May 30, 2010

THE WRITE STUFF: BREAKTHROUGH!

A very smart man by the name of William Goldmann once said that "what is wrong with your Act 3 you can find in Act 1 and Act 2". I spent four days on five pages. Five damn pages. In my final act of the TV pilot. Trying to shorten them. Expand them. move them to a flash-sideways universe, maybe, where they all wait to be enlightened and walk into the golden light, all warm and fuzzy.

Nothing worked. Nothing. My editor's mind always supersedes my writer's mind. I know when something is wrong. When something isn't working. I always have. It's a curse, that, because such a talent (or rather, a controlled split personality) always comes with a lot of self-doubt. Is this good enough? is this really working? Or are you simply trying to Michael Bay shit up and hope and pray that the audience won't notice it in the barrage of explosions?

And to be honest, I have Michael Bay'd shit in the past. Mostly because for the same reason that caused the difficulty here as well. Time. Space. Not enough of either to put in all the scenes I want. Five pages. Five pages. And the red light goes off, like a spider-sense, in your head. You have too much story for those five pages. You're running out of pages. And you'll have an unsatisfying ending. For god's sake, yells the editor in your head, pull your fucking head out of your ass!

It's mostly because you want to hang on to things. Good things. Sometimes great things. That would work, if you had an additional 30 pages. But now that you are essentially writing the same story, the same plot (and every retard can do plot, try and look at some of the web boards, where people always claim that they would have written x or y better) but with a very different tone and tonality, some of the old stuff... just is no longer valid. The tone no longer is right. It's too whimsical. Too cute. Not dark enough.

And so you wreck your brain. You stare at your computer screen. You extrapolate scenes in your head. What if? What if? What if? No. No. And no.

It's what readers usually don't understand (nor are they expected, too), but when you write, you don't just write one story. You write every possible permutation of said story. In your head. All the time. Or at least that's how it works with me. I don't create a universe. I create a multiverse. Each and every time. In my head. Where all possible outcomes are always there, every action has been made, every reaction has been conceived.

And then I put these potential actions through what I call my "probability engine". Paring all of them down. Until only one, hopefully the most logical actions remains.

And it has to be clear from page one. Even if the reader or audience doesn't know it, even if you tease them and string them along, put them on the wrong track, maybe, you need to know from page one what your ending will be.

Why am I writing this? Because I feel finally at ease. After those four damn days.

Because I had an idea. Because I executed that idea. And while it is the same scene, with the same plot, the way that idea is written now... will serve as the foundation for the new, darker and less whimsical pilot.

Four days. Seven migraine attacks. The desperate attempt to distract your cranky, fucked up brain by watching the Eurovision Song contest. And it comes down to that one idea. Testing it. Tasting it. Writing it. Looking at it.

And just like that, you have a breakthrough.

Thank you, oh Saints of Writers, thank you.