Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Perfect 10 (pages)

The BBC have been doing workshops around the country recently and yesterday they paid a visit to Sheffield Hallam uni. Being a good old script student there (and also fitting comfortably into my tutor's pocket) I managed to get my first 10 pages looked at by Jo Combes from the Writersroom. She only talked about them for a few minutes, but it was enough to get me rethinking the opening.

Here's what she said about those dreaded first 10:
  • Think very hard about the opening hero shot. What the character is doing, who they're with and - particularly - where they are is very important. I had to justify showing my hero staggering out of a strip club. What's the relevance? Well, it obviously tells you something about his character, but that element isn't that important to the story. So change it.
  • Work out what the strength is in that opening - what really screams "I'm different! Sit up and listen!" In mine, it was the supernatural element (which felt really fresh) rather than the crime moments. Things felt best when those two came together. So the advice is to work out what really works and hammer that home in the opening.
  • We all know we need to get into the story ASAP, but you really really do! We need to get a sense of what is going to happen from page 1. Maybe even line 1!
  • Our opening should either a) make us concerned for the character/s (meaning they, their relationships, their lifestyle etc are in peril) and/or b) make us curious about who they are and what their motives are.
  • Establish some contrast - between characters, between location etc. There's something very interesting about seeing a priest in a brothel, or an atheist in a church, or a free-thinking woman in some misogynistic boardroom. These are compelling contrasts that instantly make us sit up.
  • Are the stakes high enough? Links back to the character or their life being in some kind of peril. Think of the opening of Blackadder Goes Forth - we instantly establish that our guys are a) in war, and b) likely go over the top soon.
    • Start on the job, especially if the job is the story. A cop show needs cops. Who do some copping. So start with a cop copping with other cops.
    The rest is fairly straightforward you're all bound to know anyway. Some kind of hook to draw people in, decent characters, good dialogue etc.  

    There's even more useful information on the Beeb website, so go take a gander.

    All in all, it was a seriously interesting class. And all this advice comes straight from the Beeb. So if you ignore it, you're a wand short of being a wizard! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and completely rewrite my script.

    Shiny day, all. Happy writing :)

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