I’ve shared bits and pieces of my work on this blog in the past several months–poetry, short stories, articles, novel excerpts. But as I was digging for something to post this morning, it occurred to me that I have not yet posted any of my screenwriting.
As I’ve explained before, screenwriting is not my favorite medium. I find it difficult, and the resulting work is rarely very well-plotted and usually rather flat. Every year I say I’m not going to participate in ScriptFrenzy (the challenge to write a hundred pages of screenplay in the month of April), because I have no time, and I’m not good at screenwriting. But the past two years, certain friends (who may or may not be Aubrey Hansen and Jordan Smith) have compelled me to change my mind at the last moment. At the last moment being very shortly before the end of April–I wrote Sugar & Strife in four days near the end of April 2011, and Umbrella Beach in ten days the next year. They aren’t especially brilliant at the moment, and need a lot of work, but I like the ideas, and may try to revise them in the future.
However, there was one more immediate problem they both had–they weren’t long enough. I was lacking five to ten pages to reach the desired one hundred.
With Umbrella Beach in 2012, Jordan solved my problem by suggesting I write a “just for fun” pilot episode for the then-hypothetical Month of the Novel season two. Incidentally, this pilot has since been rewritten to become the first episode of the now-not-so-hypothetical season.
But with the year before that, I was lost. How to use up the last few pages? What could I write? My mind seemed squeezed dry of any screenwriting ideas.
But then… there was one idea back there that I’d filed away.
I actually can’t take full credit for the idea. A few years back, on Isaac Botkin’s screenwriting blog, he put up a free download of a screenwriting beat sheet he’d created. In one section designated as “notes,” I found these words of instruction:
“Of course, you should also have a much more significant file of all the research that you need to write your characters and story. If your movie involves brilliant doctors, nuclear technology, military jargon, medieval kings, or complex economics, you should learn enough about these topics to be able to write them convincingly.
“Of course, if your movie manages to combine all of those elements, you should send it to me…”
This of course was a joke, but my stubborn brain decided to take it as a challenge, the wheels got turning, and I came up with an idea.
Ironically, it’s the research that’s kept me from writing it so far–I haven’t had time to do the extensive research needed. But that spring of 2011, desperate to make my quota of pages, I wrote just a few scenes for the script, scenes I already had in my head.
ScriptFrenzy no longer exists, but there is an option for screenwriting in Camp NaNoWriMo this year, which my friends are urging me to try. I’ve refused thus far–I don’t even have a screenplay idea I’m ready to write! But if the past two years are any indicator, you just might find me suddenly plugging away at one on April twenty-seventh or so… who knows?
In the meantime, here is a sample of the screenplay that is meant to feature brilliant doctors, nuclear technology, military jargon, medieval kings, and complex economics.
INT. DOCTOR’S OFFICE – DAY
Dr. Benson gestures to a chair.
Arthur, tall, forty-something, with a strong, handsome face and long, brown hair, dressed in medieval style tunic and leggings, sits.
What manner of place is this?
He caresses the leather arms of the chair, and looks around in dignified awe at the clocks, machinery, and computers.
This is a doctor’s office.
Indeed. I have never seen the like.
He looks at a lamp with obvious curiousity.
Why did you come here?
He slides a rolling chair from his desk over to Arthur and looks hard at him.
I was instructed in a dream to visit a
Yes. A voice spoke inside my head.
I know not whose.
Vincent looks nervously at Benson, twiddling his fingers. Benson turns and jerks his head at him.
Get me the blood test kit.
With a quick nod, Vincent rushes off. Benson turns back to Arthur.
So, just how did you get here?
I walked here, not being able to procure
a good horse…
No, how did you know how to get here.
I asked for a physician, an excellent
one, and was directed here.
Vincent rushes back in with the kit. Benson draws a hypo from it and pushes the trigger in.
Roll up his sleeve, Vince.
Vincent timidly moves to the “king.” Arthur moves his arm away a bit haughtily.
What means this?
This means I’ve got to test your blood
and see where you belong.
My — blood?
Yes, that blue stuff in your veins.
Arthur stares, his arm still hesitantly held away. Benson sighs.
Look, bud, we just need to have a look at
your DNA. Let’s see your arm.
You — are a learned physician?
Arthur hesitates another moment, holding his arm, then glances at Vincent, then back to Benson again.
Then I shall do as you say.
He holds his arm stiffly out to Vincent, who gingerly rolls the coarse sleeve up. Benson sighs, then poises the needle over Arthur’s arm.
This will hurt just a little, but
it will be alright.
He pierces Arthur’s arm where a vein is just visible under the skin. Arthur winces just perceptively, and watches with interest.
Benson draws the trigger back and carefully pulls the needle out. Without looking up, he nods, and Vincent picks up some gauze and presses it to the tiny wound.
Arthur looks with fascination at the tube of blood in Benson’s hands.
Wondrous! What magic is this?
It’s not magic, it’s just a hypodermic
He looks up to see Arthur staring at him, his manly brow lined with confusion. Benson groans.
Never mind. Vince, I want an analysis
of this. Once you have it down, get
ahold of the nearest mental hospitals.
He takes the tube from Benson.
I’m going to have a talk with our guest
Arthur watches as Vincent leaves the room with the blood, his arm still stiffly held out. Benson points to the guaze.
You’d better hold that there. Gravity
applies just as much now as it did in
the middle ages.
You don’t miss a trick, do you buddy?
Alright, just hold it there and relax
Arthur pulls his arm back in, pressing one finger to the little patch of gauze.
Now, where did you come from?
Arthur furrows his brows.
I was on the battlefield — locked in
conflict with my nephew, Mordred.
Alright, yes, Lancelot and the Round
Table and the Holy Grail and all that.
Indeed. I ran him through, but before
death he drew his sword and aimed it at
my breast. I felt no pain, but the world
faded around me as his sword touched me,
and I believed myself to be dying. I
knew nothing further until I awoke in a
peasant bed in this strange place.
I can only believe that the prophesy was
true, and that Christ in His wisdom has
seen fit to bring me back to Britain in
her time of greatest need.
Benson continues staring for a moment. Then he pulls a walkie-talkie from his pocket and speaks into it.
Vincent, you finished with that sample
Yes, but I really think you’d better
Just get the hospitals on the phone.
But I think…
Stop thinking and start obeying. I’ll
be there soon enough.
Benson puts the radio back in his pocket and looks at Arthur.
Look, buddy, you’re not fooling anybody.
I know you’re not King Arthur, so who are
Arthur stares at him with wide eyes and eyebrows raised.
You — doubt my word?
Yes, I doubt your word. Is that new for
Indeed. I am not accustomed…
Well get used to it.