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Story Evolution

So a rejection yesterday left me with much wailing and gnashing of teeth – largely because I knew full well WHY my supposedly fantastic script had been binned. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? (Though I suppose it’s *marginally* better than NOT knowing why and thinking it’s your best work ever, with knobs on).

It’s the beginning. Not the script as a whole. I’ve had feedback coming out of my ears the last year or so on it; I know the story is generally soiund (though I’m willing to concede a good tweak of one particular story point later on may not go amiss). There is something about how the script begins that people don’t like. It doesn’t state its intent well enough. It’s something I’ve struggled with since the beginning of this story – and I’ve tried many different incarnations, like the twisted woman trying lots of different outfits on so she looks fabulous at the wedding of her ex-boyfriend (anyone ever done that??).

But anyway. For my most recent beginning, my army of feedback people have told me all sorts – one guy “loved” the beginning (?); another told me “it reeked of exposition” (PLUCK OUT HIS EYES!). Another said it was a bit of a cliche (hmmm, fair); another reminded me of my school days: “Alright, but COULD DO BETTER.” What’s weird about this is I don’t normally have an issue with beginnings of scripts. No doubt I sound vain when I say this, but I normally write pretty good beginnings – it’s the middle my scripts usually sag a bit, just like three zillion other writers. Probably because I concentrate so much on hooking the reader in on Act One: guilty as charged, yer honour.

So imagine my surprise then when one of my reading peeps had a suggestion yesterday for my beginning. One that was SO BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS that I was stunned by both its simple brilliance and the fact that I BLATANTLY should have started the script that way in the first place! I mean, WTF?? I even bawled him out for not suggesting it sooner! (Sorry: what can I say?? I have Italian roots, rage is like a second language to me, You are a prince amongst men. MWAH).

But that’s the thing. A good spec needs TIME. You might have all the ingredients for a good story, you might stir it all up and give it a decent seasoning of script coverage, but it needs to EVOLVE. There’s shockers of scripts out there that shouldn’t be doing the rounds – they’re like the fish monsters that have barely crawled out the mud yet, we all know about those. But I’m actually seeing those less and less. I would hazrad your average spec is the monkey – some understanding of the craft, but not ready yet. Most of the time it’s obvious: there will be a consistent, distracting format error; a structural issue; character problems; expositional dialogue. Sometimes all of these, but something sets it apart from the fish.

But even those scripts out there which are no longer walking on four legs does not mean they are the best they can be. sometimes I’ll read a good script and think, “It’s good, but it could be fabulous” and I won’t necessarily know what the ingredient is it needs. Then it becomes trial and error. I reported on a script recently that I LOVED, it was exciting, brilliantly written – but there was an issue with a specific element that I could not put my finger on. I ended up reading five different drafts in the end.

But that’s just it: stories evolve. It doesn’t just take lots of effort to write a really decent spec script, it takes time – more importantly, reflection. Is what I am doing REALLY the best for my story? What if I did it another way? Does that add to my story – or take away from it?

Until you try it, your guess is as good as mine.

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8 thoughts on “Story Evolution”

  1. I intend to follow the six week rule – when you think it’s finished put it in a drawer and six weeks later take it out and cry your eyes out.

  2. ET – eeugh!

    Wyndham – it’s a good rule, though I find it takes me about 9 months and at least 7 drafts before I consider features I write anywhere near “finished”… Then I find something else I want to change! My first spec I’m still writing – 18 drafts and 5 years later! One day…

  3. Oh Lucy, how true! The evolution of a script is a tortuous process. You write, you get get feedback, you go blank, you put it away and then you can rewrite, or that’s how it seems to be with me.

    Commiserations on the rejection BTW.

  4. Evil Twinz – I also type starkers. And as a result, London Transport have banned me from their buses.

    Lucy, a couple of years ago, the BBC produced a pilot script of a sitcom I wrote. (No names, no pack drill – This isn’t my blog) the point being, I had 9 years of this script getting rejected before it was ‘snapped up’ – Hang in there, girl. Your time will come.

  5. Time for sure. I plucked out an earlier version of my current script where it just jumped in fast and zoomed through stuff vs the one I have been slaving away at that nurtures the characters and the story so the zinger hits harder down the road — the killer is I like them both

  6. The secret to avoiding rejection is to never send it out in the first place, obviously.

    I think the trick with getting feedback from the myriad of wise souls out there is to compare and contrast. If several people are saying the same thing on a particular issue then the law of averages says it needs to be addressed. Obviously.

    Never mind, you’ll get there, cause you’re obviously (:D) a tryer. I almost put tyre.


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