Sunday, May 20, 2012

How to Re-Write, Part 7: Allow Your Changes to Snowball

So now you have a list of all the changes you want to make, but you’re still not quite ready to dive into the rewrite.  Before you implement any of your changes, it’s good to go back to outline form and figure out the cumulative impact of each one. 

I convert my first drafts back into beatsheet-form, then I plug that beatsheet into the left hand column of a two-column chart.  Alongside those beats, in the right hand column, I note which scenes will be deleted and which will have major surgery.  Then I look at the rest of the scenes, the ones that I didn’t plan to change, and I figure out how each of those scenes will be affected as my big changes begin to ripple through the scipt.   

Every change, for better or for worse, is like a snowball at the top of a ski-lift: as soon as you start it rolling, it will get bigger and bigger.  If you decide to eliminate one minor character, you’ll be shocked to realize how many scenes he was in, and how many little contributions to the plot he made that will now have to be handed off to other characters.   

Summer blockbusters, which always have a million cooks in the kitchen, tend to do a terrible job at this.  The Avengers was a really fun movie, but it had several plot holes, motivation holes and empathy holes, many of which were obviously caused by last-minute notes.  As with Van Helsing, I could read the notes as if they were written directly on the screen. 
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN:  Clearly they got a note that said “Give Agent Coulson a more heroic death,” so they had him pull out a big-ass laser cannon and shoot down Loki with his dying breath.  Yay!  But the next time we see Loki, later on in the same action sequence, he’s happily completing his escape, none the worse for wear.  They addressed the note but ignored the effect it would have on subsequent scenes.  

Another example: It’s not hard to guess that they got a bigger note saying, “The Avengers are just tools of the government the whole time, they should show some independence!”  So they added in a very awkward subplot in which the Avengers work together to uncover Fury’s dirty secret: he’s not just using the tesseract for energy, he’s building weapons!  Gasp! 

This tacked-on subplot not only goes nowhere, it’s also totally out of character.  The Avengers love weapons.  They’re each defined by their weapons…Quick quiz, who’s who:  Shield.  Hammer.  Armor.  Bow.  Guns.  Muscles.  Any questions?  They’re also at war.  This is a movie that ends with Iron Man happily wiping out his enemies with a nuclear missile!  

If they wanted to add a quick anti-weapons-proliferation sub-plot in the middle of an intensely pro-weapon movie, then they should have figured out a way to have that issue resonate in the second half of the movie as well, instead of being instantly forgotten.    

Okay, so now youre pretty much ready to re-write, but before you do, lets do a few days on common first draft problems...

1 comment:

J.A. said...

How about the clumsy attempts to humanize Agent Paulson with the occasional reference to a cello-playing fiance?