So back to The Last Alive for now then.
I am around 37 pages in just now and it’s a mess, a wobbling sci fi tower full of half baked ideas that don’t quite link in that well together at any point. It could fall down at any moment and take everybody else with it. I’m writing it knowing that there’s a vast amount of surgery to do afterwards, well aware that it’s all complete tosh right now and I’ve straddled two main ideas and am at risk of collapsing down the gap.
The alien idea is sound enough but every single scene I write with the Nightcrawlers makes me start to think it would be very, very expensive. They don’t have a physical shape instead appearing as clouds of smoke which would probably require CGI. This in turn will probably be beyond most budgets for a first time feature. From a story point of view they probably don’t have to even be there, especially as they only seem to exist to give the town folk something to battle against come the final reckoning. The threat to the town is surely Morag herself, a girl back from the dead without ageing a day in the meantime? I’m coming round to the fact that smoke monsters only detract from the idea of a town coming to terms with one of their own coming back after they had mourned for her death years previous. There would hang so many questions over that situation that it would hopefully drive it forward far more efficiently.
There’s already the battle between Darren who looked for this girl many years previously and didn’t find her and Isabelle, her Mother, who still blames him for not doing so. Add young Morag into this and the possibility of her not being the actual Morag from all those years ago. That at least cuts down all the chaff from something which seems to have become so overblown and schlocky it’s becoming a pain to write.
I don’t think I’m ever going to finish this draft of The Last Alive, instead I’m giving it up as a lost cause and starting over again. It might seem dramatic but I’d rather do this than simply plough to the end of this current version before taking that apart for surgery instead. As an amatuer screenwriter with nobody currently standing over me I have the power for now to kill off ideas that aren’t working to hopefully give rise to something far better.
I’m finding it really hard to write.
Not shocking news, of that I am aware and if it were an easy process then we’d all be doing it. To put a further point on it though I’m finding it hard to write in the vacuum. Whilst I’m finding rewrites easy with feedback from the producers and directors I’ve spoken with thus far it’s the other ideas that are failing to gain a foothold. The rapid evolution of The Salesman’s Gamble from simple writing exercise to full blown developing script being read by those outside is testament to the former, the glacial pace of The Last Alive is the latter.
I am often overwhelmed with the thought that this is a waste of time and that I’m ploughing the effort in for very little return which, even then, will be years away yet. Opposite to this is that I often get a nagging voice in my head when I’m trying to sit and read or play video games saying that I haven’t done enough to get a script writing gig yet. Whilst I’m glad I’ve got a few different things at various stages of development I’m still concerned that this is a scattergun approach with absolutely no structure to it at all. As a result of this is often hard to concentrate on writing anything because it involves shutting real life out for a while.
There are ideas there, it’s just finding them between the static.
I am 33 years old and quite often I feel I’m spending my life waiting for other people to say ‘Yes’.
The first burst of energy getting though the opening section of ‘The Last Alive’ has burnt out leaving me hanging onto the first half hour duration with nowhere to go.
Morag, the girl who has returned from the dead, has awoken fairly quickly. My internal debate about keeping her dead for a while was quickly sorted when I found having a corpse sitting around during the story meant she didn’t have much of a say in matters. It also meant that it risked falling very quickly into something like ‘Weekend at Bernies’ as I’d have two men try desperately to hide the body of a ten year old girl from her Mother.
I’ve also had her wander away from our main character and end up meeting her Mother anyway. Her Mother reacts with great shock but accepts her on face value and is now thinking her daughter has come back. I’m beginning to think this has come in far too easily and it would be better if she’s met with a little more resistance initially. Morag has been given the power to twist minds to her own desires though so it’s also got to be done by taking this into account as well.
I probably need to stop here and take the overall story into account before pressing ahead again. The adrenaline fuelled sessions have only got me so far. Back to the notebooks I go.
I’m spending a fair bit of time converting the first section of ‘The Last Alive’ into my new scriptwriting software (a thing which I’m beginning to wonder why I didn’t start to use before). I’ve just about reached the part where I was the last time therefore finally catching up. I have had a small spot of rewriting on the way though as this was a chance to second draft the first twenty pages or so.
Maybe it was the fact I was watching a programme on BBC4 about European horror movies presented by Mark Gattis but I found myself trying to write the scene in which Morag, the young girl who went missing ten years before, is revealed as alive and well. When I originally wrote it she just appeared in the room, having originally been in the centre of the large rock that has shot down from space. Darren, my police officer character, opened the door and was confronted with the sight of the girl who he couldn’t find a decade earlier. They then proceeded to have a conversation about where she’s come from and if she is indeed the same girl.
In the new version she starts out as a corpse. Darren returns to a now flooded room (the rock has pretty much melted like an ice cube) and finds the body of the girl he couldn’t find a decade beforehand. As a scene I found it far more effective. Whilst Morag went missing they never found the body but here it is, in the place Darren though safest of all, his own office. I seem to have accidentally ended up writing horror.
The question is, when do we wake her up?
Whilst putting some bed covers in the washing machine today and just before putting it on a 40° cycle I had an idea cone to me. It related to something a character would do in The Last Alive. By changing this detail everything else just seems to click into place. The ending, before seeming quite strange and loose, now makes sense.
I’ll elaborate more soon dear reader, it is late now and I have work tomorrow. Suffice to say I am pleased with this development.
The Last Alive has now hit the eleven page mark. This doesn’t sound like a great deal in a running time that will go over ninety in the end but it is a sizable chunk to lay down characters and events. I’ve left it on the line which has our first major upturn in events, basically what occurs that kicks everything off. This is only draft one territory so there some stuff even now that I know I’ll change but we’ve reached this far without any scene breakdowns or character planning. I’ve been winging it all this time but I don’t think I can go much further without putting something down on paper.
Unusually for me I have an idea for the ending and the seeds to be sown to get that result in the final moments but the supporting structure isn’t quite there yet. I’m going to leave the script itself alone for a couple of days and get back to it a little more prepared.
We all love our own characters right? Lovely people, walking and talking in our heads every day and making it all seems so right. Then we start to write scripts with them in and we give them little voices and quirks. We like them, we want to invest in them, we want the world to love them too.
Then something odd happens.
The story doesn’t work and we have to engage in a fiction mercy killing. No one character is bigger than the story and this has come shooting to the very front of my mind in the last few hours concerning ‘The Last Alive’. I had a whole idea set up that a woman running an archeological dig would find a perfectly preserved body of a young girl who was thought to be missing years before from a small village in Scotland. She would then team with a local police officer in order to find out what had happened. This police officer would also still have to deal with the fact the girl’s mother still lives in the village and blames him for not finding her years before. This is the version I started to write a good few weeks ago now but found it stalling before it had really taken off.
The more I’ve asked myself what’s going to happen the more I’ve thought about how events would pan out between the girl’s mother, the policeman and the girl herself (especially as she’s claiming to be from another world). Only this morning did I realise that I hadn’t thought about the archeologist that much at all. Then I started wondering if she actually needs to be there. What does she add? How does she drive events forward? Bar finding a body at the start she does nothing else and it was harder and harder to find a reason for her to be there. The far more interesting story here is a Mother who, on the surface of it, has been given back something she long thought lost before finding it might not be what she had hoped for.
So that’s it, she dies, she is deleted, she is wiped from memory. In a really strange way, the way forward is much clearer now she’s gone.