Thursday, January 06, 2005

Writing - Whose viewpoint?

... well, it was going to be about adaptation, but in the meantime, an interesting situation popped up.

I've been working with stand-up comic Elizabeth Beckwith on a TV show pilot. Frankly, Beckwith's been doing most of the heavy lifting while I chime in with the TV formatting and occasional buzzkill. "Yes, that is wildly original. Yes, that would be cool. No, they would never let you shoot that in a million years. Think of something else."

The premise is based on her childhood in Vegas. She and her very Catholic family lived right across the street from their ... ah ... "connected" cousins. People happily listen for hours as Lizzie tells stories about growing up in Sin City in the 70's. The structure of the show (something for another little post) was always great -- two families, very different attitudes, plenty of conflict ...

And yet, we'd had a bitch of a time getting the thing to work, for damn close to a full year. The network notes, for once, have been quite good. The character balance worked, the plot choices for the pilot worked, and yet ... it never quite got there. In it's various iterations it was always funny, certainly a show, but never quite gelled. We were staring down the barrel of the last rewrite with zero idea of why we kept missing the mark.

I reviewed it one last time. (Our mutual manager, Will Mercer, was crucial here, a fresh set of eyes on the pages.) We followed the father's emotional turmoil on moving to a strange city with his family. His conflict at trying to raise good kids in the city of sin. Good ... we saw the oldest son drawn into corruption by the cousin ...

Well, wait a second. The show was done through the father's viewpoint. From a purely theoretical standpoint, that made sense. He was the one who moved the family to Vegas. His choices led them here, he was responsible, he was the one who had to deal with the consequences of his actions ...

But talking over the source material, we realized that whenever Liz told a great story about her childhood, it was about the kids. Unburdened by the need to balance characters, act structure, blah blah blah, the fun stuff was always about she and her cousins lost in this morass. The kids were dealing with Sin City. The Dad was dealing with the ramifications of the kids dealing with Sin City. Although he was the central hub of the driving story, he was once removed from the interesting conflict. From the natural viewpoint of the story.

We shifted viewpoints. Structurally, as in scene-by-scene progression, this wasn't a cataclysmic change. The same sequence of events occured -- it just wasn't the same story. (Do not confuse what happens in a story with the story. ) The eldest brother, Paul, became the viewpoint character. We started with him. We focused on his reactions. We spent a little extra page weight on his conversations, his thoughts.

And now, it works.

Hey, don't get me wrong, it may never see the light of day (welcome to television). But universally, on this rewrite, we smacked our heads and said, "Ah, thats's the show we've been waiting for."

On a practical young writer's grind-level, here's the tool out of the toolbox:

Changing viewpoints.
Not to insult your intelligence and go back to the 6th-grade English lesson on conflict, but blah blah blah, every scene between two people, in every story, screenplay, novel, etc. boils down to:

Character A: "I want something."
Character B: "You can't have it."

Yes, simplistic. But this is the shit that gets you,when you're elbow deep in a text. Now, the natural inclination is to come into each scene in the head space of the "I want something" guy. Human nature. The passion you have for telling that character's story is often what motivated you to write the story in the first place. Fine.

But as a result, we often find Character B coming across as either a passive obstacle or, even worse, making story choices based on what we, the writer, think would be the most interesting obstacle for Character A. (This seems to crop up a LOT in romantic comedies. I think that's because love is so blindingly personal: men write romantic comedies to get across a specific POV men have on love, and women write them to get across specific observations about women's experiences with love, and so the opposite gender really is only there to service the story.)

A much more useful way to look at conflict is:

Character A: "I want something."
Character B: "I want something else."

Moving into a scene in this headspace makes it much easier to do one of my favorite little tricks when writing: switch viewpoints, and write the secondary character as the lead for one scene.

Switch gears. Sit down, and pretend that, say, a huge actor has just been hired to play the OTHER role in the scene*, and your job is to make the role more interesting to play. Or put yourself in as Character B. Make Character A the asshole who's interfering with what YOU want. Now, Character B has an agenda, has a drive, and will make Characrer A's life that much harder. Now, you have conflict. You have a SCENE. Maybe Character A will have to work a little harder, be a little more interesting to beat you. And maybe you've created a character, found another voice in the script or story you weren't anticipating. Rarely, but it happens, you discover you're telling the wrong character's story.

Besides Beckwith's script, I can think of two times this came in handy in practical, deadline-writing circumstances. Working on the shooting draft of The Core, Aaron Eckhart's character Josh was humming along nicely (of course he was. He was a scientist based on, frankly, me and my friends in physics). Beck, the shuttle navigator, was the opposite lead. She worked just fine, but there was still something missing. Objectively, she had goals, obstacles, conflict, an arc ... but she just wasn't a real human yet. At a script meeting, Jon Amiel nodded as I babbled on, and then asked: "If Josh didn't exist, what would Beck's story be? Pretend Josh doesn't exist ... would we still watch Beck's story?"

Well, heck no. That brought about a different conflict for Beck, and the rewritten character managed to win over Hilary Swank to play her. Score one for the smart British director, zero for the geek writer.

The second time (actually, earlier in my career), I was adapting a spy novel, Jack Higgins' Angel of Darkness. The spiffy assassin-turned good-guy was charming as hell, and to tell the truth his female Scotland Yard partner was fine too. I was just plowing along in an exposition scene, letting Spy-Guy explain the convoluted and cunning plan to outwit the villains -- all lifted pretty much verbatim from the book. On a lark, though, just to break it up, I wrote it through the viewpoint of the Scotland Yard detective who didn't much care for Spy-Guy. She's edgy, and is going to try to punch holes in his plan because she's still pissed at him from a little stunt he pulled earlier in the movie. She's going to heckle, be snarky. My job, for this little two-page scene, was to make this secondary character as amusing as I could, because she had no real story weight to pull.

And I found myself typing her objection: "Well, instead of all this complicated crap, why don't we fly him straight from A to B?"

I stopped. I literally stood up. Fuck me. She'd found the plot hole. Not only had she found the plot hole in the movie, she'd found the plot hole IN THE BOOK. A gaping damn logic hole myself and the producers and the director had missed over the course of a year's worth of outlines, ripping apart a book that'd been published a decade earlier. I don't know if Jack Higgins missed it to, or just did a little hand-wave and moved on, whistling in the dark, but there it was. I had to restructure the entire third act.

Switching viewpoints. Is this some great revelation? Hell no. It's just a little three-quarter inch wrench to yank out and try when a scene just sits there on the page for a day, stinking like dead cod.

*(This happens all the time, by the way, and motivates many rewrite jobs)


Sizemore said...

I like the idea of making all the characters work hard for their existence.

It's nice because even the guy collecting the shopping carts in the rain from 9 to 5 would probably cast Steve McQueen to play himself.

Anonymous said...

Great post. On my second drafts, I normally troubleshoot characters by imagining the story through each of their POVs. Everyone imagines themselves as the main character in the movie called life, so it's a way to check to make sure everyone's being themselves and not acting as scene fodder for someone else's moment.

- Chris Arrant

Anonymous said...

Writing is a hobby of mine. Just for fun, ya know. I don't think I have the chops to be a pro.

Anyway, what you're saying here is really good advice. I really enjoy playing with POVs, but out and out switching the whole story to someone else's perspective never crossed my mind. I wished I'd thought of it myself.

Thanks for the good advice.

1031 said...

This isn't something I've ever really given much thought to. It makes all the sense in the world, and while I always try to get my characters to be fully-realized, with their own motivations, etc., I don't think I've ever really nailed each one's own POV. Definitely something to try out...

Paul said...

Wow. Wowey-wow-wow.

What an amazing resource! Thanks for putting the time into this!

Kevin said...

See, that's the problem I've had with all of Higgin's books - it simply takes Hannah one question to blow the story out of the water and Higgins never takes her there; he's just fascinated with Dillon pulling his usual act (and it's always done the same way, when you read them) and being Ferguson's beast.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice on changing the viewpoint... even though the novel I'm working on is in first person, I'm finding a way through my current block by putting myself in the position of the other characters and seeing what they want.

I'd also add that hopefully EVERY neophyte writer will step into the shoes of their antagonists/villains at least once or twice to make them work. One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever came across was from Mick Foley, who suggested that "No matter what, the villain has to think he's right. It doesn't matter how out there and insane his reasoning is, but he has to think he's justified." I think that's helped me to get away from the stock, take over the world type villains in my work, and into more compelling antagonists that readers can actually sympathize with.

belletrism said...

Awesome advice. You make it clear that writing is not just about inspiration and a stroke of genius making everything work together--it takes hard work and persistence to make things work.

Humble suggestion: If you might consider changing the template of your blog to something not such high contrast--the black and white is killer on the eyes. I have to look away from your long entries every couple paragraphs to make the tracers less intense. (I've never had drugs either, honest!) I wouldn't suggest it if I didn't think other people had the same problem. Content's worth it though!

SEO said...

液压升降机,苏州升降机,苏州升降机厂,苏州升降机有限公司,施工升降机,丝杆升降机,液压升降平台,电动升降平台,天津升降平台,液压升降平台车,升降平台车,沈阳升降平台,天津登车桥,液压登车桥,移动式登车桥,移动登车桥,移动式液压登车桥,固定式液压登车桥,超市货架,北京货架,南京货架,货架公司,货架厂,广州货架,塑料托盘价格,山东塑料托盘,求购塑料托盘,北京塑料托盘,苏州塑料托盘 ,宁波塑料托盘,折叠式仓储笼,天津仓储笼,苏州仓储笼,南京仓储笼。南京货架,南京货架厂,南京货架公司|上海货架,上海货架厂,上海货架公司|无锡货架,无锡货架厂,无锡货架公司|苏州货架,苏州货架厂,苏州货架公司|北京货架,北京货架厂,北京货架公司|货架公司,北京货架公司,宁波货架公司|广州货架,广州货架厂,广州货架公司|服装货架,服装货架设计,广州服装货架|超市货架,北京超市货架,上海超市货架|仓储货架,北京仓储货架,上海仓储货架|托盘货架,重型托盘货架,托盘货架公司|货架厂,广州货架厂,北京货架厂|仓库货架,北京仓库货架,上海仓库货架|深圳货架,深圳货架厂,深圳货架公司|重型货架,次重型货架,成都重型货架|精品货架,北京精品货架,广州精品货架|天津货架,天津货架厂,天津货架公司|角钢货架,角钢货架厂,万能角钢货架|沈阳货架,沈阳仓储货架,沈阳货架公司|青岛货架,青岛货架公司,青岛仓储货架|轻型货架,北京轻型货架,角钢轻型货架|山东货架,山东货架厂,山东货架公司|杭州货架,杭州货架厂,杭州货架公司|中型货架,上海中型货架,广州中型货架|济南货架,济南货架厂,济南货架公司|郑州货架,郑州货架厂,郑州货架公司|展示货架,上海展示货架,产品展示货架|库房货架,货架厂,北京库房货架|武汉货架,武汉货架厂,武汉货架公司|河南货架,河南货架厂,河南货架公司|货架设计,仓库货架设计,货架设计公司|不锈钢货架,深圳不锈钢货架,上海不锈钢货架|阁楼货架,阁楼式货架,阁楼货架公司|移动货架,电动移动货架,北京移动货架|物流货架,上海物流货架,仓储物流货架|佛山货架,佛山货架厂,佛山货架公司|定做货架,杭州定做货架,天津定做货架|江门货架,贯通式货架,防静电货架|宁波货架,宁波货架厂,宁波货架公司|石家庄货架,石家庄货架厂,石家庄货架公司|重庆货架,重庆货架厂,重庆货架公司|河北货架,河北货架厂,河北货架公司|哈尔滨货架,哈尔滨货架厂,哈尔滨货架公司|悬臂货架,悬臂式货架|图书货架,广东图书货架,深圳图书货架|浙江货架,浙江货架厂,浙江货架公司|货架制作,北京货架制作,上海货架制作|西安货架,西安货架厂,西安货架公司|木托盘,上海木托盘,天津木托盘|北京塑料托盘,苏州塑料托盘,宁波塑料托盘|上海塑料托盘,广东塑料托盘,青岛塑料托盘|武汉塑料托盘,山东塑料托盘,南京塑料托盘|钢制料箱,折叠式料箱,网格式料箱|上海仓储笼,南京仓储笼,天津仓储笼|仓储笼图片,折叠仓储笼,折叠式仓储笼|北京仓储笼,广州仓储笼,宁波仓储笼|货架|托盘|料箱|仓储笼|手推车|登高车|置物架|垃圾桶


高知 不動産
群馬 不動産
群馬 ハウスメーカー
埼玉 不動産
埼玉 ハウスメーカー
プレゼント 男の子用
自動車保険 比較
自動車 保険 見積
徳島 不動産
松山市 不動産


不動産 広島
広島 不動産


香川県 不動産
高松 不動産
広島 不動産



Anonymous said...

Bedava Oyunlar
kız oyunları
yarış oyunları
oyun oyna
hedef oyunları
spor oyunları
dövüş oyunları
çizgi film
oyun hileleri
zeka oyunları
hedef oyunları
çocuk oyunları
kral oyun
rix oyun
fix oyun
oyun oyna
oyun sitesi
oyun siteleri
oyun ara
barbie oyunu
barbie oyunları
barbie oyunlar
winx oyunu
winx club
winx oyunları
bratz oyunu
bratz oyunları
bratz oyunu
giysi oyunu
giydirme oyunu
kıyafet oyunu
giydirme oyunları
giysi oyunları
giysi giydirme oyunu
giysi giydirme oyunları
makyaj oyunları
makyaj oyunu
makyaj yapma oyunları
yemek oyunları
yemek yapma oyunları
pasta oyunları
pasta süsleme oyunları
futbol oyunları
çocuk oyunları
yarış oyunları
boyama oyunları
araba oyunları
araba yarışı oyunları
motor oyunları
basketbol oyunları
beceri oyunları
dövüş oyunları
manken oyunları
komik oyunlar
oda oyunları
spor oyunları
zeka oyunları
yapboz oyunları
cep oyunları
yeni oyunlar
oyun sitesi
oyun siteleri
oyun hileleri
çizgi film
cep oyunu
oyun oyns
oyun oyna
video izle
chip oyun
barbie oyunu
kız oyunları
sue oyunları
güzel oyunlar
pop oyunlar
pop oyun
çizgi film izle
çizgi film seyret
çocuk çizgi film izle
şirinler çizgi film izle
tom ve jery çizgi film izle
cizgi film izle
çizgi film
cocuk sitesi
cocuk siteleri
cocuk sitesi
cocuk sitesi
işletme oyunları
işletme oyunu
cizgi film seyret
çocuk cizgi film izle
şirinler cizgi film izle
tom ve jery cizgi filmi izle
Aksiyon Macera Oyunları
Macera Oyunları
Motor Oyunları
Mario Oyunları
Strateji Taktik Oyunları
Yemek Pişirme Oyunları
Dekor Oyunları
Boyama Kitabı Oyunları
Hugo Oyunları
Sonic Oyunları
Webcam Oyunları
Peri Güzellik Oyunları
Battleon Oyunları
Bebek Oyunları
Süper Oyunlar
İlizyon Oyunları
Komik Oyunlar
Teletabi Oyunları
En Güzel Oyunlar
güzel Oyunlar
Oyun Videoları
Oyun Videoları izle
oyun videoları seyret
kesintisiz güç kaynakları

SEO said...

仓储笼 =>南京仓储笼,求购仓储笼,折叠式仓储笼,苏州仓储笼,无锡仓储笼。
仓储笼 =>仓储笼图片,仓储笼报价,常州仓储笼,麦瑞仓储笼,折叠仓储笼。
仓储货架 =>仓储货架厂,北京仓储货架,苏州仓储货架,无锡仓储货架,广州仓储货架。
货架厂 =>佛山货架厂,天津货架厂,成都货架厂,常熟货架厂,服装货架厂。
超市货架 =>超市货架尺寸,超市货架效果图,杭州超市货架,超市货架摆放,广州超市货架。
塑料托盘专业制造商—塑料托盘制造有限公司南京麦瑞欢迎您!南京麦瑞(塑料托盘有限公司是国内最具影响的物流产品大型生产企业,主要生产的产品有塑料托盘,塑料卡板箱, ...
货架公司 =>无锡货架公司,杭州货架公司,苏州货架公司,超市货架公司,广州货架公司。
广州货架 =>广州货架厂,广州货架批发市场,广州货架公司,广州货架市场,广州货架制作。。
北京货架 =>北京货架批发市场,北京货架厂家,北京货架制作,北京货架价格,北京货架销售。
仓库货架 =>仓库货架厂,北京仓库货架,无锡仓库货架,深圳仓库货架,广州仓库货架。
南京货架 =>南京货架厂,南京货架网,南京货架公司,南京货架制造厂,南京货架价格。
塑料托盘. 南京麦瑞(塑料托盘)有限公司是国内专业从事(塑料托盘集研发、生产、 销售、安装于一体的大规模企业之一。汇集国内( 塑料托盘)制造业众多技术精英,所 ...
塑料托盘价格 =>山东塑料托盘价格,南京塑料托盘价格,青岛塑料托盘价格,武汉塑料托盘价格,西安塑料托盘价格。
北京塑料托盘 =>北京塑料托盘厂,北京塑料托盘公司,北京塑料托盘图片,北京塑料托盘价格,北京塑料托盘供应商。
升降平台 =>液压升降平台,铝合金升降平台,电动升降平台,残疾人升降平台,升降平台车。
升降台 =>铝合金升降台,电动升降台,立式升降台铣床,万能升降台铣床,手动升降台。
登车桥 =>沈阳登车桥,沈阳液压登车桥,固定式登车桥,天津登车桥,移动液压登车桥。
升降机-苏州市迅特液压升降机械有限公司是专业生产液压升降机,根据您的要求,定做各种不同尺寸的(升降机,主要产品有固定式升降机,移动式升降机,二轮牵引式升降机, ...

De Nature said...

thank you for your informative content... #keep sharing

Cara Mengobati Sipilis
Cara Mengobati Sipilis
Cara Mengobati Sipilis
Cara Mengobati Sipilis
Obat Sipilis Ampuh

Obat Ambeien Atau Wasir said...

Wasir,| Obat wasir, | Obat wasir alami | Obat wasir tradisional, | Obatwasir herbal | Obat wasir apotik | Obat wasir berdarah, | Obat wasir ampuh | Obat wasir luar | Obat wasir di apotik

M Nico K said...

This was a fantastic article. Really loved reading your we blog post. The information was very informative and helpful...

Obat Kondiloma Akuminata Manjur
Pengobatan Kondiloma Akuminata Mujarab
Nama Obat Kondiloma Atau Kutil Kelamin
Cara Mengobati Kondiloma Akuminata Herbal
Pengobatan Ampuh Kondiloma Akuminata Tradisional
Bagaimana Mengobati Kondiloma
Obat Penyakit Kondiloma Akuminata Alami
Kondiloma Akuminata dan Pengobatannya
Pengobatan Alternatif Kondiloma Akuminata
Pengobatan Kondiloma Akuminata Pada Wanita
Penyebab Kondiloma dan Pengobatannya

M Nico K said...

This was a fantastic article. Really loved reading your we blog post. The information was very informative and


Obat Kondiloma Akuminata Manjur
Pengobatan Kondiloma Akuminata Mujarab
Nama Obat Kondiloma Atau Kutil Kelamin
Cara Mengobati Kondiloma Akuminata Herbal
Pengobatan Ampuh Kondiloma Akuminata Tradisional
Bagaimana Mengobati Kondiloma
Obat Penyakit Kondiloma Akuminata Alami
Kondiloma Akuminata dan Pengobatannya
Pengobatan Alternatif Kondiloma Akuminata
Pengobatan Kondiloma Akuminata Pada Wanita
Penyebab Kondiloma dan Pengobatannya

Obat Kanker Payudara Paling Manjur
Mengobati Kanker Payudara Dengan Cepat dan Aman
Pengobatan Herbal Kanker Payudara Stadium 3
Mengobati Kanker Payudara Tanpa Operasi
Cara Mengobati Kanker Payudara Ampuh Stadium Akhir
Cara Mengobati Kanker Payudara Mujarab
Inilah Obat Kanker Payudara Yang Ampuh
Penyakit Kanker Payudara Tanpa Operasi
Obat Kanker Payudara Tanpa Operasi Stadium 2
Cara Tradisional Menyembuhkan Kanker Payudara
Cara Menyembuhkan Kanker Payudara Tanpa Operasi

Bagaimana Cara Mengobati Jengger Ayam
Obat Tradisional Penyakit Jengger Ayam
Cara Pengobatan Jengger Ayam Mujarab
Cara Menyembuhkan Jengger Ayam
Obat Herbal Penyakit Jengger Ayam
Obat Mujarab Untuk Jengger Ayam
Mengobati Jengger Ayam Pada Wanita
Mengobati Jengger Ayam Pada Pria
Pengobatan Tradisional Jengger Ayam
Apa Nama Obat Jengger Ayam
Obat Jengger Ayam Ampuh di Apotik

Bambang Wisanggeni said...

obat gonore murah dan manjur
obat gonore yang murah dan manjur
obat kencing nanah yang murah dan manjur
obat kencing nanah yang murah dan manjur
cara mengobati penyakit kencing nanah
harga obat gonore
obat gonore yang terbuat dari bahan alami
obat gonore herbal yang marah dan manjur
obat kencing nanah herbal yang murah dan manjur
obat gonore herbal yang sudah terbukti ampuh
obat kencing nanah ampuh
obat kencing nanah ampuh dan murah
obat kencing nanah kaskus
obat kencing nanah di apotik herbal

Riyan Cilacap said...

Thank You Verry Much, Ijin nitip gan dan trimaksih atas infonya

Obat Sakit Kelamin De Nature
Pengobatan Kutil Kelamin
Cara Mengobati Kutil Kelamin
Kutil Kelamin
Obat Kutil Kelamin
Obat Condyloma
Obat Jengger Ayam
Obat Sipilis
Obat Gonore
Obat Raja Singa
Obat Kencing Nanah
Obat Chlamydia
Obat Herpes
Obat Herpes Genital
Obat Herpes Kelamin
Obat Herpes Zoster
Obat Herpes Badan
Obat Jengger Ayam
Obat Kutil Kelamin
Obat Kondiloma
Obat Condyloma Accuminata
Obat Jengger Ayam Pria Dan Wanita
Obat Kutil Kelamin Pada Pria Dan Wanita