WRITING: Make it Fresh; Change Something
August 12, 2012
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A couple weeks ago, I finished the first draft of a short film. I can’t write extensively about it, as it’s still yet to be submitted for funding, but I can note a small anecdote that illustrates a neat trick you can use while writing: Change something within the script, and it can give a tired script new life, or fix problems in unexpected ways.
It’s a story about grief and trauma, and almost the entirety of the story is a dialogue between two characters: a young woman and a young man. Through the entire first draft, I wrote them as lovers, and it came out far too earnest and preachy. Their dynamic wasn’t right, and it was giving the whole thing an overdramatic tone for what was supposed to be a fairly understated script. That was the note I got back from the producer/director, too: it lost almost all of its life in the second half of the story.
As I dug into the script for the second draft, a friend read it over and gave me a note that opened my eyes: she read them as friends, at most friends with a possible romantic interest. They didn’t feel like a couple, despite ostensibly being one. I looked at it again, reevaluated, and tried rewriting it with the two as siblings.
And suddenly, it worked.
I was able to evade the tonal issues and build a more organic dynamic between them that was a little more fresh. Their chemistry changed completely, for the better, and the theme of the story shifted in a significant, and positive, way.
Altering one element won’t always work. And you can easily change the wrong thing and head down a bad path. But, then, you just change it back. Sometimes by questioning your initial choices, you can feel out problems by changing one element, and come out of it with a better story.