Saturday, December 15, 2007

You shall not pass

I'm at an impasse in my zombie script. I have a situation where a character wants to go off alone and sacrifice himself for his family but his family won't let him. The stuff he has to do involves turning some dials in a control room except the electricity is out so his wife has to turn on the generator in another room. But then the dials don't work so he volunteers to do something dangerous to save the family.

Or does he? I can't freaking make up my mind. Does he try to turn the dials by himself and then she shows up to turn on the generator? Or does she go with him in the beginning and then he tries to go his way alone after the first thing doesn't work?

I'm so confused!

I keep going back and forth, deleting and rewriting and rethinking and revising and I end up each day exactly where I began.

In all my writing I've never had this problem before. I either know exactly where I'm headed or I realize that my script sucks and stop for good. But this script doesn't suck. I just can't make up my mind about what my character needs to do.

I guess my problem is that his arc is his need to be a man and protect his family. His wife kind of wears the pants, and he loves her but at the moment he feels like he has no control anymore. So he needs to go off alone and save the day and feel like a man.

But she's not ready for that yet. She understands his need but is still pissed at him for something he did earlier so she doesn't care that he wants to be all manly, she's not going to let him be stupid. She cares about him but she's not sure she wants to be with him anymore.

In the meantime they all need to learn that they need each other.

And the son needs to save the day because nobody ever lets him fight and he's finally getting his opportunity.

So I've got all these balls in the air and I don't know how to juggle them. And I'm a sequential writer. I need to know what just happened to keep writing so I don't feel comfortable skipping ahead and coming back. Thus, impasse.

Maybe I should just make a damn decision and write it one way. I can always come back and change it.

Okay, I'll do that. Thanks for the advice.


  1. fkyEmily, do you write on the fly with no outline or index cards to fall back on? Sure sounds like it.

    I highly advice you outline AND index card out your WHOLE STORY out BEFORE ever writing a single word in whatever screenwriting software package you use. Even if you want to venture off your outline/index cards they provide you with a good fall back.

    Like your thought process however on your character arcs. You've got a GREAT MIND, which would be made even better with the use of a propeller beanie cap. If you don't own one of those, you should. Just putting one on and spinnig the propeller gives one the feeling that ideas are being generated from that which dwells beneath it, and that's a good thing!

    Don't be afraid to be a spaz from time-to-time. There, I've empowered you!

    - E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

  2. I do index card, actually. When I first started out I index carded to death. The more experience I get the less I rely on them. Now I just write up the major plot points and leave room for some originality along the way.

    But this isn't about plot points. I know what my characters need to do and I know where they're going. The problem I'm having is more about balancing character arcs.

  3. Just write it.

    This is where I was on my witness relocation rewrite - I had this huge important scene that had never been in the script before and I was just agonizing over it because it was so important...

    And not writing it.

    So I decided to just write teh damned thing and rewrite it later... and it came out great. All of the decisions I made in the scene - seemingly at random - actually built to a much better scene than I imagined.

    And, remember - the problem is the solution. So if your guy goes out and you think it's too soon for that, maybe that makes the scenes that follow more interesting. Maybe he's done this macho-man thing and his wife doesn't habd over the pants... and that causes more conflict between them?

    Or, if you go the other way, maybe he thinks he's ready for the pants, so when she does it he's pissed off.

    If things don't go exactly as planed and things get messy - that's a *good* thing. You may have to think more and create more, but that's okay.

    - Bill

  4. Thanks. I'm going to try shutting down my editor. Let's see how that goes.

  5. Whenever I have that problem...I usually think...what would *i* do? If this guy is willing to sacrifice himself to zombies for his family, he must be HELLA courageous and strong. ...what does he feel about the idea of the zombies getting him and ultimately...killing? Figuring out how his fear sounds might actually help you figure out what he's supposed to do next...

  6. Sounds to me like this decision is the defining moment in this guy’s arc. This has to be a big decision and the impact of it should reverberate all the way to the end of the script. Something that would make this scene easier to figure out would be to use subtext.

    I would have the father finally put his foot down and stand up to his wife. This is going to piss her off even more, but the father could always appeal to the need to protect their son. The father, he reasons, has to go off to turn on the generator AND flip the search on his own so that his wife can get their son out of the bad place.

    The wife relents, but when she realizes that her husband is probably going to fail she feels like she has to double back to save her husband’s ass. Something happens to father and something happens to mother and in the end the son has to fix the generator and/or flip the switch and save the day.

    Just my two pennies.


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