Put it on the fridge

Have your protagonist save the cat, set up the myth from page one, give the characters their own voice, use the right margins, don’t make exposition obvious,and the list goes on of how to develop a script. They’re all true, and they’ve all worked for years and years. We can all get caught up and go nowhere trying to do everything right. Those that can find a balance are the ones we strive to emulate.

Once the writing bug hit me a few years ago, my appreciation for the good stuff was elevated and patience for the bad stuff disappeared. Disjointed casts, characters that went through the same life motions we all do during a boring week, and an excuse for a story that is a bunch of scenes cut together will never hold or entertain an audience. Why do the same writers consistently write stories that work?  They’ve found the balance of all the golden rules.

We’ve all watched the same story in many films told in different ways. Boy gets girl, loses girl, gets girl back. Big guy beats the little guy, little guy saves the day and beats the big guy in the end. The guy we hate starts to hate himself and then we don’t hate him. These themes are told in different ways in settings of the coolest cities, outer space, and Any town, America. All of these stories hit a chord in our DNA that pulls us in and hooks us on how things develop, even when we know how it will end.

I struggle with letting my characters and storyline surrender to the riptide, and drift out a bit then slowly float with the tide and back to shore. The big picture of where the characters are going and who they are is very easily lost jamming in idiosyncrasies of their personality. We know a guy that drives a minivan with three kids and an accounting job looks a few seconds too long at the neighbor’s hot wife. When he tries to impress her with his break dancing skills at the country club mixer is something that we don’t expect. If the story is about his self-realization this works, if it’s about another character’s journey it doesn’t.

Don’t be scared to play with characters. Nobody wants to see a flat version of everyday life we see everyday. Nobody wants either to see a dynamic and funny character that’s not part of the developing story. Stick to the rules and find the balance. Tell your story, even if it’s been told before, but tell it the way only you can.