I attended an awesome workshop this Saturday on Body Language: Its more than a gaze, presented by Cassiel Knight, a friend and former critique partner. Cassiel gave me Writing Memoir by Judith Barrington, three years ago, when I knew it was time to do so, but wasn’t sure how. I won, The Power of Body Language by Tonya Reiman, at the end of Cassiel’s workshop. This book is a fascinating and a wonderful tool, for a novelist, who wants her characters to show emotion on the page, and not tag dialogue with- he said angrily… LOL!
Research is a huge part of a writer’s job and it’s a blessing we’re voracious readers with insatiable curiosity. But I, also, have the requirements of my screenwriting class. I still have 19 scenes to get into 45 pages, to finish my script, which means each scene can only be 2 pages – not going to happen – so, first I have to decide which scenes matter, and cut the rest.
I also have to read, and reflect on, the scripts written by my classmates. This is tough for me. I’ve been critiquing professional writers manuscripts for a few years, judging contestant submissions in writing contests, and now am on the editorial staff for a literary review. I’ve been fascinated how, our screenwriting teacher Sue Mach, works through our screenplays. Most of my fellow classmates are passionate about their stories and, imagining careers in the movie business. As I reflect on the scripts, I wonder how much to say, regarding the responsibility to story, and the need to connect to an audience. I don’t want to talk over their heads or stifle their passion for the craft. But it’s obvious to me, why the story dies.
Movies are visual story so it is even more important that the characters, no matter what species, show emotion through word and body language, why the story they are living, matters to them. If the characters within the story don’t care if they live or die, why should I?
Bullets flying, a chase, countdown, accident, or explosion don’t interest me unless I connect with, or care about, someone in jeopardy. I’d rather watch a Walmart employee looking for love in all the wrong places. A soldier, glances at a picture of his nephews, and sighs, before choosing a mission; this grabs my heart and I’ll care if he stubs his toe, and forgive the body count he leaves in his wake (sort of). Characters without passion keep showing up in movies, so the shocks and surprises have gotten bigger, giving the audience a reason to sit still.
But when we walk out of the theatre, you can tell by the smirks or furrowed brows, we wonder why the movie was made.