Part of what we have to do for the screenwriting course is read, a lot, including scripts. Of course, we have to understand all the elements that go into the writing of a script and yet, what fascinates me each time is the nuance that a writer brings to the table. In class, we talk about the sophistication of writing and the importance of words. It’s all in the choices! I logged on to imsdb and skimmed through the script of one of my favourite novels adapted for a movie: The Fault In Our Stars. Here’s an excerpt from the screenplay:
53. GUS You do realize... trying to keep your distance from me will in no way lessen my affection for you. Hazel says nothing. GUS All efforts to save me from you will fail. Hazel looks at him. He's sure not making this easy. GUS Is this about Amsterdam? Cause we DON'T -- HAZEL It's not about Amsterdam. It's about me. It's about... GUS Grenades. Hazel nods. GUS I get it. One day you're going to explode in a huge ball of fire and everyone close to you will die in your wake. HAZEL Exactly. GUS There's already two people in your life you're going to destroy. Why add a third to that list. Am I right? HAZEL (NODS) That's why I don't have a hamster. Gus is silent. He can't argue. They stand there quietly a few more beats, looking out at the swing set. Until: GUS We have got to do something about this frigging swing set. INT HAZEL'S BEDROOM - MOMENTS LATER Hazel sits at the computer screen writing a Craigslist post. Gus stands next to her. 54. HAZEL (TYPING) "Swing Set Needs Home." GUS "Desperately Lonely Swing Set Needs Loving Home." HAZEL "Lonely, Vaguely Pedophilic Swing Set Seeks Butts of Children." Gus laughs. HAZEL No? Gus laughs harder. Hazel laughs with him. GUS That's why. Hazel looks at him, not understanding. GUS In case you were wondering... that's why I like you. (beat, off her look) You're so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are. Hazel absorbs that. Her feelings for this boy in a tangle.
I chuckled while reading this sequence. Did you enjoy it too?
In our orientation, we were told ‘writing is a sickness’. But ‘it is also a craft’. Those words stayed with me. I use writing at several different levels. I use it as catharsis, to share my experiences, to weave stories. And now I’m learning and attempting to use writing to create visuals, to bring a story to screen.
It’s tough, I gotta tell you that. At this point, nothing is more intimidating than a blank page staring at you while you build a story from scratch, with nothing but words. Having said that, every page that is filled out with scene and dialogue creates a previously unprecedented satisfaction.
Cheers to those of us who thrive on this sickness. May we get better at the art as time passes.