Sluglines

Into the weeds, dear followers –

We are now going through our outline to add sluglines before we dive into actually writing action and dialogue.  This is a technique that I use, and I’m not sure where I pilfered it from, but it’s great!  I would super recommend it.

Basically it turns the outline/treatment, which is large chunks of daunting text, into actual scenes that you can actually write.   Example:

They reach a dirt road.  They hear a roaring coming down it, and a jalopy hurtles around the bend.  Frankie has the foresight to step out of the way, but Gil is almost flattened.  He leaps backward and falls in a puddle.  The jalopy slams on its brakes and a 16 year old boy hops out.  He’s furious, blusters at Gil for not watching where he’s going.  Changes abruptly upon seeing Frankie and realizing she’s a woman.  Becomes bumbling and courtly.  Introduces himself as Ned Pickering and offers them a ride.  They get into the jalopy and he floors it.  As they’re thrown backwards they notice cases of moonshine in the back.  Gil demands if Ned’s a bootlegger just as the sirens become audible behind them.   Ned proudly declares that he and his brothers are the best in the state.  He’s their driver and ain’t never been caught yet.  He’s on his way to New York with a delivery.  Frankie tells him that’s where they just came from before their plane crashed.  Ned’s delighted by this news.

The police are gaining on them.  Gil is furious, but Frankie’s thrilled by the adventure.  Notices that there’s a tommy gun on the dashboard.  Says, “May I?” and begins shooting out the window at the cops.  Gil screams at her to cut it out.  The cops start shooting back.  Gil takes cover among the moonshine jars as bullets smash through the rear windshield.  Frankie shoots out the cops’ tires, and the jalopy pulls safely ahead and disappears around a bend.  The jalopy pulls into a barn to change cars.  Two men begin unloading the crates and Ned makes sure his passengers are alright.

Becomes:

EXT. ROAD – MORNING

They reach a dirt road. They hear a roaring coming down it, and a jalopy hurtles around the bend. Frankie has the foresight to step out of the way, but Gil is almost flattened. He leaps backward and falls in a puddle. The jalopy slams on its brakes and a 16 year old boy hops out. He’s furious, blusters at Gil for not watching where he’s going. Changes abruptly upon seeing Frankie and realizing she’s a woman. Becomes bumbling and courtly. Introduces himself as Ned Pickering and offers them a ride.

INT. JALOPY – MORNING

They get into the jalopy and he floors it. As they’re thrown backwards they notice cases of moonshine in the back. Gil demands if Ned’s a bootlegger just as the sirens become audible behind them. Ned proudly declares that he and his brothers are the best in the state. He’s their driver and ain’t never been caught yet. He’s on his way to New York with a delivery. Frankie tells him that’s where they just came from before their plane crashed. Ned’s delighted by this news.

EXT. JALOPY – CONTINUOUS

The police are gaining on them.

INT. JALOPY – CONTINUOUS

Gil is furious, but Frankie’s thrilled by the adventure. Notices that there’s a tommy gun on the dashboard. Says, “May I?” and begins shooting out the window at the cops. Gil screams at her to cut it out. The cops start shooting back. Gil takes cover among the moonshine jars as bullets smash through the rear windshield. Frankie shoots out the cops’ tires, and

EXT. JALOPY – CONTINUOUS

the jalopy pulls safely ahead and disappears around a bend.

EXT. BARN – DAY

The jalopy pulls into a barn

INT. BARN – DAY

to change cars. Two men begin unloading the crates and Ned makes sure his passengers are alright.

This lets you know where each scene is, and everything that needs to happen before you get to the next scene, without having to jump back and forth between the treatment and the screenplay.  It even lets you know roughly how long each scene is going to end up being, which can help you visualize timing and recognize where you are over-plotted or under-plotted before you even start getting the actual words on the page.  This seems like a minor thing, but I find it seriously cuts down on both writing time and frustration.

Now, we are still in the weeds, writing away, but no more weeds for you!

-A

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