Back Stories and Sub-plots

A first draft of the screenplay for The Raven On The Jetty simply poured out of me and it now exists! I don’t know how. I think, in part this is because I spent a lot of time prior to starting the script reflecting on the theme, visualising moments and actions and then planning out the story scene by scene. But I also think that this story has been lingering for a while and has been dying to get out…

A copy of the screenplay for The Raven On The Jetty

The actual writing of the screenplay then became a lot more about the detailed flow of the narrative. It helped a lot that I was able to work with some clear locations in mind.

There are no sub-plots, no scenes designed to give a back story and no expositions. All that matters is the experience of the present. However, I have tried to sprinkle the present with echoes of the past and anticipations of the future. Clearly, the past is important in this story – in any story, I suppose – as the parent’s split is an important aspect of the premise, but I have not created any scenes specifically to tell us about what happened, how it happened and why. Yet, in the immediacy of the present actions, there are clear indicators and echoes of a past imbedded in the natural flow of the contemporaneous events. Likewise with the future. The future is important, but no one refers to it directly; the uncertainty, the dilemmas to come, are all floating ambiguously in the air as a natural consequence of the simple actions of my characters.

Likewise, sub-plots do not exist. The perspective of the story is clear; we are always with the boy, Thomas, and never experience any aspects of the story without his presence. Whatever we need to understand about the past, or sense about the future, comes as a consequence of witnessing events that Thomas is directly part of or is witnessing.

Consequently, this is much more of what I would call an experiential narrative rather than an expositional one. The focus of all of the scenes is to engage us in the present as experienced by Thomas, the main character. I am as interested in lingering on his face, or the spaces he once occupied, or his relationship to the natural environment as I am interested in the cause and effect of the narrative. I am not interested in the cause and effect that can be explained psychologically, but in the subtle movement of states of mind and a spiritual awakening. I am more interested in creating a mysterious feeling than an explicable understanding. Nevertheless, this story is clearly one of my most straightforward narratives, in the sense that there is a narrative tension, a sense of peril and an emerging crisis. Like most of the work I admire, I’m hoping to keep it very simple and direct and for any ambiguities to be as a consequence of this simplicity and directness.

Next, I am showing the screenplay to a few trusted creative and professional friends, who will give me some feedback that will help shape the next draft.