Four Steps Forward, One Step Back

August 21, 2009

It was a creatively envigorating day, with much forward progress in spite of the need to go back and edit one of the story threads. Let’s call it four steps forward and one step back then.

The steps forward:

I got much further in the story’s step outline development today, which I found to be more uplifting than a quad-shot Venti mocha. It’s at this stage that the story begins to materialize and show its potential.

I finally got around to naming several of the primary characters that, up till now, had only been identified in some generic fashion on the index cards, such as “The Judas Type Character” or “The Supportive Press Guy” or “The Acerbic Talk Show Host.” Once I started working on the step sheet in earnest, those generic descriptions of the characters became laborious and distracting. Having real names for the characters freed up the creative process in my brain, since that naming task was like an annoying fly buzzing around my face. Consider it swatted.

The steps back:

At this early juncture in the step outline development, I find it necessary to occasionally move back and forth between writing out the details of the step outline and going back to adjust the details of the story threads.

It doesn’t bother me when that happens; I feel this is a natural result of the interweaving process. The very act of defining where, how, and whether to weave each story thread into the fabric of a particular¬†stage of the step outline reveals both gaps and opportunities in the story threads I may have overlooked earlier. It’s not painful to go back and tinker with the story thread because I haven’t yet wasted any significant effort in writing out actual scenes that would now need to be deleted or severely altered. That’s one of the big advantages of planning out the structure carefully before writing the screenplay; once I go back and adjust the affected story thread, the resulting adjustments to the step outline requires just minutes, not hours.

Here’s an example…

As I worked yesterday and today on the step outline for the first act, I quickly realized that my first draft of The Press story thread was insufficiently developed — too high-level to plot out or represent along the story timeline. Also, in the process of stepping out the first act, a couple of pursuit-worthy ideas came to mind on how to use the press to more effectively form a pervasive undercurrent of antagonism that I had not originally considered when developing The Press story thread.

So today I revisited that thread, deleting a couple of elements and adding several more, including a whole new character:¬†a “John the Baptist” type of political talk show host whose presence, though minimal, will serve the story well in three key ways:

  • Adding a counterpoint to the general position of the press
  • Supporting the spiritual symbolism already present in the story
  • Creating a strong point of historical identification for the Trinidad & Tobago viewers, who may find that this story character’s controversial rhetoric reminds them of their former radio commentator Morgan Job, whose hard-hitting broadcasts inspired about as many as they angered.

So… while I had to go back and adjust one of the story threads, the positive effect of that effort propelled the story development forward by leaps and bounds (hereby defined as five steps).

Advertisements