Monday, January 29, 2007

Evolution of a Story

I just wrapped up another draft of my latest story, Clandestine's Daughter. It's a great feeling to finish something, wonderful, actually. And here I am, yet again, scanning through the pages, looking for things to change, things to leave alone, things to clean up, things to dirty, things to get rid of, and things to add. Why? Well, obviously, I want a script that's good enough to sell, but mostly... just for the fun of it.

Looking at the early incarnation of what is now Clandestine's Daughter, it's a little humorous to note that there is virtually no resemblance to the current incarnation.

Let me back up, though, as I need to specify something. What is now Clandestine's Daughter actually started out as two stories, one called The Ghosts and another called Tradecraft. Both were spy stories, with the former about a group of deep cover spies who wanted "out." The latter? Well, the latter didn't have a story, just a title (I do that sometimes).

Eventually, the group of deep cover spies became Tradecraft, while The Ghosts became The Ghost and His Daughter, which was about a little girl whose father was a spy. Which, as those that have read it already know, became Clandestine's Daughter about halfway through writing the first draft. A little weird how all those changes came about, but they did.

I read a lot of scripts and stories, as well, and one of the problems I notice with young writers (including myself) is that we usually don't know how to "react" to our own characters. We get so caught up in writing the plot, we overlook the possibilities that our own characters may or may not act the way we need them to. Case in point, I recently read a treatment concerning a Depression Era criminal. Great plot, good story (as it's based in fact), but the character provided seemed like he would do anything in the world except for following the plot points needed to tell the story.

The solution? Change the story or change the character.

I only mention this because I did quite a bit of both in writing Clandestine's Daughter. I admit it, I'm one of those "excellent at plot, poor at character" writers, and I've been trying like Hell to change that these past few years. My recent Theorem is such an example. Tightly-woven plot, cardboard "Hey-George-Lucas-Wrote-These" types of characters. Somehow, I determined that my problem with character in Theorem derived from the fact that the relationships between the characters, and not the characters themselves, were what was weak (whether that's true or not, I have no clue). But, I took that "revelation" and I approached Clandestine's Daughter intent on avoiding the same mistake.

Which brings me to the first casualty of Clandestine's Daughter. In early drafts, there were these two characters: Stephanie Bullock and Jason Cooper. As written, they were merely a way to help push the plot of the main protagonist, and had little or no story themselves. They were simply there so I could have two more characters involved in the final, glorious shootout. Cannon fodder, as it were. As you can tell, they weren't "related" to the protagonist very well, if at all.

It was about this time that I noticed the proliferation of female characters in the script. It was unintentional, I'm embarrassed to say, as I'm usually a "male-centric" writer (which I'm addressing), but the importance of women in Clandestine's Daughter was clearly paramount. A woman's murder begins the story, a little girl's journey is the story, and another woman saves the story.

Well, I figured I was onto something there.

So, I took Mr. Jason Cooper, and turned him into Ms. Erika Martin. I found a "Female Analyst" character that appeared early and also turned her into Ms. Erika Martin. The kicker? Erika Martin was to be the protagonist's fiancée. Now, if that doesn't seem random, I don't know what does.

But, it works. Instead of Jason, a complete stranger to the protagonist, chasing the protagonist, a lover is chasing him. Inherent relationship. Already it's more interesting. Now factor in that she's chasing him, while he's rescuing a little girl that may or may not be his daughter? Well, that's story.

Anyway, there's an entire gamut of things that have changed in Clandestine's Daughter, but I just wanted to point out that one. My original character didn't fit the story well, and didn't react well, so I changed him. Now, the character not only fit the story well, she was an integral part of its push, instead of just "fodder." And the new ending the addition of her character led to packs an emotional punch that existed not at all in the original draft.

Crazy how that works.

1 comment:

  1. It is a great story. Too bad your ending SUCKS!!! :)

    Posted by Jessica Lynn on January 29, 2007 - Monday - 8:12 PM