Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Human Sacrifice

In the life of every script, key decisions must be confronted and made. Is this the right beat for an act out? Should I use flashbacks? What do I do about this gaping plot hole?

Sometimes the hardest decisions involve homicide -- specifically, excising a character. I am currently struggling with this decision in regard to my pilot.

My pilot spec has no less than 20 (!) speaking characters. Keeping them straight is a chore for the reader, and I am sympathetic to this. In fact, I dislike having so many dang people cluttering up my world. The problem is, I NEED most of these characters.

First, there's the lead. He can't go away, no way, no how. Then there's his 'entourage' or 'team' -- those three are necessary too. The boss stays, as does the best friend. So does the heavy. As for the second tier characters, most of those serve a purpose too. I've already taken 3 characters and rolled them into one. Still, the world is too populated. Someone must go.

I've chosen Coulter for this honor.

Dan Coulter is a man's man. He's also an arrogant SOB. He was in the story to be a thorn in the side of my lead and provide some meaty conflict. Trouble is, he isn't really that necessary anymore. When I created him, he was unique, serving a singular purpose. Now I have two or three other characters who duplicate that role. So, Coulter is headed to the dustbin.

Here's the problem, it's not that simple. He is woven into some scenes that feed important information. He was a structure point too -- serving as a justification for our lead to make a critical decision. If he is gone, the decision doesn't make sense. So just cutting him out of the story leads to a number of rewrite issues. Now, I'm not afraid of rewriting, far from it. At first glance, however, the task is daunting. Once I figure out how to patch over the gaps left by this character, I'll be good to go. Right now I'm just trying to find enough dirt for filler.

In the end, I'll have 19 (!?!) speaking roles in the pilot. It may not seem like a significant reduction, but I think it will still help. After all, Lost in any given week seems to have 25, and Lord knows how many there are for 24 (actually, I counted last night -- I counted 21 name characters at least...got a little fuzzy in the detention center, but that's still a hefty number.)

On to the rewrite.


Shawn said...

No, not Dan!

Instead of axing him from the start, you could kill him off in the pilot, allowing him to serve his current functions while having his death reverberate somehow in later episodes. Perhaps he’s murdered or killed accidentally, which leads to complications both internal and external for another character. Just a thought.

Shawna said...

Shawn, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Sadly, Dan is truly redundant since *another* character in the pilot does die and it reverberates throughout the series...

See? I am left no choice but to sacrifice him for the greater good.

Brett said...

What if you just replaced him with a short cute silver robot who goes "beedy-beedy-beedy" all the time?

Hasbro sends their thanks.
Glen Larsonesque B

Isaac Ho said...

Battlestar Galactica partitions its storytelling. Some weeks there's a Sharon storyline, some weeks there's not.

wcdixon said...

"I need most of these characters"

The operative word here is 'most'...any you don't absolutely need should go or be rolled into someone else. And to help do that, break your characters into primary and secondary. Decide which secondary ones MUST stay, and combine or excise the rest. Even with large ensemble shows they will focus on just a handful for the ep...maybe some you can intro later in the series.