Thursday, September 11, 2008

Complications versus complexity

Been sending out the first ten pages of my Red Planet Prize script to readers for feedback. It's always fascinating to see what sits well with some people that jars with others. Everybody seems to agree the big turning point on page ten packs a real punch. One reader felt there was a lot going on, but they wanted more to happen before that moment - another incident to grab the audience.

I can understand that point of view, but it's a note I'm getting to set to one side for now. My RPP entry has a big ensemble of characters, all of whom get introduced in the first eight pages. They need to establish distinct identities for themselves without funny hat characterisation. Most importantly, we need to see their normal lives before the turning point that changes everything. So I'm taking the first eight pages to set up all of that.

There's a fine line between complications and complexity. Complications is throwing more stuff into the mix - characters, incidents, general legerdemain - to dazzle the audience. Complexity is delving that bit deeper with the material you have, endeavouring to layer some subtext beneath the surface. I'm aiming for complexity in my RPP entry. Grud knows this version ha less complications than the early incarnation I submitted to RPP last year.

That had twenty speaking characters, most of them introduced in the first ten pages. Four different plotlines explored forbidden love scenarious, way too much duplication and redundancy. And the vast ensemble lacked focus, with too many peripheral characters distracting attention away from the two families at the heart of my narrative. Much of that has gone, giving more room to explore core characters and some visual storytelling.

The best thing about feedback is everybody brings a different focus to any script they read. Some dig into the dialogue, pointing out clunky exposition or on-the-nose emoting. Others highlight scene to scene transitions, or the weight of emphasis, or the need to drive events forward. Every opinion has merit but mine has to be the one that matters. Follow every piece of feedback slavishly and you abrogate responsibility for your story. Onwards.

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