I saw a movie last night (which shall go unnamed for now, as to not spoil anyone) that reminded me of how easy it is to lose track of a story, and forget what’s important. It reminded me of how critical it is to edit well (cutting out scenes and characters who don’t matter), how vital chemistry is — and how, when you promise romance in your set-up, you better deliver, and deliver well (or have a darn good reason for not doing so).
There were so many lost opportunities last night, which could have turned a mediocre movie into something spectacular. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, really. As artists and human beings, we are good at creating our own lost opportunities.
There’s nothing easier, when you get wrapped up in a story — in some cool element that you think is vital, outrageous, a 10-plus “wow” on the scale of “wowsy” — only to realize later that all that “coolness” didn’t progress the story or the characters. It was just there because it was pretty.
I’ve done that time and time again. I’ve written characters who didn’t need to exist, who served nothing in the way of the story — I’ve written scenes of mayhem that I loved, but had to delete (like those characters) because there was no point to them. And it’s not bad that I wrote them. It was good for me. It was good for the book. You have to throw this stuff out there to see what sticks and develops. You have to let your creative spirit run free when you’re writing. It’s just that in the aftermath, you also need to know when to let go, and slash, and burn. And re-build from the lesson learned.
Every movement, brushstroke and note; each word and scene, and character. If it doesn’t need to be there, don’t use it. Or find a way to make it matter.