Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Scariest Thing in the World

It's the day before Halloween, so it's only fitting that I write about what I consider to be the Scariest Thing in the World. And I bet there's a fair number of writers out there that would agree with me. What could strike terror into the hearts of so many? Have a look:

The blank page.

Every story is born from this blank page, and yet it's always terrifying. As a reader, I've always preferred ongoing, serialized stories (i.e., TV shows) to finite stories (i.e., movies). I like getting to know a set of characters over a long period of time, and seeing something that happens in episode 2 have a consequence that isn't felt until episode 32.

So I suppose it's no surprise that the majority of what I write tends to be ongoing in nature. Most of my comic books have been ongoing series. Therefore, you're only really dealing with a blank page in the first issue. Each issue after that tends to spring from the one before it, so the fear of the blank page is abated. But now that Noble Causes is wrapping up, I'm at the point where I'm soon going to be faced with that blank page at the start of the new series that artist Yildiray Cinar and I are developing to take NC's place. I've already got a title (I find it hard to begin a story without having a title in place), and a premise, and some notes for the series. But I don't know exactly how that first issue will take shape.

Meanwhile, since I'm caught up on all my pressing comic book deadlines, I'm using this time to write my first feature spec script. I've got a handful of TV specs lying around from a few years ago, but this is my first crack at a feature, and the blank page has never been scarier. What's so scary (okay, "scary" is too strong a word -- it's really just frustrating) is how slow-going the process is at the beginning. I know what the general concept of the feature is, and I know the two main characters and I know their dynamic, but hammering out the actual sequence of events is a painstakingly slow process. It's a mystery story, so I'm basically having to plot from two different POVs -- one from the protagonists' and one from the antagonists'. So for the past week I've been sitting at my desk each and every day, and at the end of the day I may have a few sentences to show for my time. Make no mistake -- those few sentences often speak volumes, and deep down, I know this. I know that this is all part of the process, and each day I'm getting closer and closer to having the entire mystery (and therefore, story) figured out. And once that's figured out, the actual scripting is a breeze. But the Blank Page will always be my personal Boogey Man.

I wonder how you'd go about making a Blank Page Halloween costume...


Tall Man said...

Go to Kinko's and ask for a length off the oversize black and white printer's roll of paper. That paper is VERY white.

Sometimes I think that the only way I'm going to get a story written, is if I write it three times.

Once from the protagonists perspective (in a kind of short hand which would be draft B1 ), once from the antagonists perspective (again in shorthand, draft A1 - this time, however, I've got draft B1 to help it along) and then the a third time melding the two together.

Of course, I'm not writing feature scripts either...

Hang in there!