After the EWW, six vignettes and a bullet outline
|Last term in the EWW you completed six vignettes and an outline for the novel you intend to write. This term you will expand your outline and write a first draft in what I call "Screenplay Speak." The example I'm using should be familiar, however, you'll quickly note that the translation turns out to be quite different from the original. This is because of several factors and the most telling is that a screenplay format drives a more powerful visual narrative. Note that in "Screenplay Speak" the "Operative Noun Clause" tends to be highlighted in caps. Int./Ext. refers to an interior or exterior camera view.
Vignette One, Prose, Placid Waters
Once upon a time there lived a princess, named Pandora. She was tall with thick red hair and her face resonated with character. She had an impish nose, pointed ears and sensuous lips, however, it was her eyes that were spellbinding. They would hang on spoken words and make them a bridge into the speaker's soul. She was her mother's daughter and the power of her persona, illuminated a room.
Her body had curves that would be the envy of any woman; an ample bust, but not to excess. Her hips were tight like cantaloupes, firm and round. Her legs were long and stretched giving her a willowy grace. These feminine attributes often went unnoticed so taken were those around her by the disarming effects of her personality.
She dwelt with her family in the ancient fortress of Magnifico, a great walled estate. She wanted for nothing and had only to snap her fingers to have her every need provided. She did, however, occasionally experience unfamiliar longings. A dark spirit resided inside and oft, as she lay in bed, in deepest night, a voice from her soul whispered intimate suggestions and her imagination painted seductive images of the secrets a man and a woman might share behind closed doors—You know–that duty to provide an heir to the throne. The princess knew she'd one day marry and learn those secrets for herself. "If the King and Queen managed it, so can I." She grinned wickedly encouraged by the dark side and from her innocence a soft blush colored her cheeks.
Naturally, like any young woman, the young princess dreamed of a loving husband who'd appreciate her fine qualities, be her knight in shining armor, be the sire of many stalwart sons and beautiful daughters. Oft' when romanced by such notions she'd spin around the room in a dreamy dance. That certain someone who'll be the love of my life and man of my dreams. Her eyes misted. Despite this tender adolescence, strange hints and flashing images troubled her. Since coming of age, lascivious whispers and inexplicable desires haunted her dreams. At times they offered fanciful and serene delights and at other times, glimpses that were disconcerting.
Her parents, the King and Queen, doted on their beautiful daughter. The Queen, a Witch of great beauty, had earned the deference and respect of her subjects. Even so, dread might better describe the awe that Millicent inspired. Merlin, renowned for his wisdom and power ruled with benevolent kindness. One and all considered him the Philosopher King.
Pandora's education consisted of languages, mathematics, science and astrology as well as elocution, dance, musical instruments and needle craft. In addition she received training in all aspects of spell making, elixirs, and potions, yet was unable to apply what she practiced. The motive force of her powers had yet to be awakened and in her training she drew vicariously on those of her father. While a grand master of all things magical, Merlin often told her, "The Dark Arts are no substitute for a keen wit and the exercise of good judgement. Until you marry, any use of magic will remain beyond your means."
In her mind she had fond memories of him pacing back and forth in the library. "One day you'll be queen." The King's gesture encompassed not only the palace, but also his entire kingdom. "You must therefore learn everything a great sovereign must know to rule wisely. There are many who wish you ill. You must understand how to read and ferret out the characters of our nobles and ladies and all those who attend the Court."
The princess only half-listened to her father. Hmmmm, Is that like reading a book? She giggled under her breath. If he's told me once, he's told me a thousand times, "Think before you act!" The familiar lecture rolled over her yet again. "Beyond these walls are dangers you cannot yet imagine," the King continued. "While you may venture anywhere inside and onto the grounds and gardens beyond the drawbridge, you must never go further than yonder high hedge. Beyond the hedge row, lurk dangers I can't protect you from."
Even within these guidelines the Princess had a huge world at her feet. Inside the Fortress, Pandora explored all the rooms, corridors, staircases, ands battlements, as well as the lower levels where the cisterns collected water and the storerooms with their barrels and vases of provisions. The Palace had a long history, dating to when Elves ruled the earth and man had yet to venture from the dark forests and behold the Ican Sea. It was a place that had known both great deeds and the worst life has to offer. The evil which once lurked the dark passageways was still evidenced in the dungeons, which in her times, never had any prisoners. Still the rusting chains bore mute testament to terrible events of a distant past.
The torture chamber bore a particular fascination. The rack, iron maiden, and forge teased her mind with ancient memories of the agony and the screams of the poor, tormented souls once detained for questioning. An oppressive fear still permeated the walls and lingered in the air, even after long years of disuse. Drawn by a compulsion she couldn't explain, Pandora experienced something inexplicable, a dark resonance in her soul, when she went there to do her embroidery. The skylight high above provided abundant sunlight and made the stitching easy on her eyes. When she paused and gazed at the tools adorning the walls, strange sensations washed over her. She could almost feel an oily specter rear inside her head and stir with an evil malevolence. "It's only my imagination, of course!" She'd toss her hair as if to loosen the cobwebs of dark images. "How could anybody treat a fellow human being with such cruelty?"
In clear weather the Princess loved to walk about the gardens and enjoy the scent of the roses. She strolled down the well manicured hedges that gave a sense of symmetry, balance, and order that contrasted to the wild forest and gnarled trees in the distance. Sometimes she rode her pony, Merilot, in the uncultivated zone between the gardens and the distant hedge. It represented a no-man's land between her world and one ruled by nature.
One day, as Pandora rode Merilot around the grounds, she discovered a unicorn grazing with her foal. Surprised delight filled her and she urged her mount forward. Upon seeing the young princess the magnificent creature and her colt bolted for the hedge row. Over the top the horned beast leapt. Unable to match his mother's stride, the foal stopped, looked back, and stared a long moment, before picking his way through the barrier of foliage. Pandora rode up, dismounted, and stuck her head through the opening. An irresistible urge to follow washed over her, yet the warnings of her parents echoed in her ears. In an instant she decided. They only told me that to make sure I was home in time for dinner, It was a rationalization she'd soon regret. Throwing caution to the wind she picked her way through the twisting briars. Pandora soon emerged on the other side. In the distance the magical beasts entered the forest. Again the colt paused and looked back before the two unicorns disappeared from sight.
A typical Screenplay format
Real SteelbyJeremy LevenRevisions byLes Bohem Current revisionsJohn GatinsJune 17, 2009
EXT. LONELY DESERT LANDSCAPE -- NIGHT We crest a rocky mountain range to see a winding highway thatcuts across lonely desert scape. There’s nothing for miles.We travel closer to the ground to find a lone beat up BOXTRUCK that whistles along the abandoned highway.INT. BOX TRUCK -- NIGHT We pull inside the cab to find the driver,
CHARLIE KENTON He’s unshaven with sun-beaten skin and a worn posture as hechews on a cheap cigar and gulps an energy drink from a can.The cab is littered with junk food wrappers and energy drinkbottles. The radio playsSimon and Garfunkle’s “The Boxer as he struggles to stay awake.
CHARLIE puts his cigar in theoverflowing ashtray as he strains to see something in thedistance. Through the windshield we see...EXT. SAN LEANDRO COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS -- TEXAS -- NIGHT At the far end of the desolate horizon we can see neonspinning and white light flashing as a Ferris Wheel and otherrides at a small fair turn in the dark night sky. EXT. DESERT HIGHWAY -- NIGHT We watch CHARLIE’s BOX TRUCK zoom across the empty desert towards the FAIRGROUNDS.EXT. SAN LEANDRO COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS -- ENTRANCE -- NIGHT CHARLIE’s truck trolls through the exhibitors’ gate and we follow it down a sparsely populated dirt road on the midway.The attractions are tired as are the folks who sleepwalk with cotton candy and beer in hand.The TRUCK passes MERRY GO ROUNDS and TILT A WHIRLS as it heads toward a large white tent. EXT. SAN LEANDRO COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS -- GRASS FIELD -- NIGHT CHARLIE’s truck is tightly parked amongst other exhibitors and live stock trucks. He pops out of the cab and moves to the rear of the truck. He unlocks the gate and rolls up the door revealing a small cot tucked inside a packed workshop. It’s dark, but CHARLIE reaches inside a tiny fridge that leaks a little bit of light as he grabs a beer. CHARLIE cracks the beer and stands on the gate of his truck surveying the FAIRGROUNDS. We’re close enough to read the odometer on CHARLIE’s face. The blows that life’s delivered are clearly evident; a scar above his eye, a slightly flattened ear.
We watch as he listens to the distorted pipe organs playing afailing melody and the scared but thrilled yells of teenagers on rides.He drinks his beer and wonders, “How did it come to this?”EXT. SAN LEANDRO COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS -- TEXAS -- DAYBREAKThe sun begins to light the sleeping fairgrounds as we nowfully take in the low buck quality of this small fair. EXT. CHARLIE’S BOX TRUCK -- SAME TIME We find CHARLIE’s feet with his socks still on and travel up the cot to find that he is rustling awake. He slowly sits up and swings his foot off his cot knocking over a half-fullbeer, he quickly picks it up and puts it to his mouth preventing the foam from overflowing.He walks to the open gate of his truck and downs the dregs of the beer and goes to toss it when he sees...TWO KIDS -- A BROTHER AND SISTER -- MAYBE 7 AND 10 YEARS OLD CHARLIE stares at the kids as the early Texas summer heat is already rising. He buckles his belt and tries to tuck his tank top in to his dirty slacks.The kids hold a yellow flier as they stare inside CHARLIE’s truck, something has them mesmerized...BROTHER Is that Supernova? CHARLIE musters a smile, nods. INT. BOX TRUCK -- SAME TIME We find a large pair of boots...or are they mechanical feet?We pan up as we see that the boots are not boots but titanium feet that become painted alloy legs. Old sponsor stickers cover the torso that we now reveal as we continue up the bodyof an 8 foot HUMAN-LIKE ROBOT. The ROBOT is sitting with its back against the wall and its legs outstretched as if on a break at a warehouse job. CHARLIE makes his way to the ROBOT and we can now see that the ROBOT is connected to a power generator that’s mounted tothe wall. CHARLIE pulls the chord from the ROBOT and waves his hand in front of its face...
SUPERNOVA’s EYES SHOOT OPEN AND HE COCKS HIS HEAD and focus towards the kids who startle at the attention from the 8 foot mechanical menace. CHARLIE assumes a showman’s lilt.CHARLIE Yes, meet Supernova, 2 years ago he was ranked 8th in the world and twice fought for the worldchampionship.The KIDS step a little closer, amazed. SISTER Can we take a picture? CHARLIE smiles...CHARLIE Of course...for five dollars.The KIDS stare in equal amazement at CHARLIE’s demand. BROTHER You want five dollars seriously? CHARLIE No, I want five dollars immediately.The BROTHER raises the yellow flier in disgust. BROTHER I hope that bull kicks his ass and takes a huge shit on his head when he’s done.CHARLIE raises the beer bottle in their direction like Peyton Manning on Sunday. The KIDS scatter. CHARLIE spits and stretches out his arms in an attempt to wake up. The sun lights the inside of his truck. It’s a ROBOT BOXING workshop with generators and tools.The truck is overfilled with mechanical parts of unknown origins. Wires, belts and robot arms hang from the ceiling like Peking Ducks in a window on Mott Street. CHARLIE grabs a water bottle from the fridge and takes a longdrink before pouring some on his head and using his hands tosmooth his hair back. He uses one stroke of a brush to slickhis mane back. He dodges in between the dangling arms, legs and belts and grabs a dress shirt hanging behind.
Writing Vignette 1 in Screenplay
EXT. BATTLEMENTS OF A SPRAWLING FORTRESS -- MOONLITE NIGHT-- STORM ROLLING IN--From above we see four figures striding in haste along the high wall. Leading is a tall willowy girl followed by a diminutive GOVERNESS holding the hands of two siblings..., an eight year old girl, CALLIOPE, AND nine year old boy, BRUTUS. They pass small groups of soldiers moving nervously towards their posts. Suddenly there are excited cries among the men at arms who point in dismay towards the horizon. A dragon is seen flying low in the distance.
INT. TORCHLIGHTS--The four enter a turret and descend a winding stair case. We see the governess EDNA, a Fey Elf. She's built like a fire plug. Her hair is disheveled and reveals two pointed ears. She has a worried look. Leading the way is PANDORA, a determined young woman, attired in black, about 18 years old. They descend several levels and break out into the Keep... a brightly lit, spacious, circular stone room. A wizard is giving final instructions...He turns to the new arrival and hastens them to the entrance of another descending stair case. Lightning flashes through the cathedral windows and thunder shakes the chandeliers. MERLIN: How can it be, that despite knowing full well something bad is about to happen..., it still comes unexpectedly? PANDORA: On the way down we saw a dragon...MERLIN: No surprise there. PANDORA: Have you heard from mother? MERLIN: Nothing, Millicent should have been back hours ago... your sisters too... no time to obsess on that... you have worries enough of your own. The children are in your hands.
MERLIN MOTIONS THEM DOWNWARD ONTO A DARK STAIR CASE. INT: PANDORA,holding a torch begins descending four levels into the bowls of the fortress. Rats scurry about and the lower they go water can be seen dripping from the ceiling. She is headed for the very bottom... where the dungeons are located and across from these, where the forge and torture chamber are. Upon arriving at the lowest level there is a long passageway. PANDORA bids them wait and goes down the corridor to an oaken door. She raises the latch and pushes it open. Leaving it ajar she slips inside.
CALLIOPE: What a creepy place. BRUTUS: Pandora loves it down here...CALLIOPE: Yeah, I've heard she swims in the cisterns...bathing her wickedness in the dark waters of evil."EDNA: THAT'S QUITE ENOUGH! young lady... CALLIOPE: I'm just telling you what my sisters said... EDNA: Then they're as empty headed as you are. CALLIOPE: Is it true she's a DARK WITCH?EDNA: On any given day PANDORA could match every kernel of your goodness... and never note the loss. BRUTUS: What I heard was that when... points to Pandora disappeared..."THE DARK ONE" turns eighteen, the Devil will come to claim his bride. You suppose this is what all that's about? EDNA: My patience is wearing thin... SHUT UP! both of you.
PANDORA returns from behind the door and motions them forward. She lights several torches in the chamber... A FORGE, RACK, and Iron Maiden are revealed. A dull pounding begins to resonate from deep beneath the floor. EDNA: What's that noise? PANDORA: We'll worry about that later.... this is our last chance to find out where Millicent and my sisters are. (Points to a dark corner) There's a Scrying Pool in the floor over there. See if you can make it work. Edna: Get the children out of the way. I'll need to concentrate. PANDORA: Come on you ankle biters, I've the most amazing thing to show you over here...THE STRETCHING RACK. Pandora takes the youngsters behind a large wooden table of gears straps and rollers. PANDORA SITS THEM ON THE TABLE. Stay here and don't move... You might see more than you can bear.
She RETURNS to EDNA, squatting over the pool MUTTERING INCANTATIONS. Nothing seems to be happening. EDNA: You're asking a lot from an old lady.....Suddenly there's a flash and a holograph appears showing the snorting nostrils of a team of six galloping horses. They are being driven by a frantic coachman cracking a whip. From behind the carriage we see the huge wings of a looming dragon. The driver extorts the steeds as the carriage careens down the highway. On the back side a FOOTMAN hangs precariously to his perch. He cries out a warning. THE DRAGON WILL SOON BE UPON US...MILLICENT: Jump, save yourself.
INT: Inside the coach the Queen and her two daughters make final preparations. The floor boards are pulled up revealing a pallet between the axles.
MILLICENT: Lay down on the boards! The three recline on rough hewn boards inches above the surface passing underneath. The dragon swoops in grabbing the gondola. As he lifts away, Millicent pulls a lever and the pallet releases, skidding them down the road. The dragon flys off with the chassis, horses hanging from their traces, flailing about, wheels are still turning askew. The three slide along the the bumpy dirt surface, coming to rest in a culvert. Rain is falling. Trace lighting provides a dazzeling display of fireworks. Millicent and her daughters, soaking wet and covered in mud peer from the ditch filled with running water... watching the dragon disappear. MILLICENT: Come, we must find refuge... there are dark forces abroad this night... The three run off into the forest. The scrying pool goes dark.
Pandora notices that Brutus and Calliope have appeared and are watching in wide eyed wonder. BRUTUS: They got away. PANDORA: Fancy that... The pounding noticed earlier gets louder..... the dungeon floor begins to shake and starts to buckle in the corner. PANDORA: The main attack is coming from beneath. The head of an enormous iron pick breaks through the floor. A stone wall disappears into the earth. They are showered with debris. PANDORA Follow me... ENEMIES ARE UPON US.....She takes off running. At a corner of the dungeon she presses a stone.... a door opens revealing a passageway....They crowd inside as the ceiling comes crashing down. The door closes and a rumble shakes the passageway filling it with dust. They flee the choking pall and head down an ancient tunnel, filled with spider webs. As they pass under the moat the water becomes knee deep and suddenly drains off as they pass a concourse of rushing water. They walk for several minutes until reaching a vertical shaft with rusted iron hand grips leading upwards. After me PANDORA orders and they begin the ascent. Edna takes up the rear. At the top a hatch opens inside a small cave opening, The exit is covered with vines and briars. EXT. Bright moonlit night. They push out onto the pasture and behold Fortress Magnifico in flames.
BRUTUS: What do we do now? PANDORA We must be far away when the sun comes up. A quarter mile across the pasture is a forest. PANDORA Come, we don't want to be caught in the open. The four are seen furtively heading towards the woods.
End of Chapter 1
Note that translating the novel prose to screenplay gave the story an entirely new look. For those troubled with "Writers Cramp" take note.