Friday, February 08, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 258 - Make Sure It All MAkes Sense

My writing partner sent me notes on the second draft of our sci-fi collaboration last week. As I mentioned earlier, after doing a read through of it simply to read it and get a feel for how it flows and for the strength of the plot, I had a pretty good feeling about the draft. For the most part, my partner responded in kind. He had three "big" notes, which I've been working on this week. (I say "big" because, though the notes are impactful, they will not alter the plot structure at all.)

His first note was to look at the protagonist's character more closely, particularly within the first act. When we meet the protag, he's pulling into himself, unwilling to let his potential loose because of something that has happened in his past. He goes through a pretty transformative arc over the film, but in the beginning, he's not the most likable. That's not the problem; the problem is that, in the beginning, he gives us (the viewer) no real reason to want to get to like him - or to care about him at all for that matter. Therein lies the issue. It is fine to have a nasty protagonist; it is not fine to have one who is so apathetic about life that we are apathetic about him or her. 

The second big note was the most minor of the trio. It involved the antagonist's backstory, and required merely a reversion to the way we set something up in the first draft in order to correct it. Basically, the antagonist has some major scars and disfigurements. I had altered something in the second draft, which wound up negating the impact (but not the necessity) or the origin of those scars. The first draft saw a plausible and plot-driven reason for those scars, so I simply reworked his backstory to achieve that again.

Lastly, and most involved, came my partner's thoughts on the third act. Act Three, in particular the climax, is the pivotal moment of the film in which all gets resolved (or not) and the good guy wins (or not), forever beating his antagonist (or not). The stakes and competing objectives must be crystal clear at that time, so that the audience knows what a victory or loss could mean for the protagonist. Though my writing partner and I understand the stakes, he rightly pointed out that the way it's written now might not make it readily graspable for the audience. This week, correcting act three has been my biggest challenge, one I am not quite done with yet but see the obvious need for adjusting.

When the above three notes are all addressed, I plan to go through the script and re-read it from page one to make sure that everything has been integrated properly and coherently. At that point, I'll also go through and look for any streamlining I can do, particularly as far as the dialogue is concerned. My partner said he had some line notes and rejiggering of dialogue, but he wanted to wait until I had gone through the major points before giving those to me. Ideally, I'll be able to nip some in the bud and make his minute notes moot points. Either way, it feels great to continue streamlining, cutting, and making this the best possible script I can before we send it out to our managers and friends for fresh eyes and then, gulp, to buyers.