Stale, Flat and Unprofitable

This hasn’t been the greatest week for writing. I’m shifting my daily schedule around, and the shift is only temporary. Soon my life will have to be restructured yet again. So far the weekend has been consumed with small group stuff and car-fixing adventures, and that’s not the same thing as writing.

But I did get some notes on my script from a couple people. One person (you know who you are - :) - ) in particular said a lot of things about the story as it now stands, and while many of them made sense and in fact agreed with what Greg had already said, some of the comments seemed completely unbelievable to me.

My story centers around a conflict between a husband and wife, and issues of the value of relationships in opposition to other concerns. And many of the notes I received yesterday showed that the person who was giving them had, against all expectation, sided with the wrong person in the story.

Now, I did a sanity check last night with a group of both men and women, and I was correct in thinking that everyone I know sides with the correct character in my story. So I was put slightly more at ease about that. But here is a comment that really kind of threw me (paraphrased):

“They both just act so immature; I wanted to slap them both in the last scene.”

Now, by way of enlightenment, the person giving me these notes belongs to an older generation than both me and the two characters in question. So it is quite possible that these characters could be behaving in a way that is true to life but still seems immature to someone older.

But this brings up a point that this guy emphasizes: People don’t have to like your characters; they just have to care what happens to them.

So maybe it’s okay that this person thinks my characters behave immaturely. Even if it’s true, it’s not necessarily a problem; sometimes people are immature. The fact that someone is sufficiently emotionally connected to my characters to be irritated by their immaturity is almost a good sign.

What was more alarming was this question: “So, you actually intended the main character to have a flat personality?”

Now, I haven’t figured out how this character can be both annoyingly immature and, concurrently, lacking in personality. I’m sure it’s possible. But it’s very worrying, because this character is definitely not supposed to be flat. He’s a programmer-geek experiencing feelings of isolation compounded by guilt for both controllable and uncontrollable failures as a husband.

If after all my musings on his character, all my subtly-developed setup of his situation, all my careful tweaking of his dialogue, and all my well-crafted interactions with other characters, all I’ve arrived at is “annoyingly immature,” I’m about to have serious rewrite issues.

There were other equally provocative notes I got from this particular person (thanks!)—not equally as troubling, but definitely requiring attention and care. So while I still plan to hold out for notes from Blair before resuming work on this monster, it’s definitely maintaining a nagging foothold in my consciousness.

But on a positive note, the windows in my car all work now. Take that, screenwriting career!

Ryan Elainska