Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Make me cry

You know what you shouldn't do at 7:30 every morning? Read Night out loud to a class full of sleepy teenagers. This is the third day in a row I have spent the morning sad and cranky.

It's amazing that a story about a Hungarian 15-year-old boy who ended up spending a year in a concentration camp can still make me depressed for like four hours. That's the power of story, right there. Even if the story wasn't true I think it would still affect me in a pretty strong way.

That's the thing we strive for, isn't it? To make your story so emotionally moving that people cry or laugh or write letters to their congressmen? I know I want that.

When I wrote my very first screenplay I had this death scene that turned me into a big puddle of saltiness. I kept playing "My Immortal" over and over as I wrote it and I was just moved to depression by how heartbreaking my death was.

And nobody else really felt that way when they read it.

That's partly because it was a first screenplay, but also partly because the screenplay form is not really one that naturally lends itself to tears. We cry when we watch a movie because the actor on screen is believable and we're wrapped up in the story as presented us with color and imagery and editing and music. So the chances of what's on the page pulling down some kind of emotional reaction are not as good as in a novel.

Still. Sometimes it happens. I try to make it happen but there's a fine line between emotionally gripping scenes and super sappy ones. I've laughed at jokes in screenplays before, but it's rare that I actually cry. Tonight He Comes actually made me cry because I felt so much pity for Hancock when he hit rock bottom. But I can't think of any other screenplay that did.

Can you? What do you think is the line between sappy and moving? Have you ever written anything that made people cry?


  1. I personally think one can be as emotionally involved reading a screenplay as they can be reading a novel. Or at least I can.

    Or maybe I just want to think that, because I can't for the life of me think of anything that choked me up... I'm sure there must be something and yet... I've got nothing.

    I don't know why crying is the ultimate badge of honor for writers. Laughter is a very close second, but crying --

    I can remember a sixth grade teacher who spoke once about a student of hers who wrote short stories. And apparently he was amazing and every one of them made her bawl. For some reason, that single moment of sixth grade stuck with me. I still remember the envy I felt at that statement. And I wasn't even writing then. Little Adam took a break between grades 4 and 11. But that moment stuck with me. I remember it clear as day.

    Some kid out there that made Mrs. Caparelli bawl with his short stories.

    Little shit.

  2. I made TheWife cry with something I once wrote. I signed my name on the marriage license. That's when she knew it was really going to happen.

    Poor girl.

  3. Cry? No.
    1. I made everybody stop breathing with a short story at CSULA. Somebody said it was the moment he realized that the usual cute tricks some writers use weren't going to cut it.
    2. When I wrote the first draft of the first scene of 'Higher', I got light-headed.

    When I write, if I can see, really SEE everything happen in my head as it flows out of me onto the screen...I know it's going to be...maybe not 'good', but I know it's going to survive the constant self-doubt.
    Laughter is almost as involuntary, but it's so much more common than crying.

  4. I agree. I've read tons of scripts and very few make me cry. Although the new Clint Eastwod film, Gran Torino made me laugh out loud AND cry the writing was that damn good. I wrote a poem in my senior year and my writing teachers father was there. He was a football coach in Texas...big strong man...and he cried. That was a great moment. Affecting someone like that.

  5. I remember reading the script for The Green Mile and just ... not being able to finish the last few pages because tears were *shooting* out of my eyes ...

    Have you read it? Man, that Darabont dude can *write*.


  6. I've written poetry that's made people cry, but they were people who were at least somewhat familiar with the story behind the poems, so I'm not sure how much was the actual writing.


Please leave a name, even if it's a fake name. And try not to be an asshole.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.