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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.