Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Saturday, 13 March 2004

I'm on vacation! After weeks of long hours and working weekends, this is a much-needed break.

My brother and mom are coming tomorrow, though not until late.

Today I went to a one-day screenwriting workshop on campus, sponsored by the state of Illinois as part of their screenwriting contest. I went to this same workshop two years ago (the contest is every two years). There were two instructors this time. Dan Decker led the workshop again, along with another guy whose name, I think, was Stanley Sowa. The workshop was pretty similar to the previous one. I did learn a few new things.

One thing that they emphasized several ways was that all the action needs to be driven by the characters pursuing their objectives. This is something I know, but that I need to be reminded of every now and then. I'm a little too likely, especially in my shorter fiction, to treat my secondary characters like mere obstacles, rather than as motivated characters in their own right.

They talked about what they called "beats" in a scene. I've heard the term before, but they provided a very specific definition: A beat occurs whenever your characters change the way they're trying to achieve their objective. So, your character asks for something. As long as he keeps asking, that's the same beat. When he switches to demanding, that's a new beat. When he starts threatening, that's another beat. If he moves to pleading, that's another beat.


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