That's What You're Bumping On? - Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Had kind of a depressing meeting where my producer was picking on some plot points in the script that have been there for many drafts. One is a coincidence that we've always felt was okay because it doesn't help the hero.

As I told him (which is why I don't mind putting it in the blog), when a plot point that has always been okay is suddenly no good, it could be just the first time someone has noticed it, but it's often a sign that something else is broken. For example, if you're bumping on the coincidence, maybe the emotional through line of the story isn't working at that point; and then people start to look for something to pick on to explain what's wrong.

So now we're trying to crystallize what really isn't working. My guess is it isn't the coincidence.

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4 Comments:

Alex, I enjoy your blog and your books enormously, thank you for all.

I have been on the receiving end of notes like this so many times, both in screenplay and in stories/novels... and I always find myself coming back the old theatre axiom: "If the scene isn't working, the entrance is wrong." It's spooky to me how often this is literally true in my screenplay work (either in terms of physical or emotional entrance, or both).

And now I feel like I'm teaching my granny to suck eggs... thanks again for all the useful guidance you provide to other writers.

By Blogger Kelley Eskridge, at 2:20 PM  

This post reminds me of something Tarantino said: "What do you with a conceit [or in this case a coincidence]? You emphasize it."

That was in reference to Pulp Fiction's second story, "The Golden Watch." The point it was such a conceit that Butch would return to his apartment for anything. Rather than winking at it and hoping the audience won't notice, Tarantino opted to emphasize the meaning of the watch, giving rise to the great Walken scene and depth to the story as a whole.

By Blogger David, at 4:18 PM  

So the fact that the coincidence is bothering them now is just a coincidence?

This, Alex, is why Daddy drinks.

By Blogger DMc, at 9:43 PM  

Well said, DMc. Their picking on the coincidence is a coincidence. If they hadn't picked on that, they would have picked on something else, because it's not really the coincidence that's bothering them, it's the emotional through line that's bothering them.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:38 PM  

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