How to Kill Your Story

My script, my beloved story, has died. I can’t understand what happened. We were just together last week and it was wonderful. Now, when I look at its battered pages, I feel nothing. The symptoms were easily recognizable but I couldn’t accept the truth. Instead, I consulted with expert script doctors and their prognosis is unanimous…my story is dead. It’s time to let go.

Despite its glorious beginning, the subtle slide into oblivion began with a sudden disconnect between my protagonist and his goal. He started doing things just to be funny, just to stand out among the ever-growing crowd of notably unique supporting characters. I allowed this experimentation, hoping that he would find himself eventually. One hundred and seven index cards later, he had gone from chugging beer at a Christmas party hosted by a transvestite opera singer to robbing a bank dressed as an elf. And his height varied by as much as a foot throughout the script because even his physical self seemed to be in flux, too. By the time I received the official diagnosis, he was headed for Stuttgart…does it really matter why?

How did this simple holiday movie get so off track? Well, I make the mistake of confusing entertaining moments with enlightening scenes. My protagonist does have a unique perspective on the world. He has a flaw that enables him to make a myriad of wrong turns on his way to the finish line. But he also has a support team of characters who challenge, and often overshadow him. His opponent unfortunately, shares my hero’s lack of focus, making their conflicts wacky, instead of tight, tense, building to a final battle that brings visual and poetic closure to their conflict. But these are merely the symptoms…what is the problem?
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