The End

++++++Well, this will be the end of my little screenwriting blog, at least for now. I hope it has taught someone out there something about screenwriting. All this research has certainly taught me quite a bit!

++++++This post will mainly be a recap of important links and ideas that I have talked about over the past 5 posts, though I will also cover new material.

++++++I’d like to start with this job profile for a “writer.” Turtle Rock Studios, based out of Southern California, posted the job. They are responsible for such games as “Counter Strike: Source” and “Left 4 Dead.”

++++++Notice key words and phrases in the description: “minimum of 5 years industry or related industry experience as a writer and/or designer,” “previous experience… at least one AAA title,” “able to create compelling dialogue,” etc.

++++++So, what does “AAA title” mean? Basically, any game produced by a major publishing house (EA, Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Rockstar, Activision, Capcom, Konami, etc.) is a AAA (“triple-A”) title. That means you have to get out there and work hard to impress a AAA company enough to hire you, let you make a game for them, and then you can work pretty much anywhere. Getting your foot in the door is the hardest part.

++++++Now, let’s compare that job profile to this one from Activision.

++++++Same basic idea (have experience, AAA title, experience, did we mention AAA title, blah blah blah), except there’s something a little different here. This is a temporary writing job, also known as a “contract” writing job, which we learned about a couple of posts ago. Here, not only do you have to have professional experience, but they only want you for one job, then you’re done. They might call on you again if you’re good, but for now you just have to bang out one good script for them.

++++++Also notice that both of these job profiles mention “experience directing VO and mocap.” Being the voice over and motion capture director as well as the scriptwriter for a project is important. You know how you want the actors to speak and act better than anyone.

++++++A few links before I sign off:

++++++Effective Networking in the Game Industry. This should be helpful when going out and making those ++++++ contacts that could get you a job someday.

++++++Gamasutra. This one is in my blogroll. Gamasutra always has the latest word on what is going on in the ++++++ game industry. The news they post is sometimes interesting to the average reader, but most of their ++++++ articles are only for the hardcore individuals hungry for info dealing with the internal workings of the ++++++ game industry. If you plan on working in the industry someday, then yes, that means you.

++++++Sloperama’s Game Biz FAQs. I’ve mentioned Tom Sloper and his site a few times now, and for good ++++++ reason. Reading his site, heeding his advice, and maintaining a great deal of confidence will get you ++++++ exactly where you want to go in life.

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Decisions, Decisions

++++++There are three kinds of college students: Those who know exactly what they want and how to get there, those who know what they want but don’t know how to get there, and those who have no clue what they want. If you fall under the first category, then congratulations and good luck. If you fall under the third, I’m sorry but I can’t help you. Do some soul-searching. However, if you fall under the second category, then welcome to the club!

++++++Students that fall under the second category often find themselves at a crossroads. A common question for these students is, “What do I major in if my school doesn’t have what I want to do?”

++++++Changing schools is one option, though not all of us have the money to go to an expensive private school. Another option is picking a major at your school that is most closely related to your field. This is probably the most viable option, and according to Tom Sloper, the best option for a prospective writer of video game (and movie) screenplays.

++++++“Get a degree in a subject that you’re passionate about at a college that you choose based on your own personal criteria,” said Sloper.

++++++It doesn’t matter what you major in as long as you have a degree, and it doesn’t matter what college you attend. Going to Vancouver Film School is not going to help you get a job out of college. In fact, it may hinder you: If you get a degree in game design, let’s say, when you get out of college, you’ll be searching for a game design job.

++++++Unfortunately, your narrowness works against you, as there will be a million kids who just graduated with you that are also looking for game design jobs. Meanwhile, you’re working at McDonald’s, trying to pay rent in your roach-infested apartment.

++++++If you graduate from a respectable university with a degree in journalism, however, then you can grab a spot working as a writer for a gaming magazine out of college. It pays your bills, and while you’re busy learning as much as you can about the gaming industry and interviewing professionals, you can be writing those hit screenplays.

++++++It works the same way for movie screenwriting. Get a job out of college with an online movie review group, for example, get paid and write on the side.

++++++Sound too tough? Nobody said it would be easy. Dream goals are usually difficult to achieve, but with the right mindset, you can do almost anything. That may sound cheesy and cliché, but in this case it is true.

++++++If you work hard at your goal, and have patience (probably the most important thing), then you will eventually get there. Don’t give up!

++++++If you haven’t read Tom Sloper’s entire website yet, go do it right now. In addition to the lessons I’ve linked so far, pay special attention to this one.

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Becoming A Professional Screenwriter For Video Games: “Write Like A Fiend”

++++++Screenwriting for games, like screenwriting for movies, is a competitive business. You have to be better than the best to get a permanent position writing for a company.

++++++“Write like a fiend,” said Matt Deller on the Obsidian Entertainment forum.

++++++The single most important thing you can do is write. Not only will that help you become a better writer, but the more you write, the more likely you are to produce something really good.

++++++Keep copies of everything you write, especially the good stuff. Every writer gets this question frequently: “So, what have you written?” When someone asks you this question, you want to be able to hand them one of your pieces almost immediately.

++++++If it’s only 10 pages – that’s okay! You don’t want to give someone a 200-page sample of your work to read in a sitting, anyway.

++++++If you get a job with a game company, you have a full-time position. If you don’t get the job, keep trying! Persistence is the second most important thing for writers to get their work published.

++++++Also, if you don’t get a full-time position, you can still go for a contract position. A contract job is just what it sounds like: You get contracted to write a script for a game, and once you have finished the job, you’re done.

++++++The upside to this is that you will be going around meeting new people all the time, one of which may get you a full-time job someday. The downside is that you only get paid once per contract.

++++++Matt Deller points out that another great way to impress in the gaming industry is to make your own mod. Using a simple toolset such as the “Neverwinter Nights” Aurora toolset, or the Unreal Development Kit, you can write a story for a game… then make a game to go along with it! These toolsets are very easy to learn and do not require a large team of people to make a good mod.

++++++Once you get a full-time position with a game company, here are some things to expect:

++++++-“Hours involved: Typical forty-hour workweek, but can often turn into a sixty- to eighty-hour +++++++workweek during game production.”

++++++-“Work environment: Video game writers work both from home and in the development office. +++++++They spend the majority of their time reading books or working on their computers.”

++++++-“Salary: Starting salary around $60,000; more experienced writers can make $150,000 and up.”

++++++There is still much more information I can give, but I think I’ll save some for the next post. In the meantime, check out Tom Sloper’s website. The advice he gives to aspiring workers in the gaming industry is invaluable, and there is a lot of it.

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Screenwriting For Games

++++++Writing a screenplay for a game is similar to writing a screenplay for a movie or a play, except more complex. The big difference comes with the interactivity of the medium.

++++++For most games, writers must take into account the unpredictable actions of the player, thus requiring more writing than a screenplay for a movie. For example, the writers might intend for the player to get an item from a NPC (non-player character). They could force the player into being able to only get the item from the NPC, and not allow any other actions, but this would be unrealistic and potentially boring. Instead, the writer may allow for multiple actions: The player may take the item, not take the item, or kill the NPC. Then there may be consequences of these actions, and the writer must think of all possibilities.

++++++The extent of these little details that must be accounted for can run game scripts anywhere from 300 to 600 pages long, compared to the typical feature-length movie script of around 120 pages.

++++++Six hundred pages may sound like a lot to write, but most writers wouldn’t do this in one sitting. People who write well can knock out movie scripts fairly quickly, if they put their mind to it. However, a game script requires a considerably larger amount of planning. This is where a flowchart comes in handy.

++++++Using a flowchart, a writer can map out all the different options open to the player, as well as the consequences. This is useful for dialogue as well: You can have a box where a NPC starts a conversation with the player, then boxes branching off with possible responses.

++++++That’s it for this post. Next time, I’ll talk about the steps to becoming a professional screenwriter for games, the difference between a full-time and contract position, and what happens after getting the job.

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Featured Blog: John August

++++++ Just by looking at his IMDb page, I found John August to be worthy of featuring for this post. He is the writer of twelve films, including “Big Fish,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Corpse Bride” (all three of which he collaborated on with Tim Burton as director). He has directed two movies, produced four, and written lyrics for songs on movie soundtracks. Needless to say, John August is an established screenwriter.

++++++His blog doesn’t focus on one thing in particular. However, he often writes posts on tips for aspiring screenwriters. These posts are usually in response to a particular question from one of his readers.

++++++He wrote one such tip on Feb. 9, 2011. A fan wanted to know what formatting should be used when you want to insert a black screen and have dialogue over it, then fade in. August responded by explaining that you don’t have to put anything, but if you want, you can say “a black screen,” or something similar.

++++++August writes numerous other kinds of posts, from news on events regarding his past and current projects (interviews, lectures, etc.) to advice from other professional writers.

++++++He recently blogged about a question sent to his Twitter feed while he was moderating a panel with eleven of the writers nominated for WGA screenwriting awards. A follower said,

++++++“Lawrence Turman suggests asking random people for their opinions of your concept. Any panelists do this or is mums the word?”

++++++August presented the opinions expressed by the panelists, and also gave his own advice, mentioning that Turman is a producer, not a writer, so his motives are different. He noted a specific anecdote by Lisa Cholodenko, writer for The Kids Are All Right. She said she was glad she didn’t talk to too many people about the script, because an “executive [mentioned] that she’d read a couple of scripts with similar storylines over the years,” and Cholodenko was afraid this may have discouraged her.
August has a few modern tools that are worthy of note for any would-be screenwriter:

++++++++++He has a Twitter account. Twitter is a useful means for any
+++++++++++public figure to keep in touch with fans – 140 characters at a time.
+++++++++++ You can also show your human side by telling your followers that
+++++++++++you’re about to head down to 7-11 to buy milk.

++++++++++He has a blog. A blog is another great way to interact with fans of your work
+++++++++++while at the same time giving advice to those who want to do what you do. You
+++++++++++can show your human side here, too, by giving a more detailed description of how
+++++++++++you’re about to head down to 7-11 to buy milk.

++++++++++You can subscribe to him. This goes along with the blog, but being able to
+++++++++++subscribe to an RSS feed is yet another way for people to keep track of all your
+++++++++++“being a public figure” business. If people subscribe to your blog, they will get
+++++++++++every update to your blog you ever make whether they like it or not.

See my blogroll for John August’s blog, or click here.

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Getting Started With Screenwriting

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to my blog on screenwriting! I hope you enjoy the posts, and gain some knowledge in the process.

Today, I am going to begin with the basics of screenwriting (also known as scriptwriting). I will talk about some ideas on how to get started writing scripts.

First, let’s start with how to come up with story ideas. If you plan on being a screenwriter, or already are, chances are you excel at coming up with great fictional stories and characters.

Sometimes, though, your imagination can become clouded with too many inspirations, and it becomes difficult to focus on one idea. In these cases, it is best to just sleep on it, and wait for an idea to come to you that really sticks in your mind.

If you have an idea, don’t wait – start writing NOW. Even just jotting down some notes about the plot/ characters is better than nothing.

Also, I sometimes have trouble starting a story, where I just can’t come up with a beginning to a story to save my life, and I get frustrated. This delays the writing process, and I start to lose my vision of the story. If you suffer from this as well, just stay calm.

Write an intro to the best of your ability, and know that you can fix it later. Besides, you will probably have to revise the piece many times anyway.

Now, let’s discuss the actual writing process. “Griffin,” over at http://www.squidoo.com/scriptwriting, says it is important to first have the right tools before writing a screenplay.

Although people have been writing and typing screenplays for many years from scratch, modern technology makes it a little easier for us, should we choose to use it. For example, there are programs that will automatically format your screenplay for you as you type.

Click the link above for more details, and then check out this video for a nice tutorial on how to use “Movie Magic Screenwriter 6.0,” and this video on how to use the free program, “Celtx.” Also, both of those videos are very helpful in showing the correct format for a screenplay.

The best way to learn anything in life is to just jump in, and that is exactly what you should do. Reading books and magazines on scriptwriting is good, and reading actual scripts is even better, but the best way to improve is to just start WRITING.

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