Screenplay Concept




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.

by David Trottier [EXCERPT]
© 1998-2010

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