Tag: screenwriting

Revealing a Character: The Decisions

Revealing a Character: The Decisions

Memorable, ground-breaking characters. Hmm, let’s think. Harry Potter, Matilda, Olivia Benson, Meredith Grey, Jack Sparrow, Olivia Pope, Forest Gump….we could go on for hours. Books, Television, Films. Now, before you go off on me for not mentioning an A-list fictional character, I’ll share some thoughts I’ve been contemplating as I wrap up my weekend writing marathon.

I feel as though it is a pretty well-shared opinion that a deep, multi-dimensional character has a WANT. A desire, a goal, a challenging task.  A battle, an obstacle, or an enemy is usually what comes next. We as writers establish these fictional realms with these two things in mind: The WANT and the OBSTACLE. But, I then ask, what about the decisions?

I speak mostly for the TV pilot writers out there. I, for one, am new at the craft. Learning more about it every day. As I create my characters, I can without a doubt talk for hours about their goals, their hopes, and what is getting in the way. But then, I realize…I need an Act Two, Three, and Four. This is where the decisions happen. No matter if it is in a pilot, a book, or season 6 of a successful cable series, it is the DECISION that enhances our character. The decision that leads them either closer or farther away from their ultimate goal. How our character acts under pressure, in a bar with friends, at a fork in the road. You see, within the obstacle there are many little ones. We face them every day in real life. But how we decide to deal with these obstacles – the CHOICES we make – the ACTIONS we take – THAT is when our character shines through. It’s not only about what our character wants, but it is also about how he or she decides to act in pursuit of such a want. 

As I do in many of my posts, I’ll bridge how I approach writing with how I approach life. My new chapter as a screenwriter has an obvious obstacle: The gates of Hollywood. The doors of a writers’ room. The calendar invite of a network executive. The overflowing inbox of a showrunner. THESE are my obstacles. But again, how will I decide to face them? What decisions will I make in order to get me closer to my goal? This is where my strength, my determination, and my fast-typing fingers will make themselves known.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to continue to pretend that I’m qualified to comment on the techniques of screenwriting. I’ll continue to assume greatness and brilliance at the start of each day. And, most importantly, I’ll act like I belong here typing these thoughts. Because again, what is the alternative? To remain silent?

 

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Discomfort, and eventually… Growth.

Discomfort, and eventually… Growth.

“Our biggest growth stems from when we are uncomfortable.” Not my words, actually, but I heard them last night while at a nice gathering of various young artists in the entertainment industry. My friend and production manager said these words to me when I told her that I resigned from my job and moved to Los Angeles with a computer and a dream. I feel like that is a saying, isn’t it? A suitcase and a dream…a kid and a dream…something like that. Well, that happened. And now, I sit in a California coffee shop and work on my script. Luckily, I am not alone.

As of today, my writing has begun to serve a new purpose: comfortable discomfort. I know, ridiculous. Allow me to explain. I’m sure we have all received advice at some point to be “risk takers” and “bold believers.” It can become hard to explain to even myself sometimes. A decision to leave all loved ones and all familiarity for something so uncertain. So that is when we have to ask – what is the alternative? The alternative is to remain comfortable. A nice salary, a nice group of friends, a full refrigerator, and probably a paid vacation or two. Writing, however, has become my comfortable discomfort. The thing that I do that is risky, unpredictable, and at times, inexplicable to many. So although I chose the discomfort, it comforts me to know I’m giving it a try.

So in my wordy reflection on this sunny Saturday — what is your comfortable discomfort? What is something that you NEED in your life that also brings out your messy, unscheduled, unraveled side? All of the craziness, all of the uncertainty…it is how we grow. It doesn’t have to be moving across the country or giving up something drastic, but it does have to be something that allows us to fail. We can’t appreciate success without feeling like a disaster at some point on the journey.

So, take a leap. Be fearful, but do it anyway. Be uncomfortable, so that you can find comfort with yourself. All it takes is the decision to start.

Escapism or comfort? Maybe both.

Escapism or comfort? Maybe both.

On December 17th, 2015, my first year of teaching, I was spat on by a middle school student. Yes, human spit. I tell you this only so that you understand the exact moment that I needed to find another passion. A focus, a goal, an additional aspiration that had zero ties to my career. You know, a dream.

Storytelling through screenwriting became that dream when I decided to sit down that night and “escape” from all the things that had happened to me at work. Teaching is, well, just ask a teacher. But make sure you have some time and a bottle or two. Anyway. I turned on episode 1 of Grey’s Anatomy. Now, we all know that this show has been on for years. 13 seasons, to be exact. Nevertheless, I was told it would help me ESCAPE. “You can watch to take your mind off of the kids,” a colleague said. Hmm, that’s how it started, I suppose. I gave it a try.

ESCAPISM, to me, is a passive approach to television. Television that passes the time, provides a laugh or two, or maybe even a tear. A distraction, a form of relaxation. You might be working on something, but it is on in the background. But don’t you ever have a book that you simply cannot put down? A movie that you can hardly breathe normally through? An episode you’ve been waiting all week for? That, my friends, is comfort. You have become so actively invested in a character, a storyline, or a chapter that you MUST tune in. You MUST. And we are comforted by this journey with these characters. It is inspiration and motivation from a completely fictional realm. It is no longer a distraction or something that you may or may not see that week, it is a NECESSITY. It satisfies your hope for something greater, your need to witness failure, and better yet, your enjoyment in a fictional triumph. It is comforting to have that to look forward to.

So, I’ll leave you with this. What show or movie gives you comfort? Clarity? Motivation? There are characters created by screenwriters worldwide that come from a paper, a pen, and a post-it. But for me, these characters become flawed, wildly imperfect beings trying to figure out what it means to be human. And to love every minute of it. Live television gives us that week-to-week suspense, that necessity in our life to believe that one day we can fight, fail, battle, cry, laugh, and love as tenaciously as these fictional beings do. That hope for a good outcome. The best part? We get even more excited when the outcome is the opposite of what we expected. Like everything in life, right?