So there’s this writer who’s trying to break an episode.
He’s spending every waking hours thinking about it.
Suddenly, this brilliant scene comes to mind. And, ‘oh my God!, I finally found a way of putting in that great catchphrase! It fits so perfectly!’
From breaking it, the writer moves on to actually penning the script.
As always, everything continues to evolve. Characters grow, scenes get trimmed, dialogues get sharper.
Except for that one brilliant scene with the great catchphrase. It sticks with the script no matter the context. Even during the rewrite, and despite everyone telling him how problematic the scene is, ‘I can’t bring myself to remove that brilliant scene with that great catchphrase. It’s so iconic, it transcends storytelling, or acts. You don’t get it.’
If that writer were to step back, he’d see how obvious it is that nor the scene or the catchphrase have their place in the script anymore. (And actually they’re not as groundbreaking as he thinks they are)
These words are his babies. And if he’s not willing to kill them now, they’ll kill his work later.
We all have them in our scripts. Great ideas/scenes/lines/characters that were so inspiring at the moment of their creation that we can’t even think about ending their existence. You know the ones.
They have quite literally become our babies, our children. We feed them our excuses for keeping them in the script, even though deep down we know they don’t serve any purpose.
The more you let them hang around, the more you grow attached to them, the less you want to delete them, and the more you let them hang around.
If there’s one lesson from the Lost finale to be had, it’s this one: you need to let go and move on.
Take a harsh look at your script and be ready to make some sacrifices in slashing your words.
So what can you do to ease the pain?
I hate deleting my words as much as the next guy.
Subconsciously (or maybe I’m plain aware of this), I think that if I cut something out of the script, it’s gone forever.
To eliminate the doubt I have a ‘limbo file‘, a separate text document where I cut/paste into it all the stuff I’m removing from the script.
This is certainly not the greatest idea ever. It’s not organized, and actually it’s pretty random. But at the back of my mind, I’m somewhat comforted by the fact that if push comes to shove, I can always find again the things I deleted.
Truth is though, I will never open this file to read back my aborted content, but it does the trick since the words are gone from the finished product.
What this ‘limbo file’ allows me to do is cut the BS, and more importantly move on with the work.
Those kinds of scenes you think are vital but are not were never meant to be permanent.
Yes, even if you can’t consciously realize it.
At best, they were like crutches; supporting your other beats until you found a better solution.
At worst, they were buoys sent by your wondrous mind to keep you afloat and avoid getting script-stuck forever.
As a wise man once said (paraphrase alert): be attached to the meaning of your words, not the words themselves.
Your sentiments are keeping you from growing, evolving, shielding your skin (perplexing imagery, I know).
It is time for you to take a step forward and embrace changes in your script.
After all, we’re talking about a rewrite; and that doesn’t come without a few pains.
So whether you need a ‘limbo file’ or not, do yourself and your work a favor: kill your babies.