Script Frenzy Week 3: Script Frenzy, We have a problem

For me, Script Frenzy really has been a frenzy. I’ve spent almost every free moment on my script. And three weeks in, I now have a completed draft. I spent 20 days creating a script for a musical that has been germinating within me for the past 21 years.

The problem is that after I’ve said everything I wanted to say, the script is only 17,699 words long – short of the 20,000-word goal. I could use up the remaining 2,301 words writing song lists, production notes, and property lists. I certainly have enough characters to use a chunk of those remaining words in a character list. But pad a story to make it reach an artificial target? Sorry, but I just can’t do it.

For starters, a script (whether it is for stage or film) has a limited length. Two hours is a good limit for a feature-length production. Go beyond that, and the audience loses interest. (If you don’t believe me, read the reviews of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie.) My script is currently at 104 pages. If you use the page-a-minute rule, it may sound like it’s well under two hours. But this is a musical. With dance routines, interludes, and set changes, this production can stretch to two and a half hours.

Secondly, I’ve learned that it is better to be compact with language. This is especially true when you expect people to memorize your dialogue. The poor leading lady is in almost every scene and has to memorize hundreds of lines of dialogue plus music. And the lead is a teenager! If anything, I find that I will need to cut text if this goes into production.

Finally, I feel that it is best the end a story when it ends. Stories have a logic of their own that defies artificial constraints. Sometimes, stories can get beyond a writer’s control. I was able to write this story quickly because it came together almost on its own. Characters went in unexpected directions. I wound up writing a story that was different in a number of ways from the one I originally conceived.

So, should I focus on finishing my story or finish 20,000 words? Advice?