a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Crack

So as previously mentioned, I've been wrestling with my supernatural thriller, a script that has some great ideas to it but which never quite entirely jelled.

One of the problems is that the story keeps mutating. It started out as one thing, but as I keep upping the visuals and the thrills, and changing the character dynamics, and refinessing the backstory, what I wound up with was too many pieces and echoes of different stories.

Too many half-realized ideas and glancing subplots. A story that revs up, and then idles for too many stretches.

The tale I'm telling has a lot of complex things in it. It's the kind of tale that really needs to be all worked out from the start, so that the supernatural stuff and the character stuff dovetail throughout, driving the story together.

It never got that.

In the last pass, I came up with (yet another) new first act, and then a third act that finally really started revving things up pretty well. Unfortunately, this just left the second act feeling slack and aimless in comparison.

I doled the script out to a few friends, and over the weekend I got the bulk of the notes on it back. Good notes, though oddly largely different; though everyone spotted the same bad typos (fortunately not many of them) and incoherent dialogue, everyone sort of had a different take on the script's problems.

Though, boiled down, it was all about Act 2.

But as I started going through these notes, and wrestling with what they were saying, that's when it came.


The crack is the loud noise in your brain, when your plotline suddenly snaps into place. When everything suddenly makes sense. When the big gaping hole in your script suddenly seals.

When all you want to do is write.

The crack.

I've come up with what amounts to three major plot changes, that actually weren't suggested by anyone, and yet somehow it was a simmering combination of all of their notes that led me to the breakthrough.

Unfortunately, the crack often comes with a price, and the price is the realization that your script isn't nearly as close as you thought it was, and that it is still going to take a lot of work to wrestle it into place (the next crack is when you slap yourself on the forehead, and wish you'd solved all these plot problems beforehand).

It's not just about plot changes. It's about tearing it all apart, and making sure that every scene deals with these changes well. It's about starting from scratch on some levels, and really making sure it's all well-constructed this time.

The irony for me of course is that most of the time, I'm giving people notes, trying to lead them to the crack, and I can usually tell when I have; I get an e-mail back that sounds like they are flipping out, going through the shit-I-have-to-do-a-major-rewrite-on-my-script-but-wow-do-I-want-to moment.

And hopefully it's those moments that help fuel greatness.

So shit. I have to do a major rewrite on my script.

But wow, do I want to.

Thanks to those who helped.


At 8:32 AM, Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

Not been motivated to do much this past month. Hope this post will jump start me.

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Joe Unidos said...

Crack kills.

Usually, in a good way --it kills the draft(s) that preceded it!

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Systemaddict said...

There's nothing quite like that, the 'crack', the epiphany, 'how didn't I think of that in the first place'.

It revs the engine, and thrusts the gears into place of motivation.

Good luck on the rewrite man.

At 10:09 AM, Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

from the musical end of the spectrum i can say that "the crack" when it happens is usually something to be followed. i have had them regarding a phrase, line, harmonic or rythym pattern that once hammered in, feels like it diminishes the piece if you go back to the old way. i have fought hard, bloodily and alone in the rehearsal halls and studios to follow my cracks. i also have learned to give credence and openess to those of others.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Brett said...

I hate organization and the effort required to GET organized and STAY organized (far more fun just to finger paint from the word GO), but I'm now absolutely convinced of the usefulness of getting the story's biggest beats and most important turns worked out clearly in outline form and then treatment and then hurried scribble draft and then repeated plished subsequent drafts.

Get that second act hammered into shape and then write the hell out of it.

And hurry. ;-)

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Dante Kleinberg said...

The last time I had a moment like this was a few months ago. I was writing the outline for what will be my second novel, and I made it to the final showdown between pro- and ant- and I still hadn't figured out how I could finish it satisfactorily.


Sprinkled throughout my early outline were a half-dozen moments that foreshadowed what felt like the perfect ending, and I hadn't even put them in there on purpose.

Sure, I had to go back and rearrange the moments and fix the moments and re-jigger the moments, but that instant where every came together in my mind... I practically danced around my apartment for 10 minutes.

At 12:17 PM, Blogger S. A. Petrich said...

Cracking post, Scott!

I'm still waiting for my crack to come. I have about eight unfinished and/or unpolished scripts on my hard drive that are yet to be cracked.

But I know those moments. I know how it feels to figure it all out at once. It usually happens in the shower, on the bus, or in the grocer's. By the time I get home and kick-start my PC, I've already forgotten what the crack was all about.

All I know is that my head hurts.

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just had a crack moment -- thanks to some nudging from friends -- which is why I haven't sent you my script for $60 notes yet. But I will. I had too many characters, and the protagonist did not have enough root-for-me-ability. I eliminated one character and am shifting some of his positive scenes and attributes to the protagonist. Voila.

At 5:04 PM, Blogger S. A. Petrich said...

Funny thing I've just realised, Scott:

Your previous post was about a pusher.

This post is about crack. OK, *the* crack, but crack neverheless.

What's on your mind, Scott?

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

The addiction that is movies and writing, of course.

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous danny said...

It's like the scene in AS GOOD AS IT GETS where Greg Kinnear is drawing Helen Hunt, but his hand can't keep up. He rips his cast off and literally screams. Great scene. Great feeling. Great column.

Off topic--

Minstrel Boy-- I LOVE that song. Have you heard the Joe Strummer version?

At 9:30 PM, Anonymous Blair said...

The Crack. I like it.

I'd been having so much trouble with my current script, even with a rough outline. I finally decided to take out a blank sketchbook and just have "mental diarrhea" all over it; just write every idea, scene, cool shot, cool piece of dialogue, etc. all over the pages, out of order, haphazard as can be.

Then I got my own "Crack." In a jumble, it made complete sense. Everything fits now. All that's left is finishing the first draft.

I'll tell my wife now, "I've had my Crack!"

I get enough weird stares from her anyway.

At 1:46 AM, Anonymous Lucy said...

The Crack - like it. Simpler and sounds cooler than mine, which is SCRIPHANY as in "script epiphany"!

At 7:45 AM, Anonymous AndyB. said...

That must be a great feeling, Scott, particularly on a project you've been hammering away at so diligently. It takes conviction to stay with something that's giving you fits.

The test for me right now is trying to tell the difference between a story/script that just needs more brain-work and one that needs to be put aside. Or outside. And then maybe buried. :)

Good luck on the rewrite!

At 6:17 PM, Blogger wcmartell said...

Unfortunately I read this while a plumber was doing repairs in my apartment.

- Bill

At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love crack... just had some in fact... when I rewrote my script with the secondary character as the main protag instead. The different POV opened up a whole BLEEP load of excitement... all hail The Crack


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