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Five types of conflict

I was reading Save the Cat! Strikes Back by Blake Snyder.  It’s geared toward screenwriters, but it holds a lot of great advice for any story creator out there.  Along with his original Save The Cat! book, I’d call it essential reading for any story writer.

On page 36, Snyder writes:

Conflict offers more challenge, especially when you’re having a hard time finding it in your scenes.  How many scenes have conflict in a 110-page screenplay?  That’s right.  Every.  Single.  One.  And yet finding that conflict in all scenes isn’t easy.  During an early class, the wonderful writer/actress Dorie Barton was working out cards for her L.A. thriller, Migraine, and we had a scene wherein the protag, a waitress hampered by severe headaches, explains to her boss what a “migraine” is.  It’s pure exposition, and the scene just lay there.  Why?  No conflict!  Well, to fix that, we shoved some conflict in.  We created a customer who, while the hero goes on explaining her condition, keeps banging on the counter.  “Miss!  More coffee over here!  Miss!  MISS!”  The forced conflict of that scene makes it play better – and reinforces the pained look on the hero’s face as her migraine builds.

stcsb I’m currently working on a fantasy novel, and I can now easily see why some of my scenes are boring.  No conflict!  Or at least not enough conflict.  I’m an outline-the-story-first writer, and as I look over my notes for my current fantasy novel, I see lack of conflict in many of my scene outlines as well.  For example, the point of one scene is: “The queen shows the old man that the telescope has been destroyed.”  The point of another scene is: “A man tells the queen that his village has been destroyed.”  Another scene: “The wizard arrives at the castle.”  I think these are fine descriptions for an outline; these things need to happen for the plot to move forward, and to give readers the necessary information to understand the plot.  But the purposes of these scenes are completely expository.  They only exist so that certain characters and/or readers will get certain information.  If I go to write these scenes with just these purposes in mind, I will be a bit bored as a writer, I will write a boring scene, and readers will also be bored.

The solution, of course, is to add conflict.

I could of course just do this naturally without thinking much about it, as I’m sure many writers do.  But I wanted to see if I could identify exactly what types of conflict a scene might have.  In school, I learned to identify types of story conflicts like “man vs. man” and “man vs. himself” and “man vs. nature.”  I think these are more thematic conflicts.  I’m thinking about conflict as something that manifests itself in a specific scene through specific character thoughts or actions.  That way, when I get to one of those conflict-free scene descriptions, I can look over my list and think about how to spice up the scene with conflict.  Here are the five I came up with.  If you can think of anymore, let me know, and I’ll add it to the list.

1 – Decision conflict

This is an internal conflict, when a character must decide what to do.  In a way, this could describe any conflict, because it’s usually a character’s decided actions that resolve a conflict.  But I think of this conflict as describing when the internal decision conflict is the main conflict, presented when the character has opposing desires, wants two or more things, but can only have one.  For example, perhaps a character wants to get his sick friend to a hospital, but he also wants to avoid being seen because he’s a criminal.  Or a character wants to tell her boyfriend that she loves him, but she doesn’t want to be rejected.  Or a character wants to kill the evil overlord, but he doesn’t want to get hurt or die.  This conflict happens entirely in the character’s head.  There are multiple roads to take, none of them are all that great, and the character must choose one.

In movies, you hardly ever get this conflict actually told to you in words.  Instead, you see it introduced by the plot itself, and how the characters respond to it.  It’s that look in an actor’s eyes when he sees something he wants but can’t have.  For a writer of literature, there’s always the danger of going overboard in presenting the decision conflict, of allowing the character’s inner dialog to go on and on.  “To be or not to be, that is the question.  Let me ponder it out loud for the next half hour.”  Meanwhile, the audience takes a nap.  Decisions can be vital conflicts, every story has them, but they don’t have to be analyzed to death.

2 – Physical conflict

This is probably the most natural and primal of conflicts, and I have a tough time thinking of many movies that do not include some form of it during the climax.  (Gosford Park maybe?)  This conflict occurs when a character’s body is in physical opposition with another force, usually another character.  The result of losing is often death, and the character must use his physical strength to stay alive.  But this conflict could also present itself less climactically.  Perhaps two characters are just having a small shoving match.  Maybe a character is trying to lift something heavy.  Maybe a character is reaching out for something that’s just beyond grasp.  Though point is, unlike a decision conflict, the physical conflict is completely external, manifested in physical action.

(One a side note, I think this sort of conflict works much better visually than in writing because it’s so movement-based.  Visually, it’s almost instantly interesting, almost mesmerizing to watch.  But a sword fight can’t look nearly as “cool” in a book, because there’s nothing to actually see.)

3 – Puzzle conflict

This sort of conflict is a bit like a decision conflict in that it’s mainly internal, but rather than having to decide something, the character is searching for a specific answer, a solution to some problem.  In essence, any sort of mystery for which the answer is important to the plot is a puzzle conflict.  This is obviously one of the main conflicts of most mystery stories, but it can present itself in smaller forms as well, such as Gandalf wondering how to open the Mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings (“Speak friend and enter” – what does that mean?)  J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is full of all sorts of puzzle conflicts, which create wonderful and thrilling suspense throughout the stories.  However, the storyteller must be careful that he has good (or, dare I say, clever) solutions for his puzzle conflicts, otherwise the audience may feel cheated.  If you’re a writer, you maybe to tempted to create puzzle conflicts before knowing the solution so that you too will share in the suspense of the story.  But if you can’t think of a good solution, it’s a waste of time to write much about it.

Many times puzzle conflicts present themselves over multiple scenes; a mystery is introduced in one scene, clues are gathered throughout other scenes (sometimes unknowingly), and the solution is found in another scene.  But a puzzle conflict could be introduced and solved in one scene, such as the aforementioned Mines of Moria entrance conflict.  Or perhaps a character must try to figure out how to get through a locked door, and realizes he can melt the mechanism with potions he has.  Or perhaps a character is looking for a code in a book, and realizes the last letter of every page form a secret message.

The point is: there’s a missing piece of information that is essential to the story’s plot, and the characters must puzzle it out and find the solution.

(You could probably also have a reader-only puzzle conflict.  The characters are going about their business happily unaware of any mysteries, but the readers, who are able to see the whole picture, are realizing that some things just aren’t adding up.  You just have to be careful, because you don’t want the audience to feel like their being cheated out of knowing stuff that a character does.)

4 – Character disagreements

This conflict is perhaps the most fun to write, though it can be challenging to do so believably.  It involves mainly dialog, so the writer must understand the viewpoints of each character well enough to argue effectively from his or her point of view.  As a writer, you must induce a sort of multiple-personality-disorder within yourself.  What makes this a conflict is rather obvious: characters disagree about something, and they let their disagreements known to each other verbally.  “Yes.”  “No.”  “Yes.”  “No.”  If characters are different enough from each other, and their arguments are interesting and unique enough, you’re bound to have an interesting scene.

Of course, it doesn’t have to involve dialog.  It could be a simple matter of a character turning the car radio to rock and roll, and another turning it back to classical, and the other turning it back to rock and roll and turning the volume up.  The point is that they disagree about something and act on it.

5 – Danger is lurking

In this conflict, nothing actually happens, but something bad might happen if the character doesn’t do something.  It’s all about what could happen, and what the character must do to prevent it.  Maybe the character has to run away from a dinosaur, or not move when challenged to a staring contest by a T-rex, all to avoid entering the animal’s digestive system.  Perhaps a character is sneaking into a castle and must hide in the shadows while the guards pace around or tiptoe past them as they sleep at their posts.  Perhaps the clock is ticking and a bomb is about to go off, and a character must either diffuse it or get out of a the building just in time.  The point is the character must do something and  be careful and/or hurry up!  It’s all about the tension of what could possibly happen if the character makes the wrong move at the wrong time.  Like a physical conflict, this sort of conflict often presents itself near the climax, and death is often a possible a result.

In conclusion

It probably goes without saying, but these sorts of conflicts do not have to present themselves exclusively.  That is, a scene could contain any number of possible combinations.  You see this in movies a lot, where characters are sword fighting and exchanging witty (or cheesy) dialog.  Or when characters are running away from danger and trying to puzzle out how to stop the bad guy with their limited resources.  No story (besides perhaps flash fiction) would ever contain just one type of conflict, right?

The interesting thing about adding conflict to an otherwise expository scene is that I think it actually makes the scene more expository, because readers then get to see how characters respond to certain challenges.

And no conflict is OK too, sometimes

In literature, there are some instances in which you just have to do a conflict-free info-dumb.  As long as it’s kept as lean as possible, audiences usually won’t complain.

In movies, there can be mood-setting scenes or montages.  Usually music (which is often instantly, though perhaps subconsciously, interesting) accompanies the visuals.  The director can easily get away with showing montages of mountain flyovers to show off grand landscapes, or to show characters traveling through the wilderness, or to show a character’s otherwise long and boring rise to popularity, etc.  Opening credits often present themselves in collections of conflict-free shots that do little else but establish the story’s initial mood and physical setting.  As long as it doesn’t go on for too long, audiences will sit back and enjoy the meditative atmosphere presented to them.  Stanley Kubrick’s long boring shots in 2001: A Space Odyssey really test the durational limits of such montages.  Personally, I think he went too far and I dare to call his decisions idiotic and fast-forward-button inducing, but others praise the shots as an “innovation.”  In musicals, conflict-free song and dance numbers can go on for some length, as the music and the dancing entrance the viewers.

Anyway, the point is that you can get away with little or no conflict when it’s necessary.  But I think it’s extremely advantageous to know when and why you’re doing so, so that you’re not just doing so out of laziness or ignorance.

Hope that was an interesting post.  Writing it out has given me plenty of ideas for my own otherwise boring novel scenes.

Roll of queries, hear my cry

Last night I sent out another small batch of query letters to producers regarding my screenplay The Melody Box, only this time I made mention of my small new site www.TheRealMelodyBox.com, showing off my attempt at programming a program that does what the melody box in the screenplay does: generates melodies. I’m hoping the potential software-movie tie-in will appeal to someone out there. It’s a bit of a long shot, but any attempt to break into the film business from the outside is probably a long shot. But it would probably be the most rewarding, I imagine. So we’ll see what happens. I hope to send out some more query letters over the weekend, and a friend suggested making a YouTube video with some of the melodies arranged into a more orchestrated piece, which I also hope to do over the weekend. Luck, be a lady…

Save the Cat – and I am a genius

So there’s this book called Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies. (It’s a sequel to Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, but my library didn’t have that book, so I can’t read right now.) The book is about story structure in screenplay writing, kinda like Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, but focused more on movies.

The book also details about 10 different genres of movies, such as Monster in the House movies, which are about characters facing some deadly evil, like Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Alien, or Golden Fleece movies, where a group of characters go on some kind of journey, like Star Wars or Finding Nemo.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that my screenplay The Melody Box follows the structure of the Out of the Bottle genre so well, that I will call myself a plagiarist genius. No, really, just following my instincts, the story follows the Out of the Bottle structure very nicely. Character gets magic, magic changes life, magic causes complications, the character eventually rejects the magic, etc. I was really delighted with myself.

Another real eye-opener for me (though unrelated to my screenplay) was that in Monster in the House movies, the evil that the characters are fighting has to be somehow associated with the actions of the characters. The characters (or at least one character) has to sin, has to invite the trouble of the monster(s) in; it all has to be someone’s fault. For example, in Jaws, people underestimate the power of the shark and keep the beaches open, even though they should know better. In Jurassic Park, John Hammond clones dangerous dinosaurs, even though he should know better. In Titanic, they should’ve known to put enough lifeboats on the ship, they should’ve known not to turn the ship too much upon seeing the iceberg, and they should’ve known not to say something as blasphemous as “even God couldn’t sink this ship!” The sin might even be something like not paying enough attention. I think the reason these “sins” work so well is because audiences will imagine themselves in the situations they see, and if they can’t say to themselves that they would’ve found a way out of danger (even if it means sawing a foot off), then watching the movie isn’t quite as fun.

(P.S. I think a novel plot can be much more “loose” as different readers will experience such stories at a different pace, sometimes over many months. However, the more the plot of a novel follows the “Save the Cat” structure, the easier a movie adaptation will be. And it could be a nice way for someone who’s plotting a novel to get ideas. Overall, I think most good writers will follow similar structures naturally, just as good composers follow the “rules” of music theory naturally… because it just feels right to do so.)

Short story and animation and screenplay, oh my

11 days until Christmas!

Just a couple updates on my life:

1. Be sure you’re signed up to get some Daily Science Fiction! Even if only for a day. My story, Maker of the Twenty-first Moon, will appear tomorrow, December the 15th, making it my fictional debut. You don’t want to miss this historic occasion. I plan on baking a cake tonight to celebrate. Might seem arrogant, but all excuses are valid for cake.

2. The second semester of Animation Mentor is just about over! I’ll post my second semester reel later this week. The semester really flew by. While I think I definitely improved this semester, I know there are plenty of areas I definitely need to keep working on. This semester was quite challenging, but overall, I’m still very happy with Animation Mentor, and I’m looking forward to the third semester, starting next month.

3. I got this email in regards to one of my screenplay query letters (for The Melody Box):

Hi Sean,

Thanks for your intriguing query.

I’ve attached my bio/producing credits and can be reached in New York City at: [censored].

Let’s talk first.

Best,

[censored]

At first, this got me all excited. I forgot the first rule of the artist’s creed: don’t get excited. After Googling the producer’s name a bit more, I found that he ran a script consulting service, and I’m sure that’s what he wanted to try to sell me on. Ugh! No thanks.

That said, I have been fortunate enough to get a few actual genuine requests for the screenplay, woohoo!

I guess that’s all I have for today…

I wrote a screenplay… now what again?

18 days until Christmas! Yay, woohoo, and such things.

Over the last week or so I’ve been editing my screenplay The Melody Box and it’s at the point now where I’d like to try selling it.

Most books and blogs I’ve read about selling your first screenplay strongly suggest that you write several before trying to sell one. I started writing another one earlier this year, but I lost interest and don’t really feel like continuing work with it. Quite frankly, it seems like a waste of time to write a screenplay if it’s not going to be produced. It’s a waste of a story. Might as well write a novel. The only reason I wrote The Melody Box as a screenplay is because music is essential to the plot. It could work as a play or a movie, but it can’t be just prose; the audience has to hear the music.

(I do have another story idea that must be a screenplay just because certain things must happen visually, but I don’t yet have a good grasp on the story, and, again, I really don’t feel like putting a whole lot of effort into something that would most likely go nowhere. Maybe that’s a bad attitude to have, but I’ve got plenty of other more interesting ways to use my time creatively.)

So I might be shooting myself in the foot by not working on some more screenplays, but that’s a hole in the foot I’m willing to have. I’m not really trying to become a full-time screenwriter; I just want to get this particular story out there somehow.

So I’ve got my screenplay. I prepared a query letter and a synopsis for it, which I plan to send to producers in Hollywood. Today in fact. There are hundreds out there, so this will probably be something I’ll be doing over the course of several months.

The idea / hope is that a producer (or someone involved with the producer’s creative material acquisitions) is interested in the query enough to read the synopsis, and is interested in the synopsis enough to request the script. I send it to them and they like it enough to option it or buy it. (In case you don’t know, buying an “option” basically means they’re not sure if they want to buy it, but they’re interested, so they pay you a certain amount to not sell it to anyone else for 6 months or a year or something while they make up their minds.) I’d be happy enough just to get to that point, but then the real dream-come-true part would be it, you know, actually getting made.

Wish me luck! I can read your mind, and appreciate the luck you have just wished me subconsciously…

I have lived another day…

I still haven’t gotten past page 8 of my screenplay [The Shadow Prince]. I seem to be having trouble getting the tone I want from the scene I’m working on, because I’m not really sure what I want, and it’s a pretty dark scene. It might not seem that dark to a reader (or movie viewer) who reads (or watches) it in a minute or two. But trying to understand the world from that character’s point of view, it’s pretty terrible, nothing I’d want to experience. So it’s one of the basic challenges of writing: how do you get a character to react believably to an experience real people could never have? One could write a book chapter on that. Or maybe an entire book. (And probably someone has.)

I finished reading William Goldman’s book Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade the other day. Very good book. But, gah, kind of frustrating because you know you can’t just all the sudden be a part of the [film] industry, and it’s all written from the perspective of someone who’s in the industry. Don’t you hate when famous rich people do that? They’ll be in an interview and nonchalantly say “so I had lunch *famous name here* and discussed my project” … blagh.

Also, I created a formspring.me page, after seeing a bunch of other people do and jumping on the bandwagon. Basically anybody can ask you anonymous questions through it. Might be fun, might be stupid and annoying, but it’s all the rage. I put widget for it on the side of this blog, as you should be able to see. As if the columns weren’t cluttered enough.

Hey, guess what? They’re calling for snow Friday night and Saturday! I am scheduled to work on Saturday! If the fates are kind, maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to go? We’ll see. Come on, sky. Give me a storm. Paint the outdoors an ocean of white. Let it tear the people from their schedules, let it frighten and anger the innocent drivers on their weary ill-fated journeys through the restless roads. And let me sleep! O, dear fates, let me sleep and rest and dream of the goodness I shan’t wake up to see!

Bravo! Bravo!

Thank you, thank you.

My screenplay is in production!

By which I mean: I am in the process of producing (creating) my screenplay.  Ha ha, I fooled you all, didn’t I?  You thought I had some big success story, huh?  Well, I don’t!  Never have, never will.

Anyway, enough of that.  I’m on page 8 of my new screenplay The Shadow Prince.  I will tell you this: writing is exhausting and hard!  And that’s only 8 stupid pages!  But it’s still fun, wish I could do it all day.  By which I mean: I wish I could procrastinate for a living.  And I keep second-guessing the overall story and how it ends.  One minute I’ll think it’s great, just perfect, can’t wait to get to it.  Then I’ll think, blagh, nobody’s going to like that.  But then I think, well, I like it, so who cares!  But then I think, do I like it?  Then I think, of course, it’s pretty awesome!  Then I think, well, it is a bit lame.  Then I think, wait second, it’s brilliant!  Then I think, eh, it’s too corny.  Then I think, let’s just get to page 9 first.

In other news, I need a haircut.  And new glasses.  I got my glasses five years ago and my near-sighted eyes have worsened.  All this computer screen staring, I guess.

The Shadow Prince and such other things

I’m still trying to figure out the story details for my next original screenplay, The Shadow Prince, but I’m fairly sure the main concept will not change at this point: A young prince awaits to be crowned king when mysterious murders begin to plague the kingdom by a killer who calls himself The Shadow Prince.

Bum bum bum!!

I don’t think I will keep the identity of The Shadow Prince a mystery though; I plan on revealing his (or her?) identity fairly early on so that the fun of the story can come from a sort of cat-and-mouse game, along with the other issues of why exactly he’s on a killing spree. (Fine… I don’t think there’s any harm in revealing that it will be a male character.)

Anyway, there are still plenty of details to be worked out in my outlines before I can begin actually writing the screenplay. And while I’m really excited about the story, I’m not sure anything will ever come of it because it will probably require a big budget to shoot. Especially since I hope to put a dragon in it… you know, for good measure. Ahhh, it would be such an awesome movie… daydream daydream daydream… especially with some exciting fantasy music.

Hmmm… anything else? I’m currently reading William Goldman’s Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade which just makes me want to be part of the film industry like crazy. Which I hate, because there are so many wannabes already, and who really wants to be a yet another wannabe? Anyway, it’s a fun book. At one point, I think Goldman says that an original spec is the hardest to write because you’re starting from nothing. I can’t truly agree, mostly because I’ve only written one screenplay so far and have nothing to compare the experience to. But I think I would agree, and I’d further speculate that writing your first screenplays, with no guarantee that anybody anywhere will be interested in them, is perhaps the hardest of all, because while you’re writing you know that all your work might come to nothing. At all. No paycheck. Perhaps not even very many readers. Then again, maybe that makes it easier, because there’s no pressure, no deadlines. I don’t know; even if a screenplay I wrote never got produced, I sure wouldn’t mind a paycheck. But deadlines? Blagh! But if it was my one and only job… I probably wouldn’t mind so much.

But I’m probably just daydreaming. Even if I ever do make money off this, it probably never gets easier.

And it’s so much fun at the same time anyway.

I probably will buy a professional camcorder at some point, but I’ll hold off for now and focus on The Shadow Prince. Maybe I’ll buy one when I actually start trying to market The Melody Box to entertain myself while I wait for the dismal rejections and non-responses.

But what I really wanna do is direct…

I’m still mentally plotting my second screenplay (I have to know exactly how it will end before I begin writing), but I’m thinking it will be called THE SHADOW PRINCE.  Doesn’t that sound exciting?  Of course it does.  I’m not quite ready to say what it’s about; that will have to wait until I’m completely done plotting.  But daydreaming of the plot has been very fun.

Anyway, the more I think about films, the more I daydream about really being the one in creative control.  I guess that’s everyone’s dream, though, huh?  Earlier today I was browsing Amazon for some professional but cheap camcorders in $1000 to $3000 range.  You see, part of me is saying “Yes!  Buy a camera and make some shorts!  Maybe even film a simple feature!  Why wait until you have $100,000 to invest in production?  Just buy a decent enough camera and start now!  Experiment!” And it’s very tempting.  But then the other part of me says “A couple thousand dollars?!  Are you crazy?  You need to be saving your money!  And it’s not like you’d be able to make anything that you could sell to help you regain your loss!  Even with a nice camera, what are you going to film, the family dog?!  You’ll have no sets, no lighting, no actors, no big group of friends that will do as you say for no payment… you’re really gonna have to wait until you have more $$$$… a LOT more…” and then the other side says “But it would be so much fun!” and the other side “But at what cost?”  So the internal battle rages on.

I wrote a screenplay… now what?

(Disclaimer – I don’t really answer the question in this post, I just blather about possibilities.)

I met my first (and maybe only) goal for the new year: finish my screenplay. Well, the rough draft at least. I finished writing THE MELODY BOX yesterday. It’s about a young lad who is given a music box that writes infinite melodies. Ah, what a wonder it is! It’s 93 pages (really 92, because the last page is comprised only of the words “FADE OUT”). Many resources I have looked at say that the standard screenplay length for a beginner is 90-120 pages, and I was aiming for 90-95, so I’m kind of happily surprised that just by following my outline it worked out to just around what I was hoping for. I guess that is a sign that I am brilliant.

Okay, so I’ve got my first ever screenplay. Now what?

I don’t know.

From online screenwriting blogs and some books I ruffled through, I think I need to do a couple things.

1 – I need to polish this screenplay. I’ve given a copy to a some friends, and look forward to any feedback they might give. Hopefully I can force my parents to read it as well. Also, I need to get my mind off of it, because right now I’m so close to it that I’d probably be afraid to change much of it. So I need to–

2 – Write more screenplays. I’ve actually read you shouldn’t try marketing your first screenplay until you have written several, because potential agents or producers might say “I like your writing, but this one isn’t right for us, what else ya got?” and if you don’t have anything else, you’re kinda shooting yourself in the foot, especially since the chance of anyone saying that is pretty low to begin with. (Some also say that your first few screenplays will be complete garbage anyway; you just have to write them for the practice.) At this point, I don’t know if I’ll be able to resist dipping my toes in the water and trying to sell THE MELODY BOX before I finish anything else. I guess we’ll see how long it takes me to polish it and/or write another screenplay. It’s very tempting to just try marketing the screenplay RIGHT NOW, but I’ll resist.

3 – Try marketing it. A lot of the books I ruffled through suggested that one should get an agent, but some blogs I’ve read suggest that if you’re new to screenwriting and nobody recognizes your name, an agent might not be much help. So I’ll probably try marketing the screenplay directly to producers. I’m not quite sure how to do that, but from what I can tell, it involves sending out query letters, giving people a short description of my screenplay and asking if they’d like to read it. 99.9% will say no or never respond. If someone does request a copy, I send them the whole thing. And then, if the gods really favor me, they buy an option, which means I can’t sell the screenplay to anyone else for a year or so in exchange for $$$$. And then, if the gods really really favor me, they buy all the rights to it and make it into a real movie, and I win an Academy Award and become famous and all my dreams come true. I guess. (Of course, it could be purchased by a more low-budget studio, and might go directly to DVD or whatever, in which case, no Oscars.) Anyway, even if it’s optioned, they might not ever buy the full rights, or they may hold on to the option for several years, which means it can take a screenplay over a decade or two to actually be realized, if it ever is. So this really isn’t a very good get-rich-quick scheme at all.

One really confusing aspect that came up a lot in my research is the WGA, the Writers Guild of America. I don’t quite understand their role in all this, but from what I can tell, the big studios in the industry are “WGA signatories” and will only hire writers that are members of the guild. In turn, guild members can ONLY work for these WGA signatories. Want to join the WGA? Well, you can’t, at least not until you’re actually writing for a WGA signatory. So I’m not quite sure how exactly you get in.

My guess is that I really don’t have to worry about it until some WGA signatory producer or production company actually buys or options my screenplay, and then I’ll be pretty much forced to join. This would be very good, as I think it would imply that there’s a good amount of money involved (and then the WGA would always take 10% of all my writing profits). But if the screenplay is produced on a low budget, it’s possible that my screenplay could be produced by a non-signatory company. The thing that kind of bothers me is that, if I am lucky enough to have my screenplay purchased by a signatory company and am forced to join the WGA, I have to completely STOP marketing my screenplay to non-signatory companies. Which means I have to find out whether or not a production company is a signatory before I query them, which seems like it would be a pain.

And, to make matters even more confusing, the WGA doesn’t even really seem to exist. There’s actually a WGAWest and a WGAEast, each of them for different halves of the nation. I’d have to join East, since I’m in Virginia. Or I guess I could quickly move to California and join West?

So the entire business of screenwriting seems ridiculously confusing, at least for someone just starting to explore it. I guess I really don’t have to worry about much though since the chance of my screenplay being optioned by any producer or studio in the first place is very VERY small.

Anyway, for now I’m just waiting for feedback on THE MELODY BOX while plotting out some other screenplay ideas and trying to decide what to work on next. (And I’ve got TONS of ideas…)

PS – My recent obsession with screenplay did make me fail one of my goals–to keep updating my daily comic. I still have plenty of comic ideas, just less enthusiasm with which to draw them and post them. Hopefully I will continue though, eventually. I’m paying for the domain, after all.