Screenwriting is Hard!

I know I haven’t been posting very much lately, but trust me when I say that I’ve been extremely busy. For several months now I’ve been struggling with the plot to my new screenplay, Satan’s Sputum, and although it’s hard for me to admit, I’ve come to the realization that I’m going to need some help. I don’t know if you’ve ever written one of these things, but if you have you know that they’re no walk in the park. It makes me wonder how these Hollywood types can bang out so many high quality scripts week after week.

Don’t get me wrong – I have sought out help. I’ve spoken to several screenwriters I know, read all the right books, and even rented Because of Winn Dixie (which has, you’ll find, a similar narrative), but still my screenplay needs some tweaking. I know it sounds crazy but I was thinking, as a long shot, that perhaps I could get some advice from you, the reader, about turning this little script that is so near and dear to me into the blockbuster I know it can be.

With that, here are some of the plot points I’ve been agonizing over:

First of all, when my protagonist, the washed-up taxidermist Tucker Starr, graduates from Community College with a degree in advanced Cetacean Psychology and is reunited with his long-lost sister Leticia McNabb outside the Tastee Freeze in Act One, how do I describe, realistically, his horrific flash-back to first grade (wherein his teacher, Ms. Stump, forces him to recite, in front of the entire class, the filmography of the character actor Dick Miller while jumping rope and wearing a coon-skin cap). This is an important scene, because if done right it will explain Tucker’s eventual transformation (in Act Three) from a mild-mannered loner to an internationally recognized, megalomaniacal neck tie designer.

Next, I need to solve the problem of how Leticia’s Ecuadorian house-boy Arturo, who had earlier been abducted by Sufi Dervishes while lying in a large zucchini patch and writing a free-verse poem about his favorite food (Quinoa), manages to escape their clutches. Specifically, how do I write a chase sequence that involves only whirling?

Here’s another: when, on page 93, Tucker learns that he must rescue his primary school sweetheart Soon-yi McGraw (now a grown woman with, mysteriously, a third arm growing out of her left foot) from the evil Matador Testardo, why, when learning of her plight, does he immediately run to the kitchen, empty every box of dry pasta onto the floor, and fall into the fetal position while mournfully singing “Ol’ Man River” from Showboat? Does this seem out of character, particularly when taking into account his issues with gluten?

Also, I fear I need a little help with some of the dialogue. For example – in the first few pages of Act Two, when the secondary character Beaumont Affleck-Smythe wakes from his coma and sneaks out of the nursing home by hiding in a bucket of expired beet puree, he has a poignant discussion with a Little Girl before stealing her trike. I need this scene to reveal, from Beaumont’s past, the source of his paralyzing fear of raw Kale. This is particularly important because it provides the motivation for his renouncing all worldly possessions and becoming a peripatetic Jazzercise instructor in the epilogue. Also, I need the proper context for him to use the word “effluvia.”

I’m also struggling a bit with continuity. For example, on page 159 Testardo is wearing a gingham poncho while vacationing in La Mancha with his blind podiatrist Randy (where he finds the golden penguin statuette buried under the windmills of Campo De Criptano). How do I reconcile that with the pivotal scene on page 62 where he clearly vows, after losing both his legs to the ravages of disease, to wear nothing but purple rayon until a cure is found for Tennis Elbow?

And finally, in the denouement, Tucker must retrieve the microchip embedded in his now-rabid marmot Gustavo, talk a suicidal Leticia down from the top of the refrigerator, find the courage to finally change the greeting on his home answering machine from Carl Kassel’s voice to his own, and still make it to the Umakweyana competition at his niece’s Waldorf school in time to win the rubber trophy he has coveted all his life.

Phew. See what I’m saying? This screenwriting business is hard work! Anyway, if any of you have any suggestions, I’d be happy to take them. I plan on getting Satan’s Sputum shot by some big-time Hollywood director, too, so if I use any of your ideas you can expect a pretty sweet payday in the near future (I’m thinking this material is perfect for someone like Terrence Malick, or maybe Vincent Gallo).

Oh, and just so you know, I plan to submit the final draft to the Göteborg Feminist Film Festival as well, and the submission date for their Screenwriting Competition is in eleven months. That means I’m really going to have to get cracking!

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