Writing | Making words on paper come to life

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.