the fantasy of your story. Ask yourself, what critical event takes place in this character's life that begins their story? Allow yourself to "dream up" a world around that courageous woman or down trodden man.

Example:
Creating a critical events list will help your story come forth and perhaps flow better onto the page:

THE COLOR PURPLE:

· Catalyst: Celie becomes the wife of young mister
· Big event: Verbally and physically abused Celie finds hope reuniting with her sister Nettie.
· Pinch: Nettie and Sofia, the source of Celie's existence are sent away
· Crisis: Come face to Face with Young Mister's first love Shug Avery
· Showdown: Celie and Shug bond, find letters
· Realization: Celie rebels against Mister and leaves with Shug Avery and her dignity
(From the motion picture "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker)

Keep in mind your critical events list could change at anytime this is simply a method to get that creative lava flowing. Also, the above example is only one way to develop your story. I chose to name my characters, and describe them physically and mentally. I then create a past, present and future as well as tell the roll they may play in the life of each supporting character.

Example:
Individual Character Development: First I name my character. Sometimes the name is a reflection of the personality, other times it may simply be the name of a family member or friend. Either way, I try to keep it short and simple, easy to remember.

· Michelle Baze, an African-American female, 23 is a recent law school graduate. She's just broken off a three-year engagement to her college sweetheart and now finds herself in a strange city, great job but no friends. She tries to quell her loneliness by adopting a small, rambunctious dog, Thurogood, whom she comes adore. But still she is lonely in the big city.

Your character description may be shorter or a full page. You may become so engrossed in that one character's story that your screenplay takes a whole different turn.

The point is to get to know your main character, bring them to life so that you can tell their story.

Finally, we arrive at an important element in screenwriting, the format. All screenplays have the same basic format and I guarantee that by the time you have finished your first script you will have committed these steps to memory.

Formatting:

1. Font: Use Courier or New Courier 12 point, to get more words per line.
2. Initial Margin - 1.5" or 15 spaces from the left
3. Master Scene Heading, starts at the initial margin and includes:
· Interior (INT) Exterior (EXT) and Physical Location
4. Dialogue - 2.5" or 10 spaces and should not exceed 3.5"
5. Actor's Instructions 3.1" or 16 spaces
6. Character's Name at 3.7" or 22 spaces
7. Page numbers should be placed in the upper right hand corner, two spaces away from any other line.

Are you excited? Are the wheels of creativity already turning in your mind for that next great silver screen story? Remember, if this is your first adventure in screenwriting, keep it simple, focus on your story and the formatting will eventually come naturally. Be a patient screenwriter and let the images present themselves to you and remember, you are creating a unique world for that wonderful and captivating character. God Bless.

SUGGESTED READING:


* The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting and Selling your script, 3rd edition by David Trotter (1998)
  Do The Right Thing: A companion volume to the Universal Picture Film, by Spike Lee with Lisa Jones (1989)
Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African-American Woman's film, by Julie Dash (1992)

Paula Sanders Samad is a freelance writer who makes home comfortable in Dallas, Texas with her cat, Guinness. She has recently completed her directorial debut of the short film, "Omar's Wedding," which she also wrote.

Besides screenwriting, her first love, she enjoys attending Words of Wisdom Writer's Society meetings, writing short fiction, poetry and is a huge fan and supporter of hip-hop music and culture, both locally and nationally.

She is currently working on her first inspirational screenplay about spiritual
transformation.