Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Anthropic Principle

I've been reading through more of the Wordplay site, and I have to say that a number of the articles are a bit dated -- but often still good advice. There's an article about how to fudge page length -- with an IBM Selectric and a Xerox machine. The writer seems to appreciate the arrival of these word processing programs everyone's so crazy about.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't look it over. Have you been doing your widow hunts? And if you're using final draft you can fudge your page length pretty substantially by going to DOCUMENT -> PAGE LAYOUT -> OPTIONS -> LINE SPACING. Then choose tight or very tight, depending on how chatty your characters are. And of course, get rid of your MORE'S and CONTINUED'S.

One article reminded me of some great lessons on how to work coincidence into your script without it seeming contrived: The Anthropic Principal. Yes, it should be 'principle', but that's how the writer spells it. At some point in your script your protagonist will probably need a lucky break. This article will tell you how. Hint: it's at the worst possible moment, when you're moving your plot forward at full speed.

What's cool about the article is that it takes the issue of coincidence and pushes it forward to something a little deeper. The Anthropic Principal is a response to the incredible set of coincidences required for life to actually exist on earth. If one constant, from the strength of gravity to the speed of light to the relative strength of electrons and protons was even slightly different, life could not have developed. The anthropic principle suggests that it's therefore INEVITABLE that we exist.

Why does this connect to screenwriting? Well, you're creating a universe. The forces need to be balanced -- sometimes in conflict and sometimes working together like a machine. You need to create this balance. It ain't easy. But build your characters correctly and give them enough time, and they'll give you a story.

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