I have this morbid obsession when it comes to screenwriting. In life I believe that you should always defend the ones you love, no matter the cost. In writing, I say fuck ’em. This obsession of mine started in a sophmore creative writing class, when I couldn’t stand my classmates sappy love story, and when asked for suggestions on her very weak ending I bluntly replied that she should have both of them die brutal deaths. While I would never actually hope this on anyone, it eventually turned her bland love story into a decent tragedy. And so my motto was born.
Since this random grumpy workshop way back when, I have noticed the concept applying to more and more aspects of story telling. I was recently found guilty of murder by keyboard when I transformed a cheesy Garden State-y script into a movie about suicide, redemption, and eventuall heroic but tragic demise, and to tell the truth Im much happier with it.
The term works both ways however. One of my fellow screenwriters, whose scripts I’ve always enjoyed, is determined to have his character commit an abortion in the end of his very humorous self discovery script. The decision sparked much debate in class, and proved another aspect of this little theory of mine.
“Killing your character” extends far beyond the literal interpretation. When it comes to screenwriting and film making, it is often the best ideas that don’t last. I’ve had entire script concepts stem from one little scene, but when it came to the revision process the scene just didn’t fit. The same has been true for my short films and other projects. Beautiful shots of setting suns, with the gorgeous couple holding hands as they walk towards the horizon is really great, but if it doesn’t work with the story it needs to get the chop.
I believe at heart all writers are over-emotional romantics, but please folks, when it comes time to turn your great concept into a great script, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Just make sure that you can argue probable cause when you need to plead your case….