Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Come Play In My Backyard


Here's an interesting statistic:

In the film industry, it is believed that:

Happy Endings make more money than any other type. (Protag. attains a goal PLUS a need.)

Down or Tragic endings win appreciation from critics. (Protag attains neither a goal nor a need.)

Ironic endings are most often picked for Oscar attention. (Protag attains either goal or need)

I was told this about the book industry -- but I had no idea it applied to films. I never analyzed the Oscar winners, and I don't read "critics." (I REVIEW books, not criticise them).

I've always thought that you bring your story to it's PROPER -- internally consistent -- ending and you have a chance at any or all 3 of the above, money, fame, or glory.

But apparently that's not so, according to screenwriting lore.

Therefore, before starting to craft an IDEA into a story, complete with protagonist, antagonist, conflict, beginning, middle, end and resolution of the conflict, you really should think hard about the ENDING.

What a backwards way of looking at it.

Most Romances -- even Alien Romances -- have "happy" endings in that the main characters find true happiness, even if they've switched partners a few times during the story.

So Romance is not always about attaining a GOAL -- i.e. you don't have a "happy ending" unless the protagonist attains their goal and also gets what they really need in life. A Romance ends where the protags get what they NEED -- and only sometimes what they thought they were going after.

In fact, the most interesting Romances are ones where both protags shift their goals during the story and only gradually discover their own needs -- and the needs of their S. O.

Could that be why very few serious and complex Romances make it to the screen?

Romances should be cheap to make -- well, not Alien Romances or grand Historical Romances (costume pieces), but contemporary, A.U. or even most Paranormals would be filmable.

But to justify the expense of making a film -- (which in my not at all humble opinion is what Alien Romance should be! TV and Film is the right medium for this wonderful sub-genre) -- you need:

a) 4 audience demographics -- this is from SAVE THE CAT! by Blake Snyder but he didn't invent it:
Men over 25
Men under 25
Women over 25
Women under 25

Believe it or not, that's how Hollywood looks at us.

Men under 25 are THE core film audience courted most by Hollywood because they go to films more than anyone else -- AND they bring their dates to films.

So if it doesn't interest "men under 25" when presented as a poster, your story won't be made into a high profile film with the Stars you might envision in the lead roles.

Romances aren't seen as inherently interesting to men under 25.


So the SF-Romance should be a classic 4-Quadrant genre!

So if you can create an SF-Romance with blazing action, (Think TERMINATOR or STARMAN) you can write a novel that will be made into a blockbuster film.

All you have to do is craft a totally HAPPY ENDING with maybe a whiff of IRONY onto an SF-ROMANCE to have the kind of audience "reach" and Awards Potential to get a big budget with Big Stars wanting an Oscar. You could rival STAR WARS for opening weekend boxoffice.

OK, we have 6 dynamite alien romance writers here. Can we come up with a dynamite CONCEPT with an ending like that for a standard 110 page screenplay?

When I started in fandom, we did a thing called a ROUND ROBIN -- in fact my very first fiction writing that got me started so that I couldn't stop was a ROUND ROBIN where an alternate-I was my character.

So just for fun, I have an opening Round Robin challenge for each writer to add to in outline here. Let's see if we can fulfill the Hollywood formula.

Here are the elements we need:

CONCEPT LOGLINE: An interstellar dog catcher meets her match.

Opening Image: Inara stands over a huge cage made of light-bars. Within is a dark, dirty, vicious and angry creature.

Someone off-shot says, "What among all the stars is THAT?!"

Inara, panting discheveled and scratched, shrugs: "Well, my mom told me not to take a job as an xeno-petcatcher. I wonder how she knew?"

The howling, crazed nameless creature in the cage says: "Maybe my mom told her!" Then its gyrations finally release the catch and it scrambles out and away.


Before this thing could be written, we need to know:

END OF ACT ONE (p 25) major climax into the middle of the film which is the longest part, 60 pages, fully half the 110 pages. The middle is the chase, danger, cliff-hangars, and bonding between the two reluctant soulmates who will become lovers.

END OF ACT TWO (p 85) since this needs a happy ending, p 75-85 have to be the absolute nadir, Inara's most devastating failure, utter and complete loss of everything valuable to her with no apparent way out of the trap she's in. (she can't BE RESCUED - she has to invent an astonishing and successful strategy to get herself out of this, as does her soulmate).

ENDING: This has to be a HAPPY ENDING - where Inara and her soulmate both reach their goals and also attain something they really need, something other than the goal.

TAG: the denoument, page 110 -- the FINAL IMAGE.

Well, if the opening image is a dogcatcher's cage, the final image has to include that, but changed in some way.

QUESTION: is the mad creature in the cage Inara's soulmate -- or is it like a parrot, reciting something it's owner taught it - and the owner is Inara's soulmate.

Perhaps if Inara recaptures the creature, the law says it has to be put to death, so the owner is racing Inara and blocking her every move, to recapture the creature first? Maybe it's a circus creature? Maybe the creature is a human being out where humans are thought to be animals?

Want to play in my backyard?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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