I’m between events at the Sundance Film Festival. Hmmm… I honestly didn’t know when I would say that. But it turns out to be this year because it’s online. I’ll go physically to it in the future. I’m just enjoying going this first time. There are a few days left with a few tickets left for some of their showings. Here’s a link in case you want to go yourself: Sundance
And back to my blog. Yes. I talked about Bipolar Disorder in my last two blogs. Don’t worry in that it won’t be my only topic forever. I would shoot myself if I had to only come up with posts about it. This isn’t to say that it’s a simple topic that can be easily summed up in a blog or two.
But a nice part about my Bipolar manifesting later in life is that I had a life before it. This meant that I made a life for myself beyond it when I rebuilt my life. What does this have to do with a page one rewrite you ask? Let me tell you…
If you’re not a writer, you may not be familiar with the phrase “page one rewrite.” A thing to know is that it’s a phrase that strikes terror in the heart of some writers. I happen to not be one of them. In fact, I love them. Yes. Another way that proves I’m crazy with the papers to prove it. I digress.
A “page one rewrite” means that you literally need to rewrite your entire script from the first page. Daunting and scary for sure except it’s exhilarating too. Why? You may not know a character the first time you write your script unless you’re writing a sequel or something based on source material. As a result, you’re getting to know both the world and the characters during your early drafts. Let’s say you know where your main character went to high school or maybe s/he dropped out. This won’t necessarily clue you in how s/he would respond if given the wrong coffee order.
You only learn things like that with time. This is whether it’s with a fictional person or a real person. Time is the real key ingredient to intimacy. Guess what!?! You got that time while you manipulated your character through the first drafts or even several drafts that led up to this page one rewrite. (It’s manipulation due to the fact that you’re writing your character in a certain way based on how you THINK of them rather than if you KNOW them.) You’ll have a much better sense of their behavior and even thought patterns this next time around.
Another thing that can help with your page one rewrite would be to focus in on the part of the character that inspired you in the first place. I believe that I’ve talked about this script before but it’s where I learned this lesson in the first place. My story was about a homeless ex-cop investigating a kidnapping. This script ended up being shit for it didn’t have the conflict to support the page count of a feature film. I also woke up to the fact that people found his backstory prior to becoming homeless far more engaging than my current draft.
My conclusion? I cut the entire homeless plotline and his backstory became the story. Yup. Harsh. I know. It’s just that it came down to the main point of my story: humanize law enforcement. And I was able to better do this when I focused in on what mattered the most: My character instead of the plot. This allowed the plot to take care of itself.
Plus, I was better able to honor the inspiration for my story. As I’ve mentioned, I used to train law enforcement and first responders on helping people with mental illness and developmental disabilities during a crisis. I went on few ride alongs to help me do a better job. A dead baby was on the end of one call. It struck me that we call law enforcement during these times. Who do they call?
Imagine that you’re supposed to be the perfect person taking care of everyone else in a perfect way. You’re also never supposed to make a mistake because your entire profession gets branded if you do. It’s a horrible position while it’s supposed to be the most honorable. You know a kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
I know that I went down a rabbit hole. It’s that law enforcement have saved my life. And I know that some law enforcement officers behave in abhorrent ways. This isn’t them all. If you do want to lump them all together with the baddies… As someone with Bipolar, I despise this. So, I want you to ask yourself: Do I want to be lumped in with the worst of the worst similar to me too?
Clears throat… I know that I’ve just given myself away in terms of the kinds of characters that I honestly love to write: Characters with many layers to them and struggle with so much of what it means to be human while struggling with duty.
These kinds of things become easier to do the more that I let go of plots for they’re generally what demand page one rewrites instead of characters. Okay. Your first draft of dancing aliens with pink elephants beating the evil warlord Sparkle may work in your first draft. However, it’s okay if it doesn’t… You knowing your characters better will give you a better chance at finding that a magical combination during your page one rewrite.
If not, you can always do another and another… It really comes down to how much time, energy and resources that you want to spend on any one given story. My story about the cop won’t let me go no matter how much I move onto other stories. Yes. I’ve written multiple other scripts. But I keep going back to that script even with its page one rewrites. So, I know that I will see this script to its end.
Hmmm…. I guess it’s sort of like me and how page one rewrites apply to my life: I had one with my life following my psychotic break. As it began with “trusting my mind” again, I couldn’t really rewrite my own character based on what I THOUGHT about me. I stuck with what I know about me for I felt that I could trust that given the plot of my life that I knew at the time needed to go.
And that’s how I got here today. What about you? Any thoughts? You can also email me at hollysorianoblog (@) gmail dot com