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Friday, November 18, 2005

Right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer has a bash at anti-evolutionary Christian fundamentalists. I agree with his take. Evolution isn't anti-God. It's an extraordinarily simple system capable of creating extraordinarily complex organisms. It would be just like a divine being to create complexity out of simplicity. If you were to compare gods, y'know, I'd want to worship the one that creates the universe out of just a few natural laws. Not the one who has to keep poking and prodding to keep the engine going the way he wants it. Who's the god among mechanics, the guy who can keep fixing your car? Or the guy who fixes it so well it never needs fixing again? (Though, of course, the first guy stays in business longer.)

Oddly enough, there is a screenwriting connection to this thought. Your screenplay should feel like it's one thought, every new moment arising naturally -- if surprisingly -- from the last. If it looks like you potchkeyed new stuff onto old, that will throw your readers out of the story. So when you get a note, you have to be willing to rethink the whole story. Doesn't mean you can't re-use old material. But you have to rethink the old material and make sure it fits.

There can be a substantial amount of carnage in this approach. It feels like a lot of extra work. But, on the other hand, if you don't do it, you're wasting your time. Remember the old shop class dictum: "Don't take the time to do it over. Take the time to do it right the first time."

One of the ways movies get screwed up is when directors and producers hire a new writer to rewrite the screenplay, but tell them to keep X and Y and Z exactly as they were. Or worse, leave the screenplay exactly the same but add A, B and C. You can't do that and tell one story. So what happens is you wind up with a Frankenstein monster of a story, bits and pieces from various stories that want to run off in different directions. Screenwriters are often accused of rewriting more heavily than necessary in order to snag credit. But when they don't rewrite thoughtfully and radically enough -- because they were asked not to, or there was not enough time -- you get monstrosities.

That's probably what happened with Catwoman, to get back to another recent post. I'm sure JR's draft made sense, but by the time everyone else was done with it, it was more chimera than cat. Just guessing.

Jutratest makes the insightful connection that when you create the template for the series, you are behaving like the evolutionist's creator: you are creating the world and the rules, and if you've done your job right, stories of staggering complexity and beauty can arise without changing them. If you've done your job badly, you have to keep readjusting the template, introducing new central characters, changing the ones you've got, etc. Of course, since there is no God but God, we all wind up having to do a little poking and prodding no matter how much thought we've given the problem early on. Still it's something to strive for.


Hmmm, writing a television pilot and bible is a lot like being the evolution God. You have to program this television show to always be interesting years into the future, creating characters and situations that self generate stories, with as little poking and prodding from external template-changing and shark jumping forces as possible.

By Blogger Jutratest, at 10:16 AM  

Nice use of "pochkeyed". Nice post...(as usual)....

By Blogger Jon, at 12:39 AM  

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