360XQ Day 22: Enter Fountain

 This post has absolutely nothing to do with actual fountains. But here's one I photographed at Stanford, regardless.

This post has absolutely nothing to do with actual fountains. But here's one I photographed at Stanford, regardless.

In my last post, I whined and complained about all the programs I dislike, and all the reasons I can’t find a good way to format my scripts. Now I’d like to talk about some developments that have me feeling hopeful.

Markdown

If you’re not familiar with Markdown, there’s a nice little primer from Lifehacker.

Basically:

  1. You type in a plain text file.
  2. You use simple shortcuts to indicate where you want headers, boldface, italics, etc.
  3. When you publish, those shortcuts are recognized, and everything looks nice and pretty.

Why bother learning this?

For me, there are two main reasons.

First, it’s simple, but not overly simple. I have just enough formatting options to create structure, but not so many that they gets in the way of my writing. Straight-up plain text offers too few options to format a play. A word processor offers too many options, and the formatting doesn’t export well.

My plays can now survive software fatalities.

Second, since the file itself is plain text, this solves the most towering problem of all: proprietary file formats. With Markdown, my files will always be useable and transferable, even if the program I’m currently married to drops dead forever. I can choose one of many other programs, open up my file, and keep writing. My plays can now survive software fatalities.

But…Markdown is not for plays

I’m currently writing this blog post in Markdown. It’s great for online content. The thing is…it’s not set up to write for screen and stage.

Since Markdown is designed for the web, its shortcuts are also designed for the web. It knows how to make section headers and block quotes, it can include links and images with ease.

So why would I choose it for playwriting?

Fountain

It turns out that Markdown is an adaptable language.

The thing to understand is that when you write in Markdown, you’re not actually making your text bold. You’re just putting little notes that mean “make this bold later.”

Then, when you publish to a program that understands those notes, it follows the commands and make things bold.

What if you dramafied the language?

So, what if you just changed the rules? What if you altered the commands to say things like “make this a new scene” or “make this into stage directions”? What if you dramafied the language?

Enter: Fountain.

Fountain is a modified version of Markdown, designed specifically for writing screenplays. It’s the result of a collaboration amongst several smart cats, including screenwriters and developers, and has become a growing open-source project.

When I discovered Fountain, I kind of had the freak-out.

Here, it seems, was finally a way to write and format things in a simple, lightweight manner. Without locking in to one particular program. Without spending hundreds of dollars. Without risking the loss of all my hard work.

Options, options, options

There are many, many programs out there for working in Markdown. For Fountain? As of this moment, there are over 30 programs listed on Fountain’s website that are compatible, and that list will surely continue to grow.

When I discovered Fountain, I kind of had the freak-out.

Stage plays

Fountain is designed for screenplays. What about writing for stage?

Well, I could hope that some savvy, established playwright out there will team up with a developer and make another modified Markdown for stage plays, then take the time to get it out into apps everywhere.

I could do that myself, once I scrape some cash together.

For now? I may have found a work-around.

Next up

The plan for faking it.

UncategorizedChad Eschman