June 11, 2012
I just finished writing a scene that involved a truly emotional goodbye between two major characters. What complicated things was how I staged the scene. One of my characters is indoors while the action takes place outdoors. Only a window separates them.
The point of the scene is to establish a main plot point before my character leaves. In my mind, I know it’s the last time these two people will see each other for a long time. But when I finished the scene, I had lost sight of that. I wasted a golden opportunity to slow things down and let these two characters really experience the emotions.
YOU CAN’T RUSH SMALL MOMENTS WITH BIG IMPACT
My mistake was focusing on the exposition and action instead of the characters themselves. The BIG moment is the goodbye and I didn’t feel like I did it any justice. So I started the scene again and shifted my focus to where it belonged.
The ‘goodbye’ was the emotional core of my scene. Deep down, were the characters aware how much an innocent wave meant?
These are the moments I love about screenwriting. The leg work. Paying attention to the little details.
After some thought, I found a way to rework the scene around this new moment. The result was a drastically improved scene with a lot more emotion and meaning. Sometimes, you truly believe a scene is done only to discover a much better way. It makes you think about the other scenes in your screenplay. Can they be better? Are there any other moments that feel rushed?
On the flip side, you still have to have confidence in your work. You can waste a lot of time second guessing yourself.
Think. Write. Think. Rewrite. Think. Write.
It’s interesting to think about my script WITHOUT that moment now. I was finished the scene and I was happy with it. I had moved on but something kept bugging me about it. Almost like I was being lazy. It had to be better.
There was a time when I wouldn’t ask myself those questions. Many short screenplays I wrote long ago didn’t go through such scrutiny. One in particular became a movie that could have been better had I thought about the impact moments I DIDN’T write.
On the positive side, at least I caught it and made my script better. It would have been much worse if I just ignored my instincts and left the scene alone.
It makes me smile knowing that I’ve grown as a writer. There’s always something new to learn.