It's hard to believe I haven't posted since April.
I apologize for neglecting you.
First, my niece has improved a great deal. I invite you to visit Clara's picture blog, linked to at the right. She had brain surgery in May to remove the largest of the tubers, the one most likely causing her seizures. She hasn't had a single seizure since the surgery, and has now been weaned off her anti-seizure meds. Things have not been entirely smooth -- in August, they discovered that the flow of cranial fluid was impeded, putting tremendous pressure on her brain. They installed a shunt, which solved that problem, but cause some intestinal problems that had to be dealt with. Now, however, Clara's back to eating normal food, and things seem to be progressing rapidly for her.
The biggest reason I haven't been posting here is that I've been steadily working on a screenplay. Until early August, I had a writing partner, but we've had an unfortunate falling out: She scheduled a pitch session with a producer before we finished the screenplay -- a serious faux pas. The producer was kind enough to ask to see the script when it's finished, but for some time, I'd been concerned about my partner's frequent attempts to drive the script off the story we'd carefully worked out. So, while I was going to be out of town and unable to work for several days, I asked her to read five Oscar-winning or -nominated screenplays, and my previous work, in the hope that she'd pick up on the importance of story.
We're talking, at most, twenty hours of reading. All of it available for free on the Internet.
She refused. She wrote an impassioned e-mail about being unemployed and not having any money to spend on writing, how we were up against a deadline and needed to just get the project done as fast as possible, so she didn't have time to get "a college degree in screenwriting." She said my suggestion came across like an order, and she doesn't take orders.
I, on the other hand, consider reading screenplays to be part of the job of a screenwriter. At the core of every writer should be a heartfelt desire to improve and develop his or her craft. Put in market terms, reading screenplays for movies that have been made helps a screenwriter know what sells. It's just as important as reading the trades.
After I'd said as much to my former partner, she dug in. No reading screenplays, we don't have time, let's just finish.
Sorry, I said. If you won't do what's required to learn how to do it right, I can't work with you.
That was six weeks ago. Since then, we've gone through many, many gyrations, including my concession that I'd send her my ongoing work and take her notes, incorporating those that fit. It hasn't been easy, and it's actually slowed the writing process down by sapping my will to write at all; I've been so preoccupied with responding to her many, many e-mails regarding those few ideas of hers I don't incorporate that the writing has all but come to a halt.
For example, we took pains at the beginning of the script to show that our protagonist is a very good doctor. Her idea for the scene that marks the break from act 2 to act 3 involves our protagonist running away in the middle of a medical crisis. Now, aside from the fact that doing such a thing in real life would certainly cost him his medical license, it doesn't fit his character, and it diminishes the story. A good doctor, when faced with a medical crisis and multiple distractions, would eliminate the distractions. If that's not enough reason to keep the hero rooted to the spot, keeping him there shows that he's worthy of the eventual victory that comes in act 3. When I thought about him doing a cut-and-run and looked ahead in the story, I couldn't understand how he'd deserve the prize at the end. Why would our heroine choose to stay in a relationship with a man who won't face his fears or confront the obstacles in his life?
Granted, real life women choose such men all the time. But this is fiction -- it should elevate the audience. The story should aspire to something greater.
So, now I've finished writing that scene. The hero doesn't run away, he gets PULLED away, still managing to take care of his patient.
My former partner didn't like it.
As I've been writing this, I came to a realization -- For my partner, the male lead was never the story's hero. In her mind, the female lead...the love interest...is the central character. That's the rock that derailed the train. The logline, from the start, has always been, "A lonely, confirmed bachelor finally meets the perfect woman -- and she's exactly like him." The story is about HIM, and from the start, she's been fighting to make it about the love interest character. (I don't know why I didn't realize this before; in addition to fighting me on story elements, she's also been trying to get me to change the logline.)
I'd come to another realization the other night, while getting another screenplay ready to send out: that I need to be a little in love with my characters to make them "pop". I've never had a sense of the female character at all, and have certainly never felt any love for her.
Maybe now, I know why.