I made a really big breakthrough the other night with Players, the TV pilot about seduction artists I’m writing. I’d thought it was ready to go until we picked at a little thread and the whole thing came apart.
So there I was, building a whole new story on the foundations of the first (I’m mixing the weaving and building metaphors here, I know. Just go with it).
But what saved me was going back to the age old method: writing out the major scenes on index cards. And not only that, but writing in big black felt tip, so there was no space for lots of distracting detail – just the broad headlines, and not even scenes but sequences.
I haven’t done this in ages because I’m a bit of a tech freak and I like to do everything on my 15″ widescreen laptop, so I’ve been using the index card view in Final Draft to lay out my plots.
But that’s too awkward. Final Draft only recognises scenes in its index card view. That means everything with a slugline has its own card. What it really needs is a function where you can group several scenes together as a sequence. And then you need an option to give sequences or scenes a title that you can choose to view or not, so that when you’re playing around in the index card view you can be looking at things like “HARRY GETS MEDIEAVAL ON LARRY’S ASS!” instead of “INT. BOXING RING – NIGHT”. Then the index card view would be more like the real thing.
But Final Draft doesn’t have that function (as far as I know, and believe me I’ve looked for it) so it was back to real card and black marker.
When I talked about this on the Shooters bulletin, a few screenwriters responded with programmes they’d tried out.
Ian Black threw up Mindmanager 6 from Mindjet: ‘It’s Mind Mapping software and allows the development of map threads which can have files attached if desired. There are options for various views as suited and maps can be exported to other software e.g. Word, Outlook (as tasks), but not Final Draft.’
Alan O’Leary recommended ‘Storylines’, which is part of the Writers Cafe suite: ‘Most of the suite is kinda useless – note-takers and the like – but storyliner lets you set up through-lines, plot cards on them, then drag and drop them around. Then you can export into text document (see this screenshot).’
But John Killeen seems to have come closest with this SuperNotecard for Scriptwriting, which I notice claims to ‘export seamlessly’ to Final Draft.
All of these are useful, but not quite what I need. The people at Final Draft and/or Movie Magic Screenwriter need to sort out their index card view and really making it useful to working screenwriters. Until that time it’s real cards, a black marker and a cork board.
It was gratifying to know, though, that when you think you’ve totally lost it, you can always get it back again by taking a big step backwards (away from the laptop) and trying to see the big picture.