I often feel like I have incredible breakthroughs about writing sometimes (screenwriting,
especially and more specifically), so I’m going for broke.  I’m going to list things I think about in my
articles every so often, now.  I know, you thought I was just an FX artist.  Well, I hope you’ll like to
take writer-brain-rides with me, too.  Ready?
      Critics of the writing world who want original concepts/content (namely studio execs or those
who only trust same said folks and like to critique as they think execs would) really, really upset me
most times because they usually say all of the same three things:

1. Think outside the box (meaning to not be formulaic or predictable)

2. Try to hold to what works in most mainstream films or shows (meaning to go back to being
formulaic and/or predictable per whatever studio likes).

3. Be sure to stand out from the pack with a fresh, new voice (meaning to not be formulaic or
predictable…again).

      Seriously, though…what’s the easiest way any writer could ever be original or stand out from
the mass of other writers out there?  You have to be different.  Not to mention, YOU ASKED FOR
ORIGINAL IDEAS!!!  UGH!!!  But wait…there’s a sinister sub plot to all of this…Why are there
formulas in the first place?  And why are there constantly new ones being added to the mix?  Oh, I
know…someone figured out new ones that work because they did something original and
different!!!

      Point is, it’s okay taking chances, folks.  I do, and I promise you that it even feels awesome
when your idea is shot down to better a film’s script (meaning that they tossed aside your great
suggestions and ideas) and then their film sucks on a level that gets them trolled online because
audiences think it’s stupid and insulting.  Better yet, is when the film is released on DVD in a new
directors cut/new edit…and the new scenes are everything you suggested.  Yeah, I’ve had this
happen.  I wish I could say what film script, but I can’t.  Stupid NDA contract!

      Okay, so on to something else.  There’s always debate about character motivations and how
they affect the plot, and I have always wanted to simplify the whole issue – even how and what to
focus on at its core for swift remedy.  It occurs to me that there are really only two kinds of
characters:  There are ignorant ones and then there are those who have any measure of
awareness of the plot points and/or the primary plot device.  I’m serious.  I think that the popular
phrasing of “ignorance is bliss” is true in this case because nothing affects a character more than
after they know about it.  Then it’s just simply you deciding what they’d do from that point on.  Now,
a quick side note is that there are absolutely the types of people who don’t choose or want to be
ignorant.  Even if they start out ignorant to something, it doesn’t mean they meant to be or wanted
to be, so you will get your more driven characters based on such and therefore, you get to decide
what they’d do from that point on.  There’s the core remedy of characters affecting plot – deciding
it, even.

      I think of the film, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.  Richard Dreyfuss’ character is ignorant to alien
encounters completely.  The Gov. characters are not ignorant, but they aren’t absolutely aware of
everything just yet, either.  Both are driven to gain further awareness (for different reasons, so that
gives us different perspectives), and all of them going about it decides/becomes the plot.  That’s all
there is to it.  The further details and such are the icing on the cake, so to speak.

      For another example, let’s use the film, ALIEN.  Most of the Nostromo crew was ignorant to
their sudden side mission.  They were also ignorant to Ash being an android.  Ash was aware of
both things, but neither he nor the crew had any awareness of what kind of alien life was on planet
LV-426.  Ash finding out everything about the alien was his one thing to become aware of.  The
crew had to find out everything, though, which made their struggle of a journey all the more
dramatic…so again, there’s your whole plot based on characters just having to become aware of
things.  Everything else, it’s just exciting details, but the core of what kinds of characters you have
in a situation, either ignorant or aware, it actually determines your base plot with relative ease.  
Pretty cool, huh?

      As usual with the FX stuff I write about, I hope this helps anyone out there.
Filmmaking Tips: Epiphanies on Screenwriting
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      Duane P Craig. is a writer and special effects artist from Memphis, TN. You can
view more of his articles in the article
archive section.
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