I am now, finally, able to work on rewriting our script “Mend.” Most of last year was taken up focusing on “Big Sister,” taking online courses with Corey Mandell and other writers’ courses, and performing as a professional pianist. In the time away from “Mend,” my eyes have been opened to many things, most importantly, to myself. Even though I am not the characters in my screenplays, I am part of them, and, as a human being, as I’ve been forced to experience a great deal of loss and transitions in the last few years, those experiences have opened my eyes to new emotional vistas. Gratefully, I am now able to apply them to our stories in ways I couldn’t have imagined doing before.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, writing a screenplay is like raising a child. You must guide it through treacherous waters until it can learn to stand on its own two feet and step out boldly in the world. With our main character in “Mend,” a woman who struggles to prove to her mother that she has talent and that she is worthy of the love and respect the mother bestows on her older sister, we realized that we had to push her harder and make things much more difficult for her. I am proud that “Mend” placed as a finalist and several times as a semi-finalist in screenwriting competitions, but I think what that means is: our characters were strong, but they were not yet where they needed to be.
Today’s rewrite session forced me to dig deeper, go farther, and ask harder questions. This is the joy (and pain) of screenwriting: you must be willing to dive into the emotional core of a character and intimately understand what makes them tick. If you don’t know that, to my way of thinking, the character will not resonate with truth. After a year spent away from this project, coming back to it with an enlightened sense of self has allowed me to restructure a lot of the dialogue with more immediacy and tension and purpose.
Rewriting doesn’t pay the bills. And in fact, it may be just one more level a writer must go through before discovering even more important truths about a character. But rewriting cannot be dismissed and, even though sometimes I feel a cold pain in my chest before I sit down to address script issues and weaknesses, I often come away (usually several days later) with a great feeling of joy at having emotionally connected with these imaginary characters to the point that I can write lines of dialogue that ring with authenticity. For me, that is a good day’s work.
We’ll see how tomorrow goes, but, for today, I embraced rewriting, and it rewarded me with moments where my characters became alive.