Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Outline Part 4

Some good news to start us off.

Monday I sent off the final version of my pitch bible.  Last night I got an email back from Chris -- the subject line?  "Holy Shit".

In a good way.

Apparently he's really stoked about how it's turned out, so stoked in fact that he's started to pass it around, trying to get some external feedback so that I can make it even stronger.  You can consider my fingers officially crossed on that one.

Okay, back to the action.

So when we left off the TARDIS had just been sucked into a sinkhole.

The next logical step?

--> Investigate


Of course, that makes sense.  That said, as a 'beat' it seems sort of shallow, don't you think?  Especially when the next beat is:

-> Doctor/Companions/Locals Descend into Sinkhole

At first glance there's not a lot here to play with -- except that this is an episode of Doctor Who.  And so we get another chance to have some fantastic 'Doctor' moments.  Of course he's got to use his Sonic screwdriver to do some scanning -- and of course 'something' has to be off the charts.  Which, of course, leads him to talking out loud, figuring it out, speculating.  This is a great time to have some character-ish moments.

But yes, eventually they're going to have to get down there to the TARDIS, they're going to have to descend into the the sinkhole.  How they do that could be a fun little moment as well -- could maybe have some fun with rickety ladders?  The general idea is that once they get down there they're going to be stuck.  Trapped with the dragon.

Anyways, so they end up at the bottom of the sinkhole, a tad dusty, maybe a touch bruised and that's when they notice that:


--> TARDIS is gone, dragged away??

Yep, you can definitely tell it WAS there and you can see that something dragged it away.  Something big.  The group gathers themselves, follows the trail and stops dead in their tracks as they:

---> Enter into underground cavern - lots of huge reptilian eggs.

My first mental image here was like that scene from Aliens, where they walk into the cavern and see this massive clutch of eggs.  I'm not sure that it fits tonally just yet -- but hey, for now, I kind of dig it.  It's also another cool 'WTF' moment to end an act on.  It might not be the absolute strongest moment yet, but nothing wrong with leaving room to grow.


--> Locals start collecting them (to eat)

This moment may not ultimately fit in to the story, especially with them being trapped.  Then again, nothing wrong with them trying to take a few with them (for once they get out of here).  Could be that the locals decide to stay behind as the Doctor and his companions begin to look around -- they start collecting eggs and returning them to the entrance, where they fell in, to be 'rescued' by the others...?  This part, honestly, feels the most tenuous right now... so it's most likely to be in flux... but we'll see how it plays out going forward.

-> See the TARDIS

Of course while the Doctor and company are out and about, exploring this complex web of ancient tunnels, they eventually stumble upon the TARDIS, laying on its side amongst a pile of alien-looking bones.  They've found the Dragon's... cave? hoard?  Something like that.  I'm also playing around with the idea of having very ancient technology hewn into or merged with the rock-face.  The point is to give the idea that whatever's here, it's been here a long while.  This is something that the Doctor can readily attest to.

Next time, on Friday, we're going to get into the fun stuff, the confrontation.  The Doctor Vs. The Dragon.


See you on Friday!
Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, November 28, 2011

Outline Part 3

Alright, well, would you look at that? My pitch bible for Pipeline is done and sent off to the races. Hopefully whomever gets to look at this thing will be impressed and/or interested in hearing more (as is the best case scenario with any good sales tool -- okay, well, landing the sale is the best case... but you get the idea).

Anyways, with that little so-and-so off my task list I can get back to trying to figure this outline out.

Progress!

Okay, where were we?

Slamming the door shut, they lean against the door, spitting out mouthfuls of sand, shaking it out of their hair. A short, hushed 'gasp' causes them to spin, revealing a scarily thin family dressed in little more than rags. They stare at the well-dressed, well-fed Doctor and his companions with wide-eyed shock/awe. Here we:

-> Meet Locals (aaawkward)

Ahhh right.  Awkward.

If you watch Doctor Who chances are you'll see this as a 'classic' Doctor Who moment, a chance for the Doctor to be all 'Doctor-y'.  This usually breaks down into 'frantic wide/wild-eyed spaceman talking completely over the heads of the bemused/confused locals'.  Needless to say, this is one of those moments.

This is also a great time to learn about the specifics of where we are and what's going on.

So what ground needs to be covered?  Time period (though the Doctor may already know this... have to re-research how much he knows about where he ultimately ends up).  Of course the earthquakes and the sand storms will definitely be a topic of conversation, possibly also the 'roaring' sound?  This is a good place to start setting some rules - who went where, how much people have seen, what they know (or don't know).

I was briefly playing around with a sort of 'The Mist' like scenario, where the town priest is a bit off his rocker saying Hell's trying to come through or something like that (using fear to control, etc)... but I've realized that it's just not going to work.  It's getting a bit too dark, and, more importantly, distracting.

The 'picking apart' phase is on-going, of course, but here - taking it from beat sheet to outline - that's the time where I'm the most brutal, asking the hard questions (and kicking myself when I can't find the answers I want).

I've also been considering the setting, wondering if it's entirely too dark even for a Doctor Who story.  I'm not sure if I'm at the 'kill your babies' stage yet with this aspect of the tale, but I'm definitely looking to make sure I'm using the idea for the right reasons.

Anyways, so the Doctor and his companions start to talk to the locals where they:

--> Learn about locale (Discovery) - (Lots of weird disturbances)

Earthquakes/tremors, sandstorms, dust devils -- most importantly: Weird cracks in the ground where there weren't any.  More witty conversation follows until the tremors start up again.  Everyone goes running outside to notice that there are many, many more cracks in the ground and that the TARDIS is in the middle of them.  The ground starts to lurch and then:

---> Earthquake causes Sinkhole - swallows TARDIS.

Our first 'Oh SHIT' moment.  A large hole opens in the Earth and down goes the TARDIS.  Not Good.  If there were Act Outs in this show, this'd probably be the end of Act One.

Now that's a decent start.

More to come on Wednesday!

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, November 25, 2011

Incommunicado

Hey all!

Sorry for going dark there on Wednesday but I've been in full-on 'head-down' mode trying to put the big finish to my Pipeline bible. We're in the home-stretch now and with just one final list of changes keeping me from moving to the next level, well, I've been pushing to get this thing done.

Fingers crossed, I'm planning on having the whole she-bang done tonight.

It's pretty exciting to see one of your projects about to cross over into a whole new phase, especially as I sit here typing away, polishing the prose, striving to add those final flourishes. Flourishes that are, hopefully, of the 'making-it-stronger' variety.

So, while this week's been a bit of a dud for continuing the Outline, with any luck, I'll have positive news to share soon.

I may even have a little bit to share on Pitching (depending on how this Pipeline Pitch Bible is received).

Anyways, I'm off for now but there will be more to come on Monday.

Back to the action!

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, November 21, 2011

Outline Part 2

Hey all!

So when last we left our heroes they'd ventured outside of the TARDIS towards some sort of glimmering object on the horizon. This object turned out to be a bit of a problem due to the time period.

In the last post we had tackled the:

-> Doctor Who Arrives

part of the equation and here, now, we're onto trying to figure out this little plot point:

--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm

For now, in the interest of keeping things moving, the 'glimmering thing' ends up being the roof of a grain silo on the outskirts of a withered farming community. In fact, they can see people milling about. More interesting!

As they start to walk towards the little make-shift hamlet the people take notice then turn and run away. The Doctor is confused by this until they notice the sound -- the sound of rushing wind. They turn and notice the dust storm speeding towards them. (Thus keeping them from going back to the TARDIS).

The Doctor and his companions start to run, trying to outrun the storm but are caught in it, blown along as the ground starts to rumble beneath them as they:

---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)
Amongst the fury and utter chaos of the storm a muffled ROAR can be heard, as if something underfoot is bashing and clawing and crying out. Still, fighting to breathe/not die in the dust storm the group bee-lines it toward the first closest house - a barely-standing wooden shack where they burst through the front door and:

--> Hide in a Hovel

Slamming the door shut, they lean against the door, spitting out mouthfuls of sand, shaking it out of their hair. A short, hushed 'gasp' causes them to spin, revealing a scarily thin family dressed in little more than rags. They stare at the well-dressed, well-fed Doctor and his companions with wide-eyed shock/awe. Here we:

-> Meet Locals (aaawkward)

And there we are, my first major beats turned into the framework for an outline. This is nowhere NEAR done yet (much of it is still a bit to cliche for me yet, but at stage one it's a fine place-holder) but, as you can see: Progress.

Now we're getting somewhere.

Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, November 18, 2011

Outlines

So, once you've managed to get yourself into a state where your beat sheet looks like it makes sense, like it'll hold together as a story, that's when you can start to take things to the next level:

Start building a story.

Now, when you're sent off to put together a proper outline, it's something that tends to take a few weeks.  From my experience, most of that time is a bit like playing Tetris with your story, finding the right way to fit the right pieces into the right order so that the larger story you want to tell, well, is actually the best possible version of your story.

Usually the first thing I'll do is go into my beat sheet and, simply, expand each point from one sentence into a paragraph.  At this point there's really nothing complicated about what I'm doing, it's all a matter of figuring out the best way to approach this story, looking for ideas or concepts that I may have missed when I was looking at it from the angle of a 'beat sheet'.

So, for example:

-> Doctor Who Arrives

What would I do with that?

Well, one option would be to take it to something like this:

The Doctor decides to take his companions on a trip.  Some place warm, relaxing.  He envisions wandering with them amongst the prismatic markets of the Gamma Nectaris cluster or floating on the prismatic seas of the cloudkin race.  He sets the destination, practically crackling with anticipation. As the TARDIS arrives, he proudly throws open the doors to reveal: flat, barren land as far as the eye can see.  Dust devils swirling in the distance.

Great! Progress, right?  But in adding all this extra detail, now I've gone and given myself my first significant story problem:  The Doctor hasn't arrived where he intended - why doesn't he just shut the doors and try again?

Especially problematic when my next point is:

--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm

So, not only do I need to find a way to get them to stay, I need to find a way to get the Doctor and his companions outside of the TARDIS - and far enough away from it - so that I can get them trapped in a dust storm.

And now you see how quickly this simple task can get very complicated.  Every new addition creates a ripple, or a new idea, or an offshoot of an existing idea -- or a game-changing concept.

The simplest way to get them out of the TARDIS is to say, quite simply, that the TARDIS refuses to budge.

Of course this is also, by far, the weakest approach.  It's also known as the 'Because I Say So!' approach.  Not a very convincing way to start a story.

So, now, I can choose one of two other options: Redefine how I start the story -- make it so that this is EXACTLY where they wanted to end up (doubtful) or give them something worth investigating.  If there's one thing we know about the Doctor it's that he loves to investigate, right?  So, there's a start -- at least for now.  It could be this simple but later on, farther into our story, we find a more plausible, more interesting reason to get them out of the TARDIS.  That's great when and if that happens, but for now, let's give them something 'shiny' off in the distance.

Okay, so let's add:

... as the TARDIS arrives, he proudly throws open the doors to reveal: flat, barren land as far as the eye can see.  Dust devils swirling in the distance.  The Doctor realizes that this is obviously NOT the right place, is about to close the doors and head off again except for that shiny thing.  The small shiny thing just on the horizon.  The small, oddly-shaped shiny thing just on the horizon that one could just quickly check out and then be on their way.

And so they're off.

Is it 'better' than "Because I Said So"?  Marginally.  Is it the best possible start?  Probably not.

That said, I probably won't know the absolutely best possible start until I get to the end.

So, for now, good enough.  Off to the horizon they go.

But now I've given myself another problem:  The shiny thing in the distance, in 1936 Dustbowl, depression-era America.  Huh.  Yeah, that could be a doozy.

Or not.

They get off a good distance toward the 'shiny' object to find a... water tower that's in particularly good and shiny repair...?

Okay, maybe not.  But it's a good idea.  Something big enough - and high enough - to be seen from that far away.

What else could it be?

UFO? (unlikely)  A barn roof?  Maybe.

See, this is why it can be so easy to lead oneself down a hole while trying to put an outline together.  Small, simple things like this can be problematic -- even worse once you've got a bunch of them all floating around at once.

That's where I'm going to leave it for now, I'll play around with this a bit on the weekend and have some more to say on Monday.

But for now, yeah, outlines... not always fun.

Cheers,
Brandon

Thursday, November 17, 2011

News From Progress-Land

So, yeah, I meant to update yesterday but by the time I got my crap together Wednesday was pretty much a write-off.

On the bright side, I spent last night hanging out with Mr. Chris Sheasgreen (of 'Less Than Kind' fame) going over the pre-final version of my pitch-bible for Pipeline.

To say that it's come together nicely is a freaking understatement -- to look at it from where it started and then see what I've got before me now, it's just night and day.  Better yet, after I implement this latest set of notes we're both in agreement that we're pretty much 'there'.  

After this draft, we've decided to start showing it around; start getting some feedback... and, then, hopefully, begin the process of figuring out how to pitch this baby all proper-like.

There's definitely a few months worth of work left on it (including learning to pitch, etc) but I'm starting to be able to see the end point for this section of the journey.

Can't wait to see where this ends up.

Tomorrow we start to talk about Outlines!  Mmm... oooouuutliiines!

Cheers,
Brandon




Monday, November 14, 2011

Hey there

Okay, so this last weekend (Fri-Sat-Sun) essentially saw me demoted to pack mule at the Toronto Women's Show and the Toronto Baby Show.

My wife managed to get tickets to both of the shows (they were both at the Toronto Metro Center) and then discovered that both were letting you come back the next day for free.

Now, I'm happy to use my tremendous strength for the forces of good and all... but holy crap are my dogs barking.

On the bright side, she's incredibly happy with some of the deals she managed to get, so, yeah, who am I to argue? (Incidentally, I broke out my pedometer and found out that I walked a good 18,000+ steps combined over those 3 days on the show floor).

Of course, that means I've made zero progress on writing for the last 3-4 days.

Yay!

Hopefully this Wednesday I'll have something far more thrilling to update you all with but for now I don't have a whole lot on tap.

That said, here's a bit of TV-related news that I heard in my travels:

Apparently Russel Tovey - George on the BBC series Being Human - has decided to move on after Series 4. This is sad news for me as he was my favourite character on the show, but Toby Whithouse has been rocking some fantastic scripts as of late (he wrote 'The God Complex' episode of the recent series of Doctor Who), and Series Four is already in the can... so hopefully he gives us someone new to root for before George lopes off to the sunset/takes a dirt nap.

Also: Apparently NBC's 'Community' has been bumped from the schedule (not cancelled, though, as far as I can tell).  I'm only just starting to get into the show after many, many people (James) nudged me in that direction (Cameron).  Hopefully the show will find its way back onto the airwaves soon.

Ugh.  Tomorrow's gotta be a better day, right?

Until then,
Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Filling Plot Holes

So, when we last met, this is where we left off -- a rough 1st draft of an A Plot for my Doctor Who spec.

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)
--> Hide in Hovel
-> Meet Locals (aaawkward)
--> Learn about locale (Discovery) - (Lots of weird disturbances)
---> Earthquake causes Sinkhole - swallows TARDIS.
--> Investigate
-> Doctor/Companions/Locals Descend into Sinkhole
--> TARDIS is gone, dragged away??
---> Enter into underground cavern - lots of huge reptilian eggs.
--> Locals start collecting them (to eat)
-> See the TARDIS
--> Locals run away
---> Large CLAW on top of the TARDIS - HUGE DRAGON bears down on them
--> Run!
-> Discover remnants of ancient tech - a giant cryogenic prison cell
--> Doctor figures out who/what it is
---> Doctor Who Faces Down the Dragon.
--> Recapture Dragon (thanks to brilliant last minute improvised plan)
-> Doctor Who Leaves

Of course, with any first draft, there's always things that're bound to be changed, or tossed. Most often that's because once you get to the end of your first draft, there's a good chance that what's going on at the beginning no longer fits.

And that's where the filling in of plot holes begins.

So, right off the top: The Doctor and crew are above ground, caught in a sandstorm and they 'Hear A Dragon Roar'.

Very cool effect, great idea for a 'moment'... but if they can hear a dragon roar in the midst of a raging sand storm -- especially when said Dragon is later revealed to have been trapped underground, well... yeah. That's a problem.

So, there's two ways to tackle this -- one infinitely stronger than the other, but also often much harder to implement.

The first trick - and the weakest solution - is the 'hand wave'. Toss a bit of technobabble, explain it away as quickly as possible, then bolt for the exit and hope no one notices.

If I were going for a 'hand wave' moment, I would probably play something like the 'Psychic/Telepathic' card. Oh, what was that? Yeah, that roar you heard? That was only in your head. It was a Psychic roar. Oooh! (Of course I'd probably add the word 'Primal' in there too, make it a bit more sexy).

A Primal Psychic Roar!

Of course 'hand-wave' moments in and of themselves often tend create the opportunity for (exponentially) more plot-holes down the line. You see, now our enemy is a 'Psychic' Dragon. Which means now you have to set what the limits of those powers are. What it can and can't do. Who it can effect, how it would effect them. Is the Doctor immune? How does he react? (You see what I mean?)

It's all nice and fun and incredibly distracting -- believe me, I'd end up following this rabbit hole until I'd written a 40-page treatise on the politics of ancient Psychic Dragon culture -- but, ultimately, it's not all that helpful in the long term. (Tho' if you're looking to write an Eragon fanfic...)

The second trick - and the harder of the two - is what I call the 'plausible compromise'. Where you take your moment, boil it down to its seed, find the essence of what you were really trying to do and then rewrite the scene to make it make sense.

Logically, I can't have a Dragon Roar because, well, the Dragon's not topside. I could make the Dragon topside, but then that would change the entire course of my story. Which, at this stage, is still an option (if I feel it's the stronger choice).

Another solution could end up being as simple as where they're positioned. If they're caught in the sandstorm while standing on the spot that eventually gives way into the sinkhole (that swallows the TARDIS), you could have a moment where they're in a sandstorm, the ground shakes beneath them and you hear a muffled roar. This gives a bit more of a setup for the actual physical event of the sinkhole. It also tells us that there's something underground. Later, with the locals, they can talk about repeated earthquakes.

See, now the sinkhole isn't just a 'sinkhole' it's the place where the Dragon was trying to make its escape from the cavern.

So, for now, that seems like a stronger option to me, so that replaces the earlier point.

---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)

becomes

---> The ground shakes beneath them, they hear a Primal (!) muffled roar from the Earth itself.

You can even keep the note about the Doctor 'sort of' being able to understand what it said. (Though I'm sure this 'understanding' would be more akin to 'what the *bleep*')

Now, yes, I know it seems like a small thing here, that I've just spent a whole lot of text to justify the changing of a few words... but it also allowed for the thought process to get underway, which allowed me to ask some good questions which, in the end, helped me to strengthen my understanding of my own story (and how I want to tell it).

I won't do the rest of the points here, as I'm sure you've got the gist of where I'm going with this. But if you're not doing it, if you've never been a 'beat sheet' kind of person, maybe this is a great time to give it a go for your next tale.

Have some fun with it. Explore.

Anyways, that's all for now -- see you Friday.

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, November 07, 2011

Aaaand Beat Sheet!

So, one thing I just happened to realize: I never went and counted the number of major beats in the various stories of the other episodes. Luckily, since I filled out that spreadsheet all nice and lovely-like, it shouldn't be too much trouble to see what the major beats are.

Of course, since I've not yet re-installed MS Excel on my laptop, that'll have to wait for another night.

Until then, we can still have some fun playing with beat sheets, trying to come up with something that 'feels' right (and then I can compare that number to the actual number of beats in the episode).

When last we left, we had:

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)
--> Seek Shelter
-> Find Hovel
--> Meet Locals (aaaawkward)
---> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.
-> Doctor Who Leaves

Of course, that just won't do. So let's keep going.

Now, one thing that I realized is that 'seek shelter/find hovel' can pretty much be combined into one beat:

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)
--> Hide in Hovel
-> Meet Locals (aaawkward)
--> Learn about locale (Discovery) - (Lots of weird disturbances)
---> Earthquake causes Sinkhole - swallows TARDIS.
--> Investigate
-> Doctor/Companions/Locals Descend into Sinkhole
--> TARDIS is gone, dragged away??
---> Enter into underground cavern - lots of huge reptilian eggs.
--> Locals start collecting them (to eat)
-> See the TARDIS
--> Locals run away
---> Large CLAW on top of the TARDIS - HUGE DRAGON bears down on them
--> Run!
-> Discover remnants of ancient tech - a giant cryogenic prison cell
--> Doctor figures out who/what it is
---> Doctor Who Faces Down the Dragon.
--> Recapture Dragon (thanks to brilliant last minute improvised plan)
-> Doctor Who Leaves

So, here we go - a good start for a run at the fence. There, in all its basic text glory, is ... well, the A PLOT for the episode. It's still a good long ways off from a STORY, but for an idea of 'what happens' in the episode, that's a good start.

Of course, the next step is to tear it apart utterly.

But that's something we can tackle on Wednesday (I already see at least one plot hole that'll need to be filled). Do you see it?

Anyways, more to come!

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Next Thing

Okay, so my mind's not quite working tonight -- been trying to write this post for the last few hours but I think I've had far too much sugar and caffeine today. I'm not sure why, I'm normally not much for caffeine (and I prefer my sugar in 'scotch' format) but nevertheless, my mind seems unable to focus on anything outside of how little I'm able to focus on anything.

Incidentally, on a side note, I found a really neat site that shows a bunch of different beatsheets from a wide assortment of films and TV series. Check out 'Beat Sheet Central' here: http://www.beatsheetcentral.com/.

Monday I'll post a full rough beat sheet for my A story and we'll see how that goes. I've been playing around with a bunch of different concepts so hopefully by then I'll have some sort of amalgam that really grabs me.

In other news, I just reformatted my laptop... and it ended up being a rather profound experience. See, over the last year or so I started putting all this random shit on my laptop and over said last year it started to slow down on me, eventually getting to the point where I couldn't work at all. I'd turn the bloody thing on and it'd just sit there, loading... then loading... then chugging... then loading.

Now this laptop isn't the fastest thing in the world -- a 3rd-hand Portege 2000 with an old Pentium 3 chip and 256 megs of ram. It was certainly never designed to watch Youtube (16 megs of video RAM!)... and yet, as a writing tool, I dunno, it's just fantastic. The screen, the keyboard, everything just melds in this way where I get into this zone. My writing zone.

And over time, with various bad decisions, it got corrupted. By the end, Windows would barely load. Worse, instead of sitting down and making it right, I just said 'crap' and let it lay that way.

And so it laid there for the last few months, just taking up space, collecting dust. My morning writing sessions withered. My weekend writing sessions crumbled.

But last night I pulled this lil' wonder down off the shelf, I'm not entirely sure why... maybe I was curious, maybe I'd just gotten fed up...

I carefully, painfully, copied what I could from the drive onto my USB key (Which took several hours, with several restarts due to overheating) and then I wiped it clean. Full-on clean re-install.

Which took another hour or so.

But when it was all said and done, my little laptop -- this silly old hunk of plastic and silicon -- was back. Not exactly 'zippy'... it'd never been 'zippy'... but I could type in real-time, and that was more than good enough for me.

It's sort of weird how distractions can pile up around us, can pull us in a dozen different directions and ultimately keep us from getting anything done. I sometimes feel frozen like that, like I've got so much I want to do, so much I want to accomplish and so little time to do it in. I end up pushing myself, spreading myself thin, and then wonder why projects are languishing.

Keeping all the balls in the air is tough; keeping yourself from putting them there in the first place... well, that's a good bit tougher.

Sometimes it's good to just hit the reset button, to start fresh and give yourself another chance. To focus on what you really want to be doing.

More to come.

Until then,

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Beat Sheets Are Fun

Oh yes, Beat Sheets... they were the bane of my existence, once.

For a long time I never understood why the hell people bothered to write them -- of course, at the time, I tended to just start writing my script from the ground up and edit it on the fly. Sometimes it'd work out alright, sometimes it wouldn't. Often what would happen is I'd get a first draft done, look at it and then do massive, massive rewrites.

That, hopefully, is what a beat sheet (and Outline) will help you to avoid.

Essentially, a beat sheet is a half-brainstorming, half-organizational tool -- you're slotting in ideas and playing with a progression of beats to get a sense of how you want your story to go.

Think of it like plunking on a xylophone before hitting the piano before hitting the main stage with the full orchestral backing.

This is where you get to play -- get to go 'okay, that's cool, but what if...?!' without getting hemmed-in by your already-existing script.

You're working with a few words or a phrase instead of paragraphs and pages.

Of course, one of the classic writer's problems is sitting there staring at a blank page and going 'uh, okay, where do I begin?'.

Truth be told, everyone finds their own answer to that question; how to get the page to 'open up' for them.

But since we're all here anyway, this's how I tend to approach the problem:

The first thing I do is think of one thing I absolutely want to have happen in my episode. Remember: Broad strokes here. Big events only. These are going to be your nodes, your way-points through the story as you get deeper in and into the finer and finer details.

Okay, first thing that I MUST have in my episode:

-> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.

Where in the story is that? Who knows? Doesn't matter. Not yet. We know it's going to be in there though... so that's a start.

Also, give yourself a start and an ending. If you don't know what exactly that is yet, that's okay, it's just to give you a bit of a way to help limit your scope. Help you focus.

So we add:

--> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Doctor Who Leaves

Which means we now have our first story. It's a shit story right now, but there we go:

--> Doctor Who Arrives
---> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.
--> Doctor Who Leaves

If we were writing a 5 minute short, there you go. You're done. Those are your beats.

We're, of course, going to need to go deeper.

So, how do we do that?

What I do here is one of two things:

1) I think of another event that I REALLY want to have happen in my story or
2) I try to imagine an event immediately preceding or proceeding one of the other events on the tree.

So... what immediately happens after Doctor Who Arrives? Let's get to it:

--> The Doctor and his companions are greeted by the locals
--> They go exploring
--> They are attacked
--> They get lost

Now, let's pause here for a second -- please realize that on their own it's not all that interesting. It's all very bland. That's where you use what you've already decided about your locale, time period, etc to help you spice it up.

Since this is happening in 1930's Iowa, great depression, dustbowl, what location/time specific events can we add?

--> Get caught in a Dust Storm
--> Plague of locusts
--> wander in the 'desert'

Obviously these are a bit more detailed than 'broad strokes' but they help you get into the mental 'mood' of your story and help get the juices flowing for more ideas along those lines.

So, let's try this:

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.
-> Doctor Who Leaves

One other thing you may notice that I try to do, even at this stage, is to create a 'flow' of events.

So, once I start to actually put things in, I'm trying to create for myself a sense of progression and tension. For myself, I do something as simple as this:

->
-->
--->
-->
->

Always trying to be moving in waves, building towards something. Once you get into doing B stories and C stories, once you create several 'waves' and then integrate them, it can make for some really exciting story progression.

Anyways, I digress.

We've got a good event off the top... but is it the best? That'll be your mantra once you're done and working on a second and third and fourth draft.

For now, let's move on.

We're going to need a pre-major event. Something to bring us in deeper to the story, something that will set the tone for the coming Dragon Confrontation.

--> They make a startling discovery

Wow. Crazy hard. This Beat Sheet stuff is nuts, right?

Okay, but what could that 'startling discovery' be? Well, you do need to let the audience know that a dragon actually exists. Maybe your startling discovery involves foreshadowing. Or maybe it involves one of them stepping into dragon poo? (uh, no, I won't be using that).

Or, Maybe:
--> They hear a dragon roar

or

--> They find the charred remains of a local townie named Buster (how's that for specific?)

or

--> They actually come face to face with a full-blown dragon and run for their lives

Just to keep things moving, lets say: Option A (while keeping an eye on Option B for later...)

So now we've got:

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> They Hear A Dragon Roar
---> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.
-> Doctor Who Leaves

So, now they're trapped in a dust storm, blinded by sand and from somewhere, all around them, they hear a Dragon Roar.

Cool.

Now what could be a neat outcome of that?

--> The Doctor Understands the Language.

Hell, the man can understand Baby. Why not? Maybe he 'understands' it in the same way you might 'understand' olde English. Not entirely understanding what it is saying, but knowing enough about the expression to know that it is DAMNED OLD!

Ooooookay.

So now you want them to

--> Find shelter from the storm

Where they end up

--> in a small Hovel

Which is, of course, full of half-starved 1930's-era Iowans. Seeing the Doctor and his companions in their current clothing configuration -- AHA! our first person-on-person conflict!

--> They meet the Locals (aaaawkard)

So now we have:

-> Doctor Who Arrives
--> Get Caught In A Dust Storm
---> They Hear A Dragon Roar (Doctor understands it... sort of...??)
--> Seek Shelter
-> Find Hovel
--> Meet Locals (aaaawkward)
---> Doctor Who Faces Down A Dragon.
-> Doctor Who Leaves

Can you see how the story starts to build? From just a few small points they start to take on a logical life of their own, even at this simple stage.

Like finding a raw, musical hook it just FEELS right.

That's how you know that you're on the right track for the story you want to tell.

And, if you'll notice, we've also created our first full 'wave'. Lull building to high-point to lull. A natural progression and our first 'building block' of our story.

Not too freaking shabby if you ask me.

Anyways, it's getting late and I'm skirting the midnight mark as it is so, I'm going to go off and play with this some more.

That said, I hope I've given you all a small but helpful rundown on Beat Sheets and how they can help you organize your thoughts and your story; help you focus and find the things that are most important to you and the story you want to tell.

Cheers folks and happy writing!
Brandon