Gnash, gobble, splat: the sounds of a new script hitting the genre wall

It is a fine thing to get the teeth into a new script. Delicious, clean pages. Fresh bodies waiting to spurt, the splatter marks on the walls giving us the story to decipher, like CSIs of dramatic fiction. Does that make the writer a bitey vampire or besplattered detective?

Either way – and I suspect it’s a bit of both – it feels very good to be back at the clean page after several months of personal busy-ness, rewrites and pitches.

I’ve just completed draft 1 of a short monologue which might prove the basis of a character with much more to give, and in the back room of Cranium Kirk, I’m fermenting what I hope will become a feisty wee brew if I can only work out what kind of bottle, keg or test tube to store it in.

This slightly tortured vessel metaphor is my way of handling my current genre musings. I have An Idea and how best to present it is giving me pause for thought.

In Robert McKee’s inspirational how-to bible, ‘Story’, he says you should always write in the genre you love: “every time you read your script, it should excite you.” Fine advice. Thing is, I love many genres.

So how to work out which genre is most true to your story idea? Should it be deadly serious? Wryly funny? Bitter-sweet rom-com? Thriller or action?

Script doctor John Truby gives some good advice:

“When you look at your premise, you can usually imagine a basic action that the hero would take throughout the story. For example, is the hero essentially a fighter (Action), a lover (Love), an enforcer or criminal (Crime), an endangered investigator (Thriller) or a victim (Horror)? […]

“Each [genre] asks a different central question or force the hero to make a crucial decision. The key question in thrillers: Is your suspicion justified? In comedy: do you lie or show your true self? In action: do you choose freedom or life? In fantasy: how do you live with style and freedom? In detective stories: who is guilty and who is innocent?”

In the case of my own early-days idea, I know these are the questions I have to examine, that I have to mine down to discover the story’s true kernel. As Truby points out on the Raindance site, “The secret to choosing the right genres is buried in the story idea itself.”

And when you’ve done that, mastered the beats of the genre, hit each one – just make sure you’ve transcended your chosen genre (or genre combo) to produce something completely original.

I’m looking forward to this….


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