Oh, Yeah — We Write These Things To Be Produced

For the past six weeks I’ve struggled with the rewrite of the Wedding Comedy, trying to integrate the various notes of the producers, the star and the Director.  It’s the first time I’ve ever rewritten with an actual production (theoretically) looming, and I’ve suddenly been confronted by the fact that the words I put on the page actually have real life implications.

Some of the issues we’ve discussed have been nuts-and-bolts type things: this scene would be too expensive, combine this scene and that scene so we don’t need an extra location, change this from night to day, and so on.  But this line of practical thinking has continued in unusual directions…One of the issues  we’ve discussed that I find particularly interesting centered around the lead female character, the hero’s wife-to-be: in particular, the fact that she’s really a non-character. Oh, she’s got dialogue and she serves a purpose in the story, but as the Director put it, “Why would any actress want to play her?” And the answer is, I have no clue.

The question was particularly jarring for me in that I’ve lived with these characters in my head for so long, I almost have trouble with the notion that, oh, yeah, a real person is going to be paid to pretend to be each of them when the cameras start rolling.  Why the hell would any actor want to play one of these roles, aside from the paycheck?  Is the character interesting?  Is she funny?  Does he have a back story, a ghost that’s haunting him?  Does she seem like a real person?  What do they do for a living, and how does that matter in the context of the story?  It’s not enough that the character’s name is on the page; you’ve got to make sure that there’s enough there so that an actor can make that character a person.

Maybe I’m just easily impressed, but the Director’s simple question has ended up blowing my mind on a fundamental level.  So often we write in a vacuum; sometimes it takes someone else to open the door and let some fresh air in.  Lesson learned — the next time I sit down to plot out a new story and crank out a first draft, I’m going to make sure that all of my characters are there on the page from the beginning, so I don’t find myself retrofitting back story and personality traits five or ten or twenty drafts down the road.

That’s assuming I ever finish this project, of course.

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4 Comments on “Oh, Yeah — We Write These Things To Be Produced”

  1. William Says:

    I remember reading a quote from Jack Nicholson, something along the lines of; “There needs to be at least three great scenes for me to consider playing a role.”

    • WriterDad Says:

      Oh, yeah, I remember that quote, too! If only I remembered it while I was writing this damn thing, it would’ve saved me a lot of time and grief….

  2. mernitman Says:

    “Why would an actress/actor want to play her/him?” is actually the smartest question (I think) that a writer can ask of a protagonist, at some point in the writing process. Its corollary, subtext question, “Why would the audience want to BE her/him?” is, I believe, fundamental to exploring what’s really going to make your audience identify with this character.

    It’s never too late to find/create a good answer! I wish you luck…

    • WriterDad Says:

      First of all, I just have to say — Billy Mernit has read my blog. Awesome! (I’m a longtime lurker at your site and regularly consult WRITING THE ROMANTIC COMEDY.) And you’re totally right about the subtext question. Over the past couple of years of development it’s been interesting to watch my protagonist evolve from, well, ME to someone maybe a little more universal. And that’s okay, because the script itself feels less like me now, too. I feel like I built this house that a bunch of other people have moved into — I can’t stop them from making it their own, and in many ways it’s a more interesting house now that somebody painted a couple of rooms a color that I would never have considered before. It’s turning into OUR house, which is sort of cool — unless they end up kicking my ass to the street, of course.

      In any case, thanks for the well-wishes! Hope you keep reading…


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