5.10.2013

Juile Goes Down With The Ship

If great stories were driven by the themes at their hearts, Scarlett O'Hara would have wolfed down that rotten carrot because she's a feisty Southern Belle living in a world gone with the wind. Actually, she's just hungry. Matter of fact, she's starving to death. Precisely at the story's midpoint, a new plan is hatched. Whether she has to lie, steal, cheat or kill, our heroine will stop at nothing to achieve it between now and the end of the story.











Like it or not, in movies as in life, these basic wants propel our stories forward above some nobler theme. "Ashley," Scarlett sighs over and over, even as her face gets dirtier, along with her dealings. Seriously, what kind of woman marries her sister's husband? I don't even know why my sister married her husband. Something about taxes? Anyway, none of that matters once you learn to write from desire. If we know what our characters want, no matter how hollow the goal or flawed the plan, the audience will want it for them.

Though Scarlett's pivot point is one of movie history's most memorable, a seismic event at the center of any well-structured story will spin the action on its ear. A bad marriage, a good divorce, a road trip West -- in my case all three. Think about what happens after the iceberg hits the Titanic. Rose no longer wants to throw herself overboard and die but stay afloat and live. It's pretty easy to figure out which horse to back there.

But getting back to me, since that's how it works here, I continue to struggle with the specifics of my big Hollywood finish. While my real life story limps along, selling a big screenplay wasn't the game changing event I'd hoped for. Life back at Tara is a bore, always was. My Ashley was a  doofus from the get-go, and my Rhett suffered a break with reality and went off to a foreign prison.

Firmly past the mid-point of my landmark journey, I've stopped wanting for much of anything, except maybe a Smartphone. I want a TV that works, not a big one, mind you. In fact, I'd prefer something modest, since it has to live inside my bedroom closet on a shoe shelf over the clothes. I want a regular paycheck of modest proportions, a house that I own outright, a car that smells like leather inside, and a dog that doesn't smell at all. I want a stock portfolio and a 401K. I guess you could say I've changed.

No longer concerned with the destination, I'm focusing on the journey. I'm busily breaking the bones of a spec script, chatting up clients online, replying to headhunters posting intriguing offers back on the inside instead of here on the fringes.

Maybe I'm writing from theme after all. I am the girl who gave it all up to have everything, then decided none of it mattered. Were life only an on-screen spectacular -- unfolding over a long war or a short few days on a doomed boat -- I would succeed despite myself. Even if it meant hogging a floating door in a sea of corpses -- or standing alone at the foot of a sweeping staircase, wondering why it is nobody gives a damn.

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