I am beginning to think I’ve taken my comfort zone for granted all these years. In fact, I know I have and this challenge is proving to be just that.
My comfort zone is well and truly rooted in plays and short stories, even though it wasn’t always the case. When I first started writing, I had some epic story ideas that could span for book after book after book, whereas now I find my stories have become shorter and to the point. Since I’ve published two novellas and am editing the third one, it certainly seems to be a medium I feel at home with.
My plays often veer into the realm of sketches or one-acts and rarely go on beyond a dozen pages. I am part of a writing group that every month writes a 10-minute-play to a set theme and I always enjoy it immensely. If I’m honest with myself, I’d probably be happy to write sketches and short stories for the rest of my life and leave the epic quartet, quintet or sextet to someone else.
There’s something about the word ‘screenplay’ that makes me think of a two-hour cinema blockbuster, so I've been wrestling in this challenging challenge to adapt my ideas into something I can comfortably handle in the time given.
My biggest hurdle has been to stop thinking in terms of Lord of the Rings and more in terms of adverts, music videos or animated shorts. Once I weaned myself away from starting on some tale of derring-do which spans generations and continents, has a cast list of millions, and a budget to rival Harry Potter, I began to have a little more fun with it.
My favourite aspect of TLC has always been the lack of pressure they put on their Challengees. I’m sure you’re like me and put certain pressures on yourself, and if you’re on the Timed Route then you have the obvious submission deadline, but apart from that, the world is your oyster. Make it new, make it a screenplay and make it complete and you’re good to go.
So while I wouldn’t refer to screenwriting as my new ‘comfort’ zone, I could happily call it my ‘achievement’ zone. I'm writing something new each day and enjoying the interesting places the briefs lead me to. Having the freedom to write for the screen means that ideas I might discount for a stage play can finally have their moment in the sun. Most of what I write is heavy on description and light on dialogue but when I run it through in my head it works and I can press the submit button with a feeling of… well, achievement.
Perhaps some of these screenplays will come back to life in the future as short stories or plays, who knows? The good thing is that they have come into being and taken me just far enough out of my comfort zone to experiment, have some fun and ensure I never take it for granted again, which can’t be a bad thing.