In the beginning of “Crafting Short Screenplays the Connect” by Claudia Hunter Johnson there is an exercise the writer refers to as “Le Menu”.
Write five to ten answers to:
- What I love
- What I hate
- What I fear
- What I believe
- What I value
- What I want
- What I know about
- People who made a difference in my life
- Discoveries that made a difference in my life
- Decisions that made a difference in my life
She phrases her playwriting teacher Sam Smiley:
“In order to create art works of many worth, each artist must have something to say, some values, some attitudes, some store of experience – a vision”
“That’s what Le Menu is all about – identifying those attitudes, values and experiences that will energize our work as screenwriters, creating a menu of what we know and care deeply about. It’s one of the most important things we can do as screenwriters, because our unique material and vision is the source of unique screenplays.”
She also points out the need to be specific, to find the source of the hate, the value, the belief.
First I thought that it wouldn’t add anything to me, this exercise. I mean, what’s the use in writing “I love my kids”. Of course I do.
But if I try to pinpoint why, why the love for a child is so strong, then maybe I can visualize love between a parent and a child better, not just presume that it is obvious. Maybe I can create stronger emotions than if I don’t.
And when my thought continued along that line, I flipped the coin over: maybe I can pinpoint why some parents are able to leave their kids, or are unable to love them?
Time will tell. Now I’ll go and fill in five to ten answers.