Ever since I was a small boy of 4 living on a caravan site in Scotland, I have told imaginary stories. As described in a previous blog I think it came about as a need to create a safe world for myself.
I am currently writing a new feature-length screenplay in collaboration with two friends. Writing in a team can be far easier and progress the script along at a fast pace, as is the case this time.
Our story centres around the publication of a book by Nicholas Notovich in 1894, and we have set the film in that period also. I won’t bore you with the details here but if you’re desperate to know about the book then by all means do a search on the author.
Over the past few years it is safe to say that my writing has improved greatly, but more importantly my understanding of the craft of screenwriting has improved, and continues to do so. I recall when I first put pen to paper, as it were, thinking that it was just a matter of having a good idea for a story and then hammering it out. Oh how wrong I was and how quickly I became unstuck with a story that was only fit for the bin.
It’s been several months now that we have been developing the ideas for this script, and we have yet to start writing the script itself! We’ve invented characters that have an entire biography, a biography that you will not see in the finished script but without it our characters would be lifeless. It sounds strange to say that we write all this detail about these imaginary characters, but believe me, it helps. You get to know them as if they were real people, so it becomes easier to write about their behaviour in any given situation, just as you would about real family or friends.
The part I most enjoy at this stage is the research. What an amazing time 1894 and thereabouts was. Joseph Pulitzer was on the scene, who’s name would become famous for the Pulitzer Prize awarded each year after his death; Charles Darwin had recently published The Origin of Species; the Suez canal had not long opened; a trans-Atlantic cable joined America and Europe in telecommunications; the American Civil War had only been over for twenty years; and sail ships were being replaced by steam ships, crossing the Atlantic in just 6 days.
We discovered so much about that period it was difficult to know what to leave out!
Some research also brings you into contact with people you wouldn’t necessarily come into contact with. Just now we are talking to the archive department of Columbia University in New York City about a piece of literature that they hold the original for and that plays a part in our story.
If this wasn’t enough to keep me busy I’m also attempting to rewrite my original screenplay that I haven’t touched for three years.
Long may I have the ability to create these imaginary worlds.