February 8, 2015 by Alexander Christenson
Hush: The Fourth Draft is Done
Today I finished the fourth draft of Hush. Fortunately, nobody will ever read it. It’s an intermediary draft. A stepping stone.
After discussing V3 with several members of the elite inner circle, I was left with confirmation of something I had suspected all along. A main character, in the end of the script, decides to kill another main character – and nobody who read the script bought it. Secretly, I agreed with them, but the final climactic scene of the script was so intense that I felt like it was all justified. Reading through V3, I realized that most, if not all, of the scenes were doing double duty, trying to prop up that final intense scene. I knew that the intense scene had to go, and that this would have a major ripple effect throughout the rest of the script.
Characterization has always been (what I perceive as) a weakness of mine – but it became clear that if this story is going to succeed it’s going to succeed because of the chemistry between the characters. I wrote V3 linearly, which means I started at the beginning and wrote straight through. Reading it back, the whole thing felt mechanical. It had forward momentum but the inertia wasn’t coming organically from the characters. It felt written, like the hand of God was pushing everybody here, then here, then here. I’d become a slave to plot.
My solution was a non-linear draft… which basically means that for 30 days, I sit down and just write whatever is most interesting. Each scene is it’s own little document on my hard drive. This creates a much more agile sensation. You don’t feel locked in. You’re not bound to continuity. You can just pickup the elements that you need for the current scene and start running – hopefully, focusing only on what is essential.
Additionally, I resolved to not be confined by the need to create scenes that would ultimately make it into the script. My focus was to get inside of the characters and explore the conversations they might have with each other at various evolutions of the story. Often, this amounted to just putting two characters at a table and listening to them talk. You tend to end up with scenes like Diner1.doc, Diner2.doc, Diner3.doc, etc, etc. Just conversation.
I reference Good Will Hunting often when thinking about my story, because it’s one of the finest examples of a movie that dramatizes the internal arcs of its characters. The meetings between Will and Sean are just two people in a room… but each time we return we’re shown a new level of trust forged between them. Those story beats are 100% character. Guarded information being gradually shared depending on the current stage of trust between them. I’m trying to find those stages for my characters.
So what I’m calling V4 is really a pile of disjointed scenes, strung up in a general chronological order. Honestly, it’s where I should have been on V1, but I wasn’t able to see where the real meat of the story was. Without having re-read any of what I’ve written yet (a blissful state of optimism), I’ll say that I’m excited. I carved out, of what felt like solid rock, stepping stones, that will dramatize the internal conflict of my characters. What was before a pseudo thriller now feels more like a psychological drama.
V5 will be a linear draft. It will be cohesive. It will be long. Every draft, to this point, has been a page-one re-write and has clocked in at around 200 pages. I don’t know why I always seem to hit this mark. Obviously, nobody wants to look at a 200 page draft. So once I’ve finished V5, I’ll have to trim it to at least 120 pages. This story isn’t an epic. There’s no real reason it should be longer than 90 pages. But getting it to that state of efficiency is tricky.
Anyhoo, that’s where I’m at.