Monday, June 13, 2005


I never go to proper writers' workshops these days. Instead I go to screenwriting weekends put on by the great London organization called RAINDANCE.

They have brought over some great Hollywood screenwriters in the past couple of years, including my idol John Truby as well as Mark Travis and Chris 'Hero's Journey' Vogler. One of the best weekends was given by David Freeman. If Truby provides the recipe for a good story, then Freeman provides the garnishing and condiments.

Here are some of his techniques for what he calls 'Scene Deepening':

1. Emotional pathway (character)
One character runs a gamut of emotions quickly in one scene.

2. Emotional pathway (scene)
The tone of a scene changes as we watch it.

3. 1 Statement, 2 Reactions
A character says something that gets two (or more) different reactions from the people with him.

4. Character A doesn't realize she's causing character B pain.
But we the audience see it clearly...

5. Crossing the 'dramedy' line. (a good thing)
In a dramatic scene throw in some comic relief or laughter, in a funny scene slip in some drama

6. 1 Scene, 2 Universes
Two characters are in such different emotional/mental places that it causes tension

7. Scenes with painful moments
Or as James Marsters says about the creator of Buffy: 'Joss makes his living denying people what they want'.

8. Scenes with words that are emotionally difficult to say.
eg. 'I love you', 'I'm leaving you', 'He's dead!'

9. Z expresses A's state-of-mind
A minor character knowingly or unknowingly expresses what major character is thinking/feeling.

10. SQUIRMIES. Uncomfortable moments that make you squirm.
Ask yourself: what would really make people squirm in my story?

Freeman has lots more but that's just a taster.

Why am I telling you all this?

Flavia in Sorrento
Well, because in the book I'm working on now, The Sirens of Surrentum, there are going to be lots of delicious SQUIRMIES! Even the first line is a squirmy, especially for 9-year-old fan Nick.

Flavia Gemina and Jonathan ben Mordecai were kissing. They had been kissing for some time.

Nick would like to direct his own version of the Roman Mysteries but emailed me to say this:

You know the 11th book, Flavia and Jonathan kiss? Is it possible cut it out? It's just my friends Harry and Sophie will be playing those two and they will not want to kiss!

Sorry, Nick, but that is only one of many SQUIRMIES you and your actors will have to get used to!

Finally, I'll leave the last word to David Freeman: THROW UNEXPECTED THINGS AT PEOPLE ALL THE TIME.

OK, Dave. If you insist...

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