Peggy Bechko: Pop! Goes the Writing

by Peggy Bechko

popbeatlesposterPOP Goes the Writing

Yep, pop is what you want to add to any story you’re writing. It’s what makes your story stand out. What makes producers and editors take another look and maybe make an offer.

And that’s really cool, but how do you do it?

There have been books written and advice given. I can’t compress it all here in a short article but I can give a few tips.

Yes, your script comes alive on the screen, but it had better come alive in somebody’s head first, give them pause to feel the emotions roll, to have hairs stand up on the back of their neck, to get so excited they can’t wait to see it made.

There, now that’s a goal. Regardless of how the movie ultimately turns out, it’s the writer who ‘POPS’ the idea.

The two biggest ‘grab ‘em’ sections are the characters and the world.

First, characters. They need to be real. They need to crawl under the reader’s skin. To accomplish that you need to give them ‘real things’ that define them.

For example. What if the protagonist was a bit obsessive about cleaning his teeth? He’s always had bad teeth and is prone to toothaches. This would create a quirky problem and could be woven throughout a story. When writing a script there’s little time or room to set up your characters so some small detail or quirk that makes them thoroughly human can make the action POP.

And, since what a character is doing keeps a scene moving, such touches bring them to life. Maybe the guy with the tooth problem gets hit in the mouth, or cracks a tooth on a nut, or is constantly calling the dentist. There are lots of ways you could go with it.

Creating quirks and habits doesn’t have to be too off the wall, just enough to make your characters real.

Now about the world you’re building. Frequently unless a story is set in a ‘galaxy far far away’ the writer doesn’t believe it’s necessary to worry about hand-creating a unique world. After all, a detective movie set in a city is pretty much standard stuff.

That’s the problem. Standard stuff doesn’t grab eyeballs. And audiences don’t want to hang out in the everyday world they live in, that’s why they’re at a theater. So you’re going to have to come up with ways to make things interesting, to grab those eyeballs. Doesn’t matter if it’s a corn field in Iowa, the Las Vegas Strip or the middle of the ocean. And all this has to be done with quick, short action lines, brief descriptions and tight dialog. I just saw Horns at the theater and loved being immersed in the small town and moss-hung forest world created for the story.

So give the setting of your story some serious thought. Why here, in this place, why now? Are there landmarks, not necessarily the Washington Monument, or the twin towers or the space needle, but something that can be easily identifiable with your story? You, as the writer, have to be clear in your thinking as to why a story takes place in a certain time and place. Then you have to get it onto the page.

Are there noises that are heard? Is there action in the background? The trick is you need to cater to all the sense of your audience. You can’t convey every little detail or you’d create a script hundreds of pages in length but you can toss out the nuggets, large and small, that define the place and time.

It’s up to you to make it real. If you have any tricks or tips or tales of how you’ve accomplished it, feel free to share.

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.