Setting Up My Character
So last night was my turn again to bring in 25 pages to my writing group.
I brought in the first act of the comedy/fantasy/romance I've been trying to wrestle into shape. I originally wrote it about 5-6 years ago, but though there's a lot of stuff in it I liked a lot, it never really worked. Because I never quite got a handle on the main character.
I did a new opening for group two months ago, and the other writers justifiably tore it apart. So I reworked it substantially, and brought it in again last night for the actors to read.
It went much better in general; I beefed up the humor, and that all worked really well (which is good, because I'm usually not that funny).
But the main character is still a problem.
The issue is this, in broad, non-specific strokes: He's a guy who thinks he's on top of the world, who thinks that he has life figured out, and that it's going to be great.
But then SOMETHING HAPPENS, the hook of the tale, that makes him realize that his life is a lie, and that he needs to change things now.
In the current draft, this SOMETHING happens around page 17. But the problem is that, since until this point the main character is unaware that he has a problem, it makes him a bit passive and uninteresting as a character. At least to the writers last night.
The comments I got basically boiled down to this: either I need to have the SOMETHING happen at page 10, or the character has to be more actively flawed to sustain the action until page 17.
So that's what I'm wrestling with now. The latter might work better, just because it gives more time for setting up everything that needs to get paid off later. But it's a tough juggling act, because I basically need the audience to be aware that this is a guy who needs a wake-up call, but I really don't want him to be aware of it yet.
I'll figure it out. But if you see me looking scattered, it's probably because part of my brain is chewing on it.
Best moment last night came when I was casting. There's an elderly female character in my script who uses a penis euphemism, and I told the stately, elderly actress who I wanted to do it if having a dicey line was going to be a problem; I didn't want to give her dialogue that was going to make her uncomfortable.
She looked me right in the eye and said "Ah, what the fuck".