Well, as I write this I’m thinking, “George, you have a [expletive deleted] script to finish,” but specificity and decisions are top of mind for me now, so I feel compelled to address these critical issues that are key to screenwriting.
In the case of what I’m doing in preparation for a free staged script reading Aug. 1, (2011) — and this definitely applies to any story you’re developing — specificity and decisions about your characters and story are key to getting past so-called “writer’s block.”
“Writer’s Block” to me just means you’re having trouble making decisions regarding in what direction to take your story and characters. In my case, I completely abandoned one sitcom idea in favor of another, mainly because I was faced with too many decisions, which, in turn, was hindering my story’s specificity; and, as I’m rockin’ and rollin’ on this new idea, which is more specific, I’m finding it easier to make decisions. And when you can make decisions about a character or plot point, the writing comes more freely.
Here’s one decision I’ll reveal at this point: I decided that one of my characters is convinced he’s been abducted by aliens. Now, as I plow through the process of writing the script, it’s much easier for me to weave his obsession into the story — both through dialogue and action — all because I made a specific decision. Will it work? Will it fit seamlessly into the overall story? Yes — because it’s specific. Whether or not the audience accepts it, relates to it or reacts to it is beyond my control, because I can only control the words I put on the page. But the key point here is to make a decision, be specific, and go with it. When I hear the actors read through the script I’ll get a sense of whether or not it “fits” or works on some way, as will the audience’s reaction, or non reaction.
Ultimately, as the writer, you really have to let go of the thought — or fear — of what may or may not work, because, in the end, each individual in the audience determines what works or what doesn’t work for themselves. A specific decision you, the writer, makes, could very well work for one audience but not another; I’ve experienced this firsthand and I have no explanation. You really just have to go with your gut feeling to who your characters are and provide a foundation for why your characters make the decisions they do, and sit back and see what happens.