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Writing Diary: Forward Progress

So maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that I didn’t write for three days, because I worked on the script for two and a half hours this morning before going to my day job and I wrote 10 pages. I need to go back and read them at some point, but my initial feeling is that they’re 10 very solid pages.

There is one scene in particular that I wrote this morning that I’m quite pleased with and proud of.

The mentor is a man who has gained his life’s wisdom through a series of painful and traumatic experiences. These experiences have left deep scars that he will eventually have to overcome in order to complete his character arc. However, one of my notes to the writer of the first draft was that several people mentioned how cantankerous and difficult to deal with this character is, but we never saw it on screen. Or more to the point, it was never written on the page.

I wrote a new scene this morning that shows this character completely losing his cool with everyone around him.

Thanks again to David Freeman who talked during his Beyond Structure seminar about the Fear Limitation Block or Wound (FLBW), which is something that all important characters should have and is something that needs to be overcome.

For Will in “Good Will Hunting”, it was his inability to let anyone get close to him emotionally. For Maverick in “Top Gun” it’s competing with the memory of a dead father. For Rick in “Casablanca” it’s losing Ilsa. Then, Freeman goes on to explain that effective moments in stories happen when the FLBW is “slammed”. So when Skylar asks Will to move to California with him, that’s a slam on him FLBW because someone that he’s allowed to get close to him has attempted to knock down the Block that he has spent years erecting. Ilsa slams Rick when she tries to use the memory of their time in Paris together to try and convince him to give her the letters of transit. In each of these cases, they only worked in getting an emotional reaction from the character getting slammed, which in turn raised the emotional and dramatic levels of the script.

For the mentor in this script, his FLBW is the memory of the traumatic events of his past, and two people unwittingly slam him in this scene. And the remarkable thing about it is that I didn’t even realize I had done it until it was already written. The writing just flowed naturally, and I believe that I have written my strongest scene so far. What makes it so effective is that it’s a simple technique that was made easier by the fact that the characters are already worked out. I know who these characters are and I’m able to get them to react appropriately to the proper stimuli.

Another thing that makes this scene effective is the build. up The outburst doesn’t just happen. I managed to build the emotion of the scene so that the audience will anticipate that the outburst is coming, and that will add a little suspense to the scene. Suspense might not be the most accurate word, but there will at least be trepidation on the part of the audience as the scene progresses.

Moving forward with this draft, and with subsequent rewrites, today’s work should serve as a valuable lesson for effectively working out scenes and how the overall dramatic arc of the story will progress.

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