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Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

I'm coming up on some difficult scenes to write and have noticed myself avoiding them like the plague.  Do you have any advice about writing scenes that are hard to write?

Peter from Louisiana


This week's Answer: 

"Unscenic" Scenes 

 
Yes, Peter, I do.  I think the best thing for you to do is write a scene about the Plague.  That way, since you were avoiding writing scenes like the Plague and, then, once you've written a scene about  the Plague, maybe, in some cosmically-balancing way, you'll neutralize yourself and be ready to write those scenes that you've been avoiding writing.  (Unless the scenes are about the Plague because, in that case, you might have already written them.)

Or you could try a different approach.

I do know what you mean about coming up to scenes that you're not exactly overjoyed about taking on.  It can definitely slow the pace of your progress.  Or even your progress, itself.  So what to do?  You could emotionally explore the deepest depths of your resistance to the particular scenes in order to discover what's holding you back, thereby possibly experiencing an overpowering awakening (or, if you're in a biblical mood, "epiphany") that will change your life in such a profound way that your personality will be more integrated and you'll be a changed and renewed human being, even more prepared to take on life's challenges.  Or not.  (One problem with the aforementioned approach is that you may never stop crying and, besides having a huge Kleenex bill, you might be evicted from your place by your landlord or chased out of your house by a mob of torch-bearing neighbors who have lost patience for listening to "The Grieving Guy.")

So, we're back to looking for another, possibly more expeditious, "what to do."  Try this one out.  You may not like it and it may rub up against that part of you that thinks everything should be easy and fun and feel like you're in Candy Land 24/7, but how about... writing the scene, anyway?  I'll give you a second or two to get off the floor and come back to your monitor.  Now, I'm not taking the Gestapo approach (not that that wasn't an effective one in terms of creating some very negative results), but, rather, I'm advocating that you do what I call (I just coined the phrase this instant.  An instant coinage  There's another instant coinage:  an instant coinage of "instant coinage."... I almost forgot what I was saying because I was so busy instantly coining phrases... Oh, yeah:) "Working-through writing." Working-through writing.  What does that mean?  I don't have the foggiest; I just coin the phrases.  Actually, I jest.  "Working-through writing" is when you sort of plunge into the ocean without knowing what the sea bottom is like.  Or maybe it's more like wading in.  You can decide your entrance level.  But enter you do.  The essence of this creative writing technique is that you're discovering as you go.  ("Discover as you go."  I coined another one!)  Here's the concept in a nutshell  ("Concept in a nutshell."  I'm amazing.):

It's resistance that's holding you back, Jack (I mean "Peter.)  Part of you doesn't want to forge ahead and write the scene; another part thinks it should.  Ergo:  opposition.  Actually, it's opposition that's holding you back.  You're pitting your energy against your energy instead of channeling it collectively into writing the scene.  (If this is getting too deep or esoteric for you, I apologize.  No, I don't; I love this stuff.  Next week I'll be covering "sticking pins in dolls that are lifelike images of your agent."  You don't want to miss that one.)  So, if you're willing to accept my premise (and I'm not talking about the kind for a screenplay.  Not that it wouldn't make a good one:  "Two energies collide, causing major havoc with a screenwriter and his career."  Title:  "Colliding Concepts!"  Coming to a theatre near you.  They'll flock to it!  Roper and Ebert will disagree about it and their concepts about it will collide!), then you're going to want to "unstick" those tangled energy vortexes ("tangled energy vortexes"!  God, I am good.) and, instead of fighting yourself (which is a difficult contest to win, being that both "you's" are evenly matched -- so I wouldn't put a lot down for a bet on either one), instead, move beyond that tangled web you weave ("tangled web you weave!"  I did it again!  I'm a genius.  I'm -- no, wait.  That one's been covered.  Never mind.  I think I'll give coining a rest for a while.) and simply "move into" the scene like a tourist visiting a foreign country (I tried not to mix my metaphors because, if I had, then you'd be a drowning tourist visiting the ocean.  And who would feel like writing if that were happening to one's self?).  Release all expectations.  Of course, you'll have a general idea of how you want the scene to go, its destination point.  You'll also probably have an idea of what you want the tone to be like.  That's fine and necessary (Usually.  Never count out your Muse.  Your creative subconscious often knows much more than your creative consciousness and can truly amaze you when you learn how to let it "play."), but try to be willing to let the train take you there.  (Now, again, I'm trying not to mix metaphors because, if I did, you'd be a tourist drowning on a train, visiting the ocean.  Another not extremely amenable scenario for writing.).  

But I hope you catch my drift here.  (Let me go back to the beginning and read it so that I do.  Done.  Now I don't know what I'm talking about.  Yes, I do, too.  Trains, oceans, writing, Muse, tangled energy vortexes, the Plague, Kleenex, resistance, metaphors, subconscious, opposition.  It's as clear as the nose on my face.  (Actually, if you look at your nose, it's really quite blurry.)  

Somebody really ought to coin a new phrase for that one.  

DcH

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