Archive for the ‘Screen & Stage to the Page’ Category

Hey, Everyone!

People have been asking me about the kinds of things I cover in my Grub Street class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers.  Well, for want of a better term, we’ll be using ideas from theater and drama critics and directors to “reverse engineer” scenes like this one below from the brilliant cult TV show FREAKS AND GEEKS, so that the same techniques can be used for your prose fiction, or even memoir. Think of it as a computer hack, only we’ll  be dissecting the teleplay and watching the episode, then we’ll take those awesome nuggets and figure out how to plug them into our novels and stories. This specific bit from FREAKS AND GEEKS is what we’ll be covering in the section on “How to Tap Real-Life Experiences.”  We’ve all been in situations kind of like what Lindsey faces below. But how do you blow that up into something dramatic and funny and packed full of meaning? How do you write about “slice of life” situations and create compelling storytelling, and not just diary entries with names changed?

Watch!

 

That’s a pretty amazing scene, right? Full of a whole spectrum of emotions. It feels over-the-top, but it also feels real. When we’ll be looking at this TV script, we’ll be looking at the ways in which writer Michael White managed to concentrate Real Life into a brilliant fictional scene, and brainstorming ways to do the same things for your prose storytelling.

 

For a break-down of all the stuff we’ll be covering, check out the syllabus here!

To enroll, click here.

 E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information.

 

Hope the New Year is treating you all well!

 

 

 

 

Hey, Everybody!

Thought I’d give a specific hint of the kinds of things things I’ll be covering my upcoming Grub Street Class,  Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Monday Mornings from 10:30 to 1:30 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting January 12, 2015.

Check out the really incredible scene below (which we’ll be dissecting in detail about halfway through the course), from Robert Redford’s adaptation of Judith Guest’s really amazing novel Ordinary People. The script was by the great Oscar-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent.  The scene below is not in Guest’s novel, but it has become iconic in that it so beautifully and intensely concentrates the emotional tensions that backbone both the novel and the film. Check it out:

 

 

What we’re gonna look at in Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers are the ways that you can, and at times maybe should, look upon revisions of your first drafts not as polishings, per se, but as adaptations, much in the same vein as screenwriters adapting novels to screenplays. We’ll “reverse engineer” the ways in which Sargent created the above scene (by taking a look at similar scenes he’s written in other adaptations of novels, like The Sterile Cuckoo by John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War) and inserted it into Guest’s existing narrative. And we’ll figure out ways you can use the same techniques of adaptation that screenwriters use to the revision of your own work.

If you have any questions, post them below and I’ll answer them ASAP.

 

To enroll, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3ctj92f  .

Hope to see you guys in class!

Hey everybody! I’d like to announce my new class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Monday Mornings from 10:30 to 1:30 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting January 12, 2015. Here’s the official class description:

Some of today’s best writing in terms of theme, character, dialogue, and plot is being done by playwrights, screenwriters, and teleplay writers. In this class, a nationally syndicated film critic and multi-award-winning novelist will show students how to use the tools of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights and Oscar-winning screenwriters for their prose fiction stories and novels. Topics covered will include ways to rewrite real-life incidents into tight and compelling drama, how to streamline exposition so it doesn’t stop your narrative dead, how to crystallize character-defining moments into a scene, and how to use the context of specific settings to amp drama. Classes will consist of analysis of plays, teleplays, and scripts as well as some prose source materials, group watching of films and TV episodes, and in-class workshopping of students’ short fiction and novel excerpts with special emphasis on how the tools of screen and stage writers can be applied to these works. All genres and kinds of fiction writers are welcome.  

So, how will that breakdown? Here’s a tentative syllabus of the topics I’ll be covering and the materials we’ll be looking at.

1. Tapping Real Life

So, there’s this thing that happened… and you really want to write about it in a dramatic way. How do you take a “slice of life” that everybody can relate to, and still make it interesting and compelling? How do you avoid the dreaded, “Yeah, so?”

Materials Emmy winners Judd Apatow and Michael White’s teleplays for the high school comedy/drama Freaks and Geeks  and parts of renowned theater director Peter Brook’s essay “The Open Door.”

2. Awesome Exposition and Action

So, there’s all this stuff… background information… that the reader needs to know about in order for the plot to move forward. But to give that information to the reader, you can wind up stopping the plot dead in its tracks. Which can be close-the-book boring. We’ll look at ways to give the audience/readers the information they need while still making your narrative interesting and full of dramatic punch.

Materials Oscar-winner Paul Haggis’s screenplay for the James Bond movie Casino Royale,  with some comparison to Ian Fleming’s original novel. David Koepp’s screenplay for Jurassic Park with some comparison to Michael Crichton’s original novel.

3. Point of View and Emotional Development

OK… point of view is vitally important to telling a story. So’s character development. How does your main character’s emotional arc affect how you use POV?

Materials BAFTA winners Joel and Ethan Coen’s screenplay for True Grit, with some comparison to Charles Portis’ original novel .

4. The Scope of Time and Space and Hitting Emotional Beats

Let’s say you got a story that takes place over a long period of time, over a lot of geographic space. How do you keep a solid emotional core to something that takes place, well… all over the place, and for a long period of time? How do you pace out the emotional beats to keep that story going strong?

Materials James Vanderbilt’s WGA-nominated screenplay for the David Fincher movie Zodiac.

5. Creating Tension, Apprehension and Dissension

Ever find yourself amazed at how some playwrights can just have a few people in a room, and the emotional results are like a UFC Cage Match? We’ll breakdown how they do that.

Materials Nobel-winner Harold Pinter’s play, The Homecoming and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jason Miller’s play, That Championship Season.

6. Adding Dramatic Layers of Meaning to Your Dialogue

Wait! Did that person really just say that? Wait! Did that really mean what I think it meant? We’ll look at ways to load your scenes with different meanings and different emotional notes.

Materials John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-winning stage play (and screenplay for) Doubt.

7. Using Place and Time to Define Drama

Drama and conflict and personal growth can’t exist in a vacuum. We’ll look at the specific ways the time and place of your story can and maybe should define its emotional impact and arc.

Materials Emmy-winners Matthew Weiner & Robin Veith’s teleplay for the Mad Men episode, “THE WHEEL” and either Greg Mottola’s Independent Spirit Award-nominated script for Adventureland or Alfred Sole and Rosemary Ritvo’s screenplay for Alice, Sweet Alice.

8. Putting Crystallizing Emotional Moments in a Scene

Sometimes, a dramatic moment can occur in a story that rips open a character so you can look deep inside to see what makes them tick. We’ll dissect a few of those scenes, to see how they can work in prose.

Materials Jenny Lumet’s screenplay for Rachel Getting Married  and Tony-winner Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

9. Adding Details to Make a Story Pop

The effect of little things can be huge in a story. We’ll look at ways to choose the right things to get the most dramatic bang.

Materials Brian Helgeland’s Oscar-nominated screenplay for Mystic River, with some comparison to Dennis Lehane’s original novel.

10. Mining Simple Conflict into Complex Drama

Sometimes, a really simple situation can be a really deep and profound exploration of the human condition. We’ll look at ways to use simple situations and conflicts to load stories with heavy emotional punch.

Materials  J.P. Miller’s teleplay Rabbit Trap and Paddy Chayefsky’s teleplay Marty .

To enroll, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3ctj92f  E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information. Please note that scholarships are available for greatly reduced tuition. For more information on scholarships, please refer to the Grub Street page here. Deadline to apply for Scholarships is noon on DECEMBER 4, 2014.