The Screenplay: Preparation

I have never had the slightest desire to write a screenplay.

That being said, why am I writing one?

While I was at the IMC, Iain McCaig recommended the book "How to Write a Movie in 21 Days" during one of his lectures.  Afterwards I was lucky enough to have a chance to talk with him about writing.  He said, "Have you ever thought about writing a screenplay?"

I said no.

"Why not?"

I couldn't think of a reason.  I said I wrote novels.  Short stories.  Fiction.

"Try writing a screenplay," he said.

So here I am.  I've got a copy of the book, though I'm dubious of anything with a title along the lines of "How to Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too."  But I'll give this screenplay a shot, and if all else fails, maybe I'll get some material I can turn into a novel.

One of the first things the book said to do was write down any ideas for scenes on 3x5 cards or scraps of paper.  Here they are: all jumbled up.  No order, rhyme or reason.  Some came from old stories I dragged out of my mental attic, others from interesting REM cycles (I have a lot of these).

Then the book told me to make a list of my main characters, with their greatest desires, personalities, ages, etc.  Since my plot revolves around three families, they count as characters, I suppose.

The setting: a place like Italy in a time that never happened, but is very similar to the 18th century.  (I know it's vague.  Work with me.)

  • Family Incenda.  The family of magic and fire.  Traditionally they protected the city from a mythical "beast."  However, the beast has degenerated into myth, and now the Incendas occupy themselves with spectacular displays of pyrotechnics  and political intrigue.
  • Family Fontani.  The crown family.  Now only figureheads, but the young king is growing resentful of playing the Incendas' puppet.
  • Family LapidasA family who has recently risen to power through the guile and financial skill of its head.

And the main people who are members of these families:

  • Nix.  A minor cousin of the Incendas.  Nobody very important.  She has a gnawing desire to master her family's art of fire.  Age 17.
  • Pasci.  The Incenda family fool.  Always smiling, always laughing.  Even when he wants to weep.  Unknown age.  Not sure what he wants.  Nix's best friend.
  • Quanzi. Formerly the heir to the Lapidas fortune.  A dreadful disappointment to his father.  He announced he wanted to marry a nobody.  His enraged father had his son publicly humiliated and then made his younger brother heir.  To crown it all, Quanzi’s squeamish bride then jilted him.  His main desire, at the moment, is to NOT murder anyone.  Because there are several people he'd like to kill.

Obviously I have Quanzi worked out better than anyone else, but he's a character I thought up years ago.  Only a few days ago I discovered he fitted into my half-formed plot like a missing puzzle piece.