screenwriting – the mathematical approach!

Here’s a link to an interesting article from The Guardian. Some boffins try to apply a scientific \ mathematical approach to script analysis. Interesting how they quite successfully boil down the plot of a CSI episode to 30 keywords(!) and allow writers to identify sub-conscious themes in their work.

It also reminded me of how I started to think about ‘Waking The Dead’ stories in a similar way as mathematical equations that needed solving! So – you have your cold case story (from the past), which is one story-line that runs through the 2 x 1 hours.
But you also need a story-line in the present (so it’s not all just retrospective backstory) – classically, another series of murders committed by the killer from the past to evade discovery.
So you have two parallel storylines that ultimately connect; and into this mix you have to throw other elements, for example: –
flashbacks (an essential characteristic of the show), and how you ‘motivate’ these flashbacks;
the issue of making sure your WTD heroes drive the story, while also creating compelling guest characters;
giving each of the regular investigator characters an investigative story strand that uses their particular specialist expertise;
and providing your protagonist – Boyd – with an antagonist who’s a match for him, the default end sequence being a long interview sequence between protagonist and antagonist punctuated by revelatory flashbacks.
Not forgetting your big turning point \ twist at the end of Hour 1 to hook audiences for Hour 2 the following evening!

Thinking about all this, it would probably would have been a good idea to give writers a chart that looked like a scientific diagram to illustrate it!

Philip Shelley
Jan 20th 2010