A bunch of barely connected thoughts on writing for different media. Warning: broad terms.
When I write for screen, I use Final Draft. When I write for the stage or performance, I write in Word. Why do I do that?
When I write for the screen, I write for a frame. When I write for the stage, I write for an amount of time.
Time is different on screen, different in live performance.
In writing of any kind there’s one rule, just one: don’t be boring (sometimes you even stumble upon a good reason to break that rule.)
I write in linear narrative order for screen, beginning to end. I write a ‘play’ the same way.
I write a piece of performance in whatever way necessary. Cut and paste / too much of it / too little / poetic / technical / the end of it first, the middle of it first / anything.
A feature film is an album. A 30 minute TV show is an EP. A short film is a song.
Stage or screen, image drives both. Not words. Dialogue is an illumination.
For radio, I hear the sound image first, before the words.
Interactive = unfinished. I finish the writing itself but I don’t finish what it contains – because the audience choose whether or not to do that.
Sometimes theatre is unfinished.
It’s more difficult to make the screen unfinished, to make its aims unfinished. It’s a frame, wherever it appears.
Music is always unfinished.
When I write music, there’s always a story. And it’s always unfinished.
Radio drama: a peculiar type of finished music.
Grammar is important to me, especially in an unfamiliar language.
How do you tell someone the sentence you’ve begun isn’t going to end? What’s the best way? Is it even possible?
Many pop songs used to fade out at the end. Not as often now.
When I write, I hope to be transported.
When I’m in an audience, I need to be transported.
I used to write as a promise. Now I write as an invitation.
An announcement isn’t an invitation.
Sometimes when I play a musical instrument, I do so knowing that later, a digital plug-in or process will make it sound older or further away or angrier, etc. It’s the same feeling when writing for stage or screen.
The text for a stage play, especially, is like a set of stems for remixers.
In a process, there’s the seeds of the visible result. So I never expect producers to treat my writing with ‘respect’ by default. Because ‘respectful’ is just one possible result.
Audiences, especially, have no obligation to be respectful of the writer’s intentions. That’s academic.
Every new show or film or experience is an invitation to an audience, to pick up and play a new kind of instrument. Sometimes slightly unfamiliar. Sometimes completely alien.
What can you do with this instrument? What tunes can it play? The writer’s, the readers’, the makers’, the audiences’.
Give an audience a fish. Etc.
Increasingly I have to write in the world. I’m falling out of love with romantic writerly seclusion. Why isolate yourself? Pull focus.
If you’re writing for unfinished, maybe you have to write it in an unfinished place.
Cities are good for unfinished.
Journeys are good for unfinished.
1. Scripts on set during performance of The Morpeth Carol, December 2011. By Paul Blakemore.
2. Index cards from the depths of time. Can't remember what most of them were for.
3. Lyrics to a song by angeltech. Written on a train.