Thursday, August 07, 2008

Weakness Sighted, Commence Destruction

The other day the League had what was probably our most loaded meeting yet. Aside from blog business, we had notes to share on three feature length scripts and one outline. My feel good sports movie was the last order of the night, but apparently it didn’t make my peers feel as good as I had hoped it would. Not that the script got trashed. I think I executed several elements very well, but our meetings tend to focus on what’s not working rather than what is working. In the end that’s the more important route, but a few notes on a what was done right could have lessened the blow of seeing my house of cards topple.

It really is so important to have trusted eyes to put on your work. I think it’s impossible for any writer, no matter how good, to be able to distance his/herself from a script and be able to see all the little or big kinks. You get so absorbed, having the world of your script shrink so tightly around you that your perspective on the greater potential of individual lines, scenes, and acts becomes diminished. You need that person or persons to be able to pull you away from your work to show you what you might not be seeing.

What I ended up seeing was a problem with my protagonist’s motivation. There were other issues, but the rewrite starts with my protagonist, and it wasn’t until earlier today that I realized that most of my rewrites tend to start with issues around my protagonist. At some point during my time at NYU I was asked to consider my weaknesses as a writer. I didn’t devote much thought to it, and I can’t tell you why exactly. I was probably a little naive and didn’t really like the idea of dwelling on my...weaknesses. What a disgusting word. I can however recall several conversations discussing strengths, something much more fun to talk about. But I wonder how many of us in the League have truly sat back and thought long and hard about what our weaknesses might be as writers.

The thought that writing a strong protagonist might be my weakness is terrifying, especially seeing that those guys and gals tend to be pretty damn important in a script. One of my earlier scripts was a secret society drama/thriller. I wrote a few drafts of that script before deeming it unfunctional due to a protagonist that wasn’t making any decisions to drive the story forward. Flash forward, I learn more, become a better writer, and I write a historical romantic dramedy. This would be the first script I ended up executing very well, but in the early drafts my biggest problem was that my protagonist had two central story purposes that were competing with one another and pulling the script in two different directions while trying to move forward. I imagine it to be the script version of siamese twins. Flash forward again, learned more, better writer, wrote a western horror/action. My main problem was that the protagonist is too small when compared to the awesome colorful characters around him. The trend continues in a couple other scripts, so I’m left to conclude that in my early writing career my primary weakness is writing a clean, strong protagonist. Every writer struggles with this to a degree, but it has been the focus of my script notes too many times for me not to consider it the area that I need to strengthen most.

I really was surprised when thinking of how little deep thought I had put into my weaknesses as a writer. If they haven’t done so already, I invite the League to do the same and perhaps share a few words about it. As Lokor would say, write on.


Zombie said...

Interesting topic. I'll think about this for a while and then post about it.

DOA said...

It is painful to talk about one's weakness.... But a good pain, like, running. Or...something like that.

Actually, the chat with you about my reoccurring structure problem was really helpful. I'm going to try my hardest to keep my next draft by the books (especially with pacing). Thanks for the (good) stab between in the ribs.