Allowing new ideas to crush the old
Updated: Feb 7
I landed a bomb last week with my collaborator Jennifer and our Sacred + Profane project...a re-think of the entire structure of the story! I’ve been struggling for months on how to tell all of the angels & demons stories; as a linear step by step, action by action, consecutive? Or flashbacks in the present day story? How to detail the facts of the murders without becoming a documentary of them? We are mixing actual serial killings (facts) with a (fictionalized but based on true people and events) present-day narrative. What to do?
I also played into a real fear of THE HOOK that everyone warns. Gotta grab audiences within seconds, milliseconds, and make it worth their while. This led me down the wrong path with the subject matter, since I thought, well, the serial killings are the thing, present them first, right? Isn’t that the hook?
But that never felt right, since the real story is of a spirit medium with present-day story of new murderous activity that is connected to her past. But she was a child at the time of the (factual) serial killings. If we presented the murders first, that would delay introducing our main character! But if not chronological leading up to the present, what? Flashbacks! The “lazy way” to create a context for present events?
So after months of writing, we faced the terror of re-conceiving the structure in a rewrite. Multiple drafts are standard practice, but that doesn’t diminish the shock, pain, and disappointment that we didn’t nail it the first time. Yet that’s the reality of this process!
Facing with courage the almost total re-do of the structure, shuffling the pieces into a new formation, using the same bits, but new organization...time to gird our loins knowing this is the process! Relief that I’m NOT locked into a trap of my own making, following rules that clearly are not working. We will start in the present, with a shocking scene including our main characters.
Where there is a continual struggle to make something work, that’s a sign to take note and listen. First it is recognizing that the structure is wobbly and based on what I first believed was the need to hook the audience but in a subtle growing accumulating way. And to give them the serial killings at the start? Wrong call. Allowing the new ideas to crush the old.
More in next blog about how we are juggling all the pieces of real and fictionalized, and aiming it all to a stunning conclusion!