Friday, December 19, 2014

Recovering from a Bad Start: "I Was an Online Idiot"

The regulars at writing sites have seen it many, many times. Newcomers arrive pretty sure they're geniuses, every word they write golden if not magical. They're waiting for the industry to buy their script and beg for more, to recognize their brilliance, to make them rich, to award the Oscar. While they wait, they're willing to drop crumbs of knowledge on us lesser beings, although we are unlikely to ascend to the lofty and creative heights they anticipate for themselves.

By the way, they mention, they do it all. They've written the score, although some lackey will need to write down the actual musical notes. The domain for the movie title is reserved and it's got a Facebook and Tumblr presence. Their own professional website is up, under the pseudonym that sounds so writerly and so cool as it explains both their process and their source of inspiration. They've got the poster designed for theatrical use and BluRay covers. They've selected the clips to use for the trailer, plus the voiceover actor. They want Joseph Gordon-Levitt or James McAvoy starring opposite Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde if there's a scheduling conflict, and they plan to be on the set to help each actor better understand the character.

It's both sad and funny that this happens so often it's unsurprising. Whether the online response is mean-spirited, frank, instructive, or mocking is beside the point, although I applaud the websites which demand civility. Each of these newcomers requires two rude awakenings. One, this isn't how the business works, and two, their writing is utter crap.

It's demoralizing, I know, to think you'd written something that was pretty damned good and be told differently. You worked hard on it--really hard!--and the characters seem rich, nuanced, and real to you. The few friends or family members you dared to show it to said great things about it. They could see it playing like a real movie, just like you can! You may have found websites where screenwriters told you the script showed talent and promise, just like their early work did. And here these nobodies are telling you it sucks.

They suck! And they're idiots, too stupid to see how good this is! Spiteful and nasty retaliation, name-calling, and moral outrage happen far more often than denial or disappearing. The regulars have seen that play out a lot of times, too.

What we seldom see, though, is what might actually make you a better screenwriter. We rarely see people sorry they got upset, apologizing for their behavior, and saying they'll do better, and so far, we've never seen that promise come to pass. We don't see people open to learning exactly what they've done wrong and how to fix it. We don't see people ready to face the reality of early writing being bad. We don't see them asking for guidance on structure, format, character development, pacing, writing to a budget, grammar and punctuation,or anything else on the craft.

Which is a damned shame, really, since it means they're unlikely ever to improve.

1 comment:

  1. LOL! We so know the type. But they'll no doubt read this and think you're writing about someone else. Great blog, BTW. :)