This is going to be my penultimate newsletter edition of the year. It’s basically a catch-all of randomness…
I HAVE A VERY GOOD FEELING ABOUT THIS…
Last week, we finally went public with the news that I’m writing a new Han Solo & Chewbacca series for Marvel. This is the project that I’ve been referring to as PROJECT SOLSTICE. You can read all about it at — and it’s very cool to type this — www.starwars.com.
SOMETHING I LIKE
It will come as no surprise to anyone or be a controversial opinion to almost anyone, but I absolutely LOVED Spider-Man: No Way Home. No spoilers here, but one of the most remarkable things about the movie, for me, is how it rehabilitates even the least successful characters from previous Sony Spidey movies. It’s an excellent reminder that there are no bad characters, just bad execution. It’s also an excellent reminder — not that one is required — that Kevin Feige is a genius.
This edition’s question for Ask Me (Almost) Anything comes from Diane Anderson:
“I'm a Corporate Attorney/Accountant turned drama writer. I recently received notes/feedback on my legal drama pilot: I'm very strong on structure but the pilot is plot-heavy and should dive more into character. As a former attorney yourself, any suggestions/writing exercises to "re-program" my linearly-thinking lawyer brain to approach my re-write more from character than plot?”
Great question. I struggle with this myself. First off, I don’t think it’s a matter of “re-programming” (as you put it) your brain. It’s great that your brain is wired for structure. Structure, particularly in features, is key and a very important element in almost any script. No, I think this is a matter of adding to your brain’s wiring, to build upon your deftness with plot and structure to add the additional layer of character. To that end, here are some suggestions.
If plot is your forte, examine your characters through the lens of plot: What do they want? Who or what is trying to stop them from getting/doing what they want? The conflict between goal and achievement is the essence of story going back to Aristotle and there’s a reason it’s worked this long.
Another “plot lens” you can use is the character’s emotional journey or arc: How is the character like at the beginning of the story? How are they different by the end? And what factors, lessons, experiences, etc. led them to go from one to the other? Work to refine and refine and refine your articulation of this arc to the point where you can articulate it in one, simple single sentence. (This latter exercise will force you to distill the arc down to its barest essence.)
Finally, I’ll often write up “notes” or “biographies” for my character. I’m not the kind of writer who finds it helpful to know in advance how the character likes to drink their coffee (unless the script calls for a coffee-drinking scene), but many writers do. In any case, I find it helpful to do a “brain dump” of everything I know about the character. This not only forces me to acknowledge and make some creative choices, it also reveals where my blind spots with respect to the character are.
I hope that’s all mildly helpful. Good luck!
Alrighty, that’s it for this LegalDispatch. I’ll be back tomorrow or the day after with a year-end list of, well, stuff.
Be good to each other.