I rewrote a scene three times yesterday, before I got it right. Each time I started it, I knew a page and a half in it was just plain boring. There were interesting things discussed, but it was pedestrian after the kind of action and reaction I’d had up ’til that point. Then I started about five seconds before the real action, and I had it right.
The very next day, I read the opening lecture of an online workshop I’m taking by (the fabulous) Jordan Dane, and she spoke about the screenplay principle of Enter Late, Leave Early (or ELLE). Ah ha! Yes, I’d figured it out myself, but how many times had I reinvented the wheel? Too many, I’m sure. Knowing why it wasn’t working for me, even though it was an instinctive thing, must help me in the future. Next time a scene isn’t working, I’m going to ask myself, are you starting late enough?
I was interested enough in the ELLE concept to google it, and I see it goes by Arrive Late, Leave Early as well. Not quite as nice for an acronym as Jordan Dane’s way of putting it, but the same concept. It is the way they film Law & Order, and why I love the show. Things move so fast, they pack far more into an episode. You can find articles on the concept here and here.
What about you? Do you arrive late, and leave early in your scenes, and do you also have that doh! moment when you figured something out instinctively, but then come across the solution written elegantly and concisely, and wonder why you didn’t think of it before?