Friday, May 9, 2008

Breaking Down (and Building Up) Chuck (7)

The great thing about these posts is that, the more of them I write, the more I can copy what was in the last post!

Case in point:

Previous forays into Breaking Down (and Building Up) Chuck are here. The page lists them in reverse order for some reason, so be a rebel - go to the bottom of the page and scroll up.

When last we left our heroes, they were moving toward having a story, but not quite there:

In our A-story, Chuck flashed, saw Awesome doing bad spy stuff in that flash and needed to flash on him again to prove his innocence - and then, inexplicably, his flashes STOPPED WORKING. WTF?

Now with two problems, he tries to figure out what's wrong with him that's stopping his flashes while sneaking around and doing real spy stuff to prove Awesome's innocence - naturally failing miserably at both.

Eventually he realizes that he's been going about things wrong and needs to be himself - he thinks of the bad flashes as a computer issue and solves that problem; and he decides to trust Awesome and simply ask him about the spying stuff (obviously not mentioning spying) and Awesome gives evidence to prove his innocence. Xanadu plays.

In our B-story, Chuck asks Sarah and Casey to give him time to flash and prove Awesome's innocence before they take him in - Sarah agrees; Casey doesn't. Eventually he gives in, but Sarah doesn't quite trust him.

As Chuck spies on Awesome to prove his innocence, Sarah spies on Casey and thwarts his attempts to take Awesome in, seriously pissing Casey off. Ultimately they end up in a knock-down, drag-out fight that keeps them from helping Chuck when he's put in danger.

When they learn about Chuck being in danger, they have to put aside their differences and work together to save him.

Seems a little wobbly, no? More on that later...

Now to the new stuff.

Since last week I focused on the B-story...with, I'd say, less-than-stellar results...this week it's all A-story, baby. I'm going to give you all of the original beats Jul and I came up with for Chuck getting his mojo back (
read: flashes) and proving Awesome's innocence.

What are beats? (
Feel free to skip ahead if you already know...) Beats are extremely simplified one-line descriptions of what happens in your script from moment to moment. To paraphrase our instructor, your beats should help you string your story together one moment at a time. They should be clear and concrete enough to allow you to come back and build on them. They should show you the parts of the story that you don't already know.

What's an example of how beats can force you to answer things you don't know? Okay, say you've got a generic Beginning, Middle and End: someone is murdered; the hero tries to solve it and fails; the hero realizes something that allows him/her to catch the murderer.

Let's just look at the end. We'll skip past the part of realization and pretend our hero is being told where to find the murderer. Your earliest idea for this might simply be, "John Doe gives our hero the murderer's address. Our hero catches the murderer." Seems pretty straightforward, but how exactly does he/she catch the murderer? What steps are taken?

If you write out a beat sheet, these are the kind of holes that will start to become apparent. And oftentimes these little things may seem obvious or stupid to worry about now, but usually it's a lot easier to figure them out now than after you're writing actual scenes.

Anyway, my hope with posting all of this is not that you'll see how great Jul and I are at crafting a story -- I want to show you how things change and evolve. And how, even knowing the steps you should take and trying to be as careful as possible to plan things out, you'll still find holes and make changes.

Are you ready? Do you care? Don't answer. Here you go:



Sarah & Casey chase Russian Super Spy through warehouse.
Chuck waits in the car.
Super Spy escapes; S&C pissed, blame each other.
As Super Spy runs past, Chuck flashes:
Capt. Awesome working w/Super Spy in Russia; Chuck can't believe it.
Chuck tells S&C about the flash, learns Capt. will be taken away and interrogated.
Chuck convinces them not to tell bosses; let him flash, prove Capt's innocence.
Casey lays low while Sarah goes home w/Chuck to help (and protect him).
At dinner, she slyly tests Capt.'s physical spy skills, results inconclusive.
While playing Catch Phrase! Chuck flashes:
But it's a BAD FLASH - images are blurry/static-y and it's painful.
Group expresses concerns, and he shrugs it off, "it's just a headache."
Capt. & Ellie reveal they're leaving on anniversary vacation -- camping -- in 2 days.
Sarah: Capt. can't travel; prove his innocence in two days or they'll take him away.
As Sara leaves, Chuck has another BAD FLASH - pain, static and all that, but no info.
Sarah notices, asks what he saw.
Afraid they'll take Capt. now, Chuck says "the headache came back."
Next day, Chuck sees doctor re: flash problem.
Doc finds nothing physical; Chuck relieved and bummed at same time.
Chuck paces and panics in Buy More break room.
Morgan enters, asks what's up; Chuck realizes he needs help.
Lies to Morgan and says he suspects Capt. of cheating on Ellie.
Morgan will help spy on Capt. to protect Ellie.
In separate cars, Chuck/Morgan spy on Capt., communicate w/walkie-talkies.
Follow Capt. as he leaves the apartment, both lose him in Chinatown.
Chuck/Morgan go to hospital where Capt. & Ellie work.
Use excuse to go through his work locker; find road maps of China.
Chuck: Oh, shit; Morgan: There's nothing here!
Ellie catches them and Morgan bails; Chuck hides maps from her.
Chuck has another BAD FLASH "headache"; Ellie suggests de-stressing exercises.
Chuck goes home and tries de-stressing exercises; they're not helpful.
Sarah interrupts, angry he's not doing anything; reminds him Capt. will be taken away.
Chuck asks if spy has Chinese ties; Yes, she says: French, Chinese, Japanese, everywhere.
Chuck goes through Capt.'s room, searches closet, drawers, etc.
Capt. comes home and Chuck hides, still in room.
Chuck has another BAD FLASH, which reveals his hiding spot to Capt. - awkward.
Chuck covers: big problem, getting headaches from it; Capt.: You'll solve it. Be yourself.
Chuck realizes he's a computer tech, thinks of BAD FLASHES as a computer problem.
Chuck does tech mumbo jumbo research; learns of devices that could jam his flashes.
Rigs machine that will take him to jamming device.
Follows beacon back to original Super Spy warehouse; Chuck hesitates.
Has another BAD FLASH outside; resolves himself and goes inside.
Finds jamming device and shuts it down.
Finally has a good flash: jamming device helps locate Intersect; Chuck: Uh-oh.
A gun cocks by Chuck's head; it's Super Spy, who has his own homing beacon device.
Casey and Sarah arrive, see Chuck w/Super Spy.
Working together, they capture Super Spy and rescue Chuck.
Chuck fesses up re: BAD FLASHES, says he should have trusted them.
Sarah happy he can now flash to prove Capt.'s innocence; Chuck agrees.
At home, to Sarah's dismay/shock, Chuck instead confronts Capt. w/evidence.
Capt. freaks out, asks if Ellie knows.
Ellie appears, asks what's going on.
Capt. explains camping trip was a cover -- romantic trip to
China; Ellie thrilled.
Chuck asks, "Have you ever been to Russia?" Ellie: "He worked for a non-profit there."
Flash: Non-profit was legit business, used to cover Spy's drug trafficking; all is well.

So there you have it; a pretty comprehensive beat sheet for the A-story.

Next week:

Beats! (B-story)

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