Well, that’s that for another year… Anyone as fat as me? I reckon I is way larger than I used to be, innit. I’d go to the gym but it’ll be full of beautiful buff people posing in the windows in their super deluxe well-expensive got-for-Christmas sweats. Yikes. No thanks. Guess it’s some kind of diet involving cottage cheese (yuk) followed by 100 sit-ups a night for the next three months (double yuk).
So if you have a script that needs reading, by all means – I’m here from now on in. Here’s all the various details, blah blah blah.
In other news, Potdoll tagged me with this:
When it comes to writing, what do you know you’re good at, and what aspect of writing are you worst at? (Procrastination is not permitted as either part of the answer.)
In terms of what I’m good at, the most obvious has to be structure. It’s what I’m obsessed with, it’s what I think about the most and 9 times out of 10, it *usually* gets the thumbs up from people giving me feedback. I never knew what structure was until I really got into script reading, but I recall even as a child instinctively knowing or feeling when a story was slowing down or when it felt “flabby”. Similarly, even now I can sense when a scene is in the “wrong place” – just because it is: it might *work* there, but could it be better *here*?
Like Potdoll, I’m told too I’m good at dialogue, though often the majority will tell me my lines are funny. This has been particularly illuminating to me over the last five years, because I am not a funny person. In fact, as my many siblings will no doubt be at great pains to tell you, I am the least funny person they know. However, if I was asked to sum up my dialogue (in a polished draft, mind), I would say whilst it’s not “cool” like Joss Whedon’s or devastatingly insightful like Alan Bennet’s, it does have its own distinct flavour and characters (usually) have their own voices, neglecting to speak completely on the nose.
In terms of weaknesses, the first has to be premise. I seem to have a staggering ability to pick premises that are out of fashion or irrelevant to the people I send them to. I can’t count the number of conversations that have gone something *like* this:
DIRECTOR: So I read your script.
ME: What did you think?
DIRECTOR: Like your craft. A lot.
ME: Thanks. But what did you think of the story?
DIRECTOR: Yeah, not really for me. What else have you got?
Perhaps this happens to everyone and I’ve just had a bad run of it. Hell, perhaps one day I’ll be the most fashionable writer in the universe ‘cos I’ve stored up a plethora of so-far unsaleable scripts? (Yeah right, but a girl can dream). And I can’t really complain; the craft aspect has had ME interest, if not the actual spec, so I don’t know if it really qualifies as “weakness” per se, it’s just infuriating. However, I think I’m getting there in terms of finding a solution: in the last year I’ve learned to temper my just-dive-in spec writing by creating one page pitch docs first – and sending them to contacts, to see if they bite. If no one does, I don’t waste my time writing an entire draft. There is such a thing as writing too many specs – it can get in the way of hustling if nothing else!
So the other thing I struggle with and have to work hard on, somewhat predictably (and like many scribes), is character. Characters and plot go hand in hand as far as I’m concerned but at some point my ability to deal with plot overtook my ability to deal with character. Because I love my characters, I want my readers to love them as much as I do. How can I make them FEEL the character’s journey, then? Well that’s the $64,000 question, especially when FEELING a character (oo er) means different things to different people. I’ve been told by readers they haven’t “felt” my characters – but equally, I’ve been told my characters resonate. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Is it even a question of that?!
Back in the mists of time, I was part of a writer’s circle and an argument on this pretty much sums up this problem for me (I was neither the writer of the script being discussed, or one of the writers arguing by the way):
WRITER 1: The problem with this script is I can’t relate to the main character.
WRITER 2: Are you serious? The lead is fantastic. Everything he does is paid off.
WRITER 1: But paying off stuff doesn’t lead to dramatic satisfaction.
WRITER 2: You cross the t’s and dot the i’s and that’s not satisfying???
WRITER 1: It’s not just about what they DO. It’s what they ARE.
WRITER 2: Characters ARE what they DO, that’s the point!!!
What’s so illuminating and so confusing about this argument that really, both writers are right. Characters might be understood by their actions as Writer 2 points out, but also the emotional truth of that character’s inner self NEEDS to resonate too. But how in the name of bloody hell do you do that?
I have one script in which the characters were singled out for particular praise. Ironically, the lead is a serial killer, something I obviously have no experience of – when a character that’s giving me particular pains at the moment (in terms of a rewrite, of a VERY old script) is a young mother, something I have a lot of experience of. Am I too close to her, in a way I could view the other character from afar, like an architect? It’s an interesting theory. Perhaps I need to introduce more elements far removed from myself to get clarity on this. Perhaps there is such a thing as being unable to see the woods for the trees when it comes to writing character – and we have to take a step backwards to really appreciate WHY we want to tell that particular character’s story in the first place.