Saturday, 25 October 2014

Scene-itis by Tamsyn Murray

I'm at London Screenwriters' Festival this weekend. One of the things I like best about studying screenwriting is the way it makes me think about book writing. For example, in a session about non-linear stories yesterday, I realised that the next YA book I write will probably start in an unconventional place for a novel. During a panel event about attracting a killer cast to your screenplay, I was reminded by casting director Lucy Bevan that 'What comes from the heart goes to the heart.' Which is a timely reminder to write what you love and not to worry about chasing the market. And during Charlie Brooker's session, I remembered that my primary objective in writing, whatever I'm writing, is to entertain.

My real light bulb moment of the day was at the end, however, in a session with screenwriter David Reynolds (who has worked on the Toy Story movies, Finding Nemo, The Emperor's New Groove amongst many many other things). David was talking about collaboration in comedy writing, and the way that writing funny things with someone else can help gauge how good a joke is: if you both laugh, it's a humour litmus test. And he went on to say that when you see the same jokes over and over, they start to appear flat and unfunny. Almost straight away, my light-bulb flashed, because when looking over my first Cassidy Bond book recently (published March 2015), I had a sudden cold uneasiness that the writing was not funny. Worse than that, it was flat and whiny. So when David explained that it was possible to get over-exposed to your own brand of humour, it was as though someone really had switched on a light. Maybe it wasn't that my book was unfunny...

I went and chatted to him afterwards, to thank him for making me feel a little better. I told him I had a book coming out, a book that had taken longer than normal to reach publication stage and that I had been worried about it. He explained that I had the book version scene-it is, something that happens in scriptwriting when you see a scene over and over again until you can't see the merit in it. I said that I was sure my book had been funny once, that I was fairly sure I was still funny occasionally and I walked away feeling better about Cassidy.

So if you find yourself looking at your work with flat disinterested eyes, it doesn't mean you've lost your touch. Maybe you've just got scene-it is.


Penny Dolan said...

Interesting pots and thanks for the glimpse into the Festival.

I am now clinging to hopes of screen-itis!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Just found this post and very sorry I didn't go to your London Screenwriters Festival. I think screenwriting focuses the mind and the beats in a screenplay are so well constructed that someone who writes novels can only learn. So I had screenwriting envy of your experiences! Thank you for sharing!