DID YOU EVER DO THIS
You were excited about a trip. You had planned it for weeks. You knew it was going to be perfect, because you had imagined it down to the last detail.
The day comes. Your alarm doesn’t go off. You wake up and dash out and forget your snow goggles, the ones you envisioned wearing at the top of the slope when the glory of the mountain was going to give you the answer to life. You finally get to the airport. The reservation is snafu. You get on the plane late, you get the middle seat, you start your joyous trip wanting to kill the fat man next to you.
Here’s the problem:
It’s not the circumstances, it’s the plan. If you try to fit the square peg of circumstance into the round hole of what you had planned, all you get is frustrated. You have to switch from anticipation to participation.
Here’s what you might find yourself doing today. Trying to make the story what you wanted it to be rather than seeing what it is. Instead, see what you’ve actually got and work from there. That way the whole story will go forward into what’s new rather than backward into what’s old.
Look at your main character. Is he living in anticipation instead of participation? Is he holding to his original plan but not taking any real actions to get going? Does he see what’s really occurring around him, and is he integrating it into his plan?
CONSIDER YOUR LOGLINE
Is what he wanted going to be what he gets? From the random draft you’re beginning to see that there is something more to this story than you originally thought.
Did your logline express a belief that you are changing? If you’ve changed your mind, change the logline. It’s okay. Adjust your logline to keep up with you.
The scene of initial growth that should appear around page 45 is a good clue as to where the story wants to go.
Let’s talk a bit here about how you arrived at your story. When you were first getting ready to write, did you have not one story but three? Did you go with one, then quickly commit to the other, then maybe a third one suddenly took over, and that’s your story now?
Well, don’t worry – they were all the same story. One might have taken place in the seventeenth century, and one might have been about toxic waste, but they were the same story. These seemingly different stories reflect your subconscious at work searching for the best metaphor (among many possible story ideas) to explore your current life issue. Think of a road map with various routes leading to the same destination. You have a choice, but the result is the same. What you write about remains constant, even though how you write about it may change.
Now, as you are reconsidering your logline, remember the other stories and see how they all wanted to tell the same story. Be clear on what that story is.
If one of your stories had a teenage hero and one had a forty-five-year-old hero, the stories could still be the same told from different sides of the same experience. Your subconscious seeks out your story and explores the range of ages in which the problem might be solved. The stories tend to be about where you have come from on a particular issue and where you want to go with it.
For instance, say that you are going through a divorce now at age thirty-eight, and you wonder what went wrong. You might have a story of a nineteen-year-old just getting married and one of a fifty-year-old just widowed.
You might want to explore your uncertainty about marriage in your future: “Should I trust marriage again, or should I try it alone?”
Both stories, the one of the nineteen-year-old and the one of the fifty-year-old, will answer your questions. As a general rule, if you are stuck, consider making the character your age exactly. It will clarify what’s on your mind about the matter. It’s great when a character tells you what you haven’t been able to say.
Q: You might ask, “If the hero is me, why do I know all the other characters better than I know the hero?”
A: Don’t you sometimes know everybody else better than you know yourself? It’s a matter of perspective. It’s easy to see other people’s problems and what they should do.
It’s very different for us to have that kind of clarity about ourselves. All you have to do is be sincere about not hiding. Keep telling the truth.
ANCILLARY CHARACTERS ARE NOT PEOPLE
All the characters are aspects of you. If you have created a triangle, there is one main character. The other two are polar aspects of the main character. Maybe one represents what you view you want to leave. One represents what you want to get. When you view your characters as aspects of the main character, they won’t take control or run you offtrack.
Let the main character take power back from the minor characters. If your hero is waiting on someone else’s whim, now is the time to get him acting rather than reacting.
REREAD DAY 3
Now read your pages 30 through 45.
Do you have all that is needed to get from the page 30 event to the initial growth on page 45?
Do you have a scene where she runs out and slams the door? Do you have a scene where he’s acting in an old way within a new situation? Is your hero reacting to the events that are happening to him? These are all good uses of the end of Act II. Your scene on page 45 symbolically shows growth will tell you a lot. You will begin to see your script take a life of its own (3rd party you).
In fact, page 45 is probably slightly different than what you planned. Do you think you don’t even have that scene of initial growth on page 45? Find the line of dialogue where your character is telling you to catch up. The moment you find it, you take control of your script again.
This is the point where your character and you become two different people who can help each other. You, as author, must now be aware of your character’s every move and every word, of dialogue so that you can decide if the action serves his best interests or not.
Here’s an example: I have a client who’s writing a mystery thriller. The problem with the script is that the detective is too smart. He solves the mystery way before the end of the movie. This happens because the writer identifies with his character and wants him to be all-knowing. You as the writer can be all-knowing, that frees your character to learn as he goes. If he’s smart enough in the beginning to know the end, then there’s no story. So take control of the main character and allow him to learn; pace his discoveries along with the rest of the story.
Page 45 can be your initial growth moment, too. It’s the time you will stop reacting to the script and start making active decisions on its behalf.
I DON’T WANT TO
You might experience resistance today. You want to go out and play.
That’s not unusual. These feelings are all functions of what you’ve accomplished on pages 30 to 45. This is the very point in the script when your character is experiencing all these reactions too.
If you and your character weren’t growing you wouldn’t be so scared. Being scared tells you there’s not only initial growth already accomplished but major change occurring.
Okay. Read your pages 30 to 45 again and see if they convey the feelings you wanted. Read and re-read them until you really see what’s there. Have you shown your character’s denial, refusal, and resistance? And does he finally see old patterns in a new light and change his behaviour? Clarify it. Take out everything that isn’t your movie. Let your hero go forward, kicking and screaming if he must, but always forward.
Great! You’re really on your way. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
©Andrea Nicola Dodgson, 1971.