This is one of the most common of all blocks. What makes this disease so insidious is the victim is
often oblivious to the problem until it's too late and the script is rejected. Afterwards, the
writer may recall a dull awareness of a flat and lifeless main character, or of a hero who is
passive, perfect, and who has become an observer of the events of the screenplay.
At the core of this malady is the writer's past. His writing is so autobiographical that his
characters have no life of their own, but have become mere appendages of the writer. As such, they
can only act and speak in accordance with the writer's memories.
Once I read a script about a wife who was abused by her husband. The wife did nothing but complain
for 90 pages. On page 100 a neighbor rescued her. The only reason I read this all the way through
was because I was paid to evaluate it. I thought to myself, This is often how real people behave,
but movie people are willful and active.
The writer had painted herself into a creative corner. She was too close to the truth. She needed to
use the energy of her personal experience and create a drama with it. Even "true" stories combine
characters and condense time for dramatic purposes. She was suffering from autobiographicosis.
The cure for this condition is a radical charactectomy, or removal of the characters from the
writer. The result is characters that emerge on the page with a life of their own--active,
imperfect, and volitional. Sure, they may be patterned after aspects of the writer or of the
writer's life, but they speak with a voice of their own.
In the early stages of autobiographicosis, the writer can be rehabilitated through a temperance
program in which she learns to be close enough to her characters to love them, but distant enough to
be objective and creative in her relationship to them.