Digging Deeper into Writing Mistakes

I want to expand on that post from a couple weeks ago about the video I shared with you.  I really think the video is extremely useful in improving and analyzing a story, whether it’s a screenplay, a novel, or a short story.  So I thought I’d pull a few examples of how I used it in screenwriting.

For the final project of the screenwriting class, I took the novel I pitched at the writing conference last year, Exodus, and revamped the first part of it into a screenplay which I titled “Journey to Akhettar.”  A brief recap for those of you who don’t remember: the story is about a young woman, Tarphaena, who is exiled from her jungle village with her friend Aona, who has been cursed by Waysifar-el the sun-goddess.  Together, Tarphaena and Aona make a journey to the desert kingdom now called Akhettar.

I made a lot of changes, and in the process of the first draft I struggled with Mistake #10—“Leaving out the Conflict.”  This happens when you focus too much time on exposition, rather than propelling the story forward.  This is harder in screenplays than novels because of the fact that everything the audience knows is learned from dialogue.  However, that can happen in novels, too.  For instance, sometimes in the attempt to make the reader “see” the setting, it can be easy to spend paragraphs going into minute detail so that everyone can see exactly what we’re seeing as the writers.  It’s better to leave some things to the readers’ imagination—though not everything, of course—so that the story can continue moving.  Another tactic for dealing with this particular issue is to intersperse pertinent description among the action.  I had to do this during a scene of “Journey to Akhettar” when Tarphaena is visiting the shaman’s hut.  Rather than begin the scene with a lengthy description, as in the first draft, I interspersed it as she moved through the hut and conversed with the shaman during the final draft.

Another mistake I made in the first draft was #11, “Not Being Open to Surprises.”  Since I had already written a novel about these characters, I had reservations about making changes, even when new ideas and issues began to develop.  This led to the action being stifled, because I was unwilling to let the characters take the story in a new direction.  In the end, that hurt the first draft, which left new developments prior to Tarphaena’s exile unexplored in order to more quickly get to the journey.  On the advice of a friend and of my peers, I slowed down in the next draft and allowed myself to play with the story, which led to changes, such as Waysifar-el, the villainous goddess, making an offer to Tarphaena and a wager with another god that if she killed Aona, Tarphaena’s friend, she would gain control of coveted land.  Furthermore, I made the curse the catalyst for their exile, rather than Tarphaena’s ill-fated romance with the chief’s son.  All these things helped the story flow more naturally, because I wasn’t trying to stop new ideas from taking their course.

There’s a lot more I could say about this, but I’ve already written an incredibly long post.  So, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations! I’m looking forward to keeping this project going, and I’ll make sure to update as things progress!

8 thoughts on “Digging Deeper into Writing Mistakes”

  1. This is a great post, Kristina. I find it hard to write descriptions because I don’t always know which things should be described and which should be left to the teader’s imagination. How did you add the description interspersedly with the hut scene? Do you have any tips?

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    1. What I did was I began by writing everything I envisioned in the room. Then I kept whatever was important for characterization, foreshadowing, or getting an image of the hut. I guess it’s also pretty hard to know until a reader comments on it.
      Some of the description I interspersed just by looking at where I wanted Tarphaena to move. For instance, I waited to describe the shaman’s altar until Tarphaena approached it. Other things were not woven in as well until readers commented on ways to do it. I believe in readers, at least two of them (more if possible). They always catch things I would never have thought of.

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      1. You’re welcome! I’d love to hear any tips you have!

        Especially research tips. I really struggle sometimes when I’m looking for information, and you always seem to know your stuff. Where do you go to research for a book?

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      2. Sorry it took me so long to reply to your comment. We had the play yesterday and didn’t get back to late last night early this morning. Also I was wondering if maybe I should do a post on conducting research. Do you have a specific time period you are curious about? Or just in general?

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      3. In general, really. My research definitely is (usually) limited to the medieval period, so if you have any tips specifically for that, I’d love to hear them, but it can be so hard when researching just to figure out where to start. I’d really like to hear about your process.

        Liked by 1 person

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