by Peggy Bechko
As writers, we’ve all written screenplays or novels that sit around in our drawers for years. Something’s wrong, but what? Being a pro, you’ve already decided that script or novel needs major rehab, and you sure aren’t clinging to a story that just doesn’t work. BUT, what to do? How to approach the rewrite and the rehab?
Since you’re ready to do some major revisions I’m glad you asked. Let’s think about this and ponder a couple of radical methods for that revision.
Have you considered that maybe your script or novel is focused on the wrong protagonist? You know, the guy/gal who gets all the action. For example, in animated world, were you aware that Frozen’s main character, Elsa, started out being a villain? If you’ve see it you know she ain’t a villain no more, she morphed into a ‘Disney Princess’. That was one major overhaul.
Another example: remember reading Ripley in Alien was originally written for a male lead? Could you see anyone else in that part now? Another new direction, another major rewrite.
So, is there someone in your story that could do the same? Some character you may have misunderstood? A character who could change from villain to hero? One that could move up from supporting character to main protagonist?
Take another hard look at that novel or script. Think about the motives behind the actions of your protagonist, supporting characters and villain. If those motives aren’t clear and your character’s desire to move forward strong, then your focus might be misplaced when it comes to your ‘hero’. Maybe reconsider? Perhaps a shuffle of your characters?
Will this take a lot of work?
Is it worth it?
You better believe it.
Another idea. Have you considered the genre you’ve written the script or novel? Did you label it from the get-go, then trap yourself inside?
Is it a Romance, a thriller, a SciFi action flick? Whatever it is now, you might consider changing it. Could that romance become a thriller? Should your thriller morph to SciFi? Maybe your SciFi is actually Horror. Take a little ‘what-if’ trip and consider all the angles.
It’s possible that you’ve locked your story into a genre where it doesn’t fit. It’s possible that you, as writer, were uncertain as to what your genre could be and cubbyholed it before it was ready. If the story is ‘misplaced’ it’s very possible that you, as the writer, are trying to be funny when you shouldn’t. Or maybe whatever stakes you’ve chosen for your hero just aren’t powerful enough and great humor could result if you pulled that string.
You probably didn’t think much about the genre as you wrote the first draft unless you were writing ‘to genre’. That’s good. Great even, but once you have the basics laid down for your story you need to make sure your work is in the right genre. If that element is wobbly it’s just not going to fly.
What’s the take-away? If you have a story that’s been languishing somewhere, now is the time to get it out, dust it off and reread with a clear eye toward what the problem might be. And one last tip. Think about where the story belongs. Is it a novel? Is it a feature script? Maybe it should be a TV series or a mini-series. Don’t close your mind to any possibilities.
Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.