Posted by: steveonfilm | January 27, 2008

It’s the Economy Stupid!

This is a free association writing exercise. Please pardon and typing, spelling, or grammatical issues:

It was sitting there right in front of me the whole time. Just right there, in front of my face. Tom gets laid off. That’s the plot point in act one.

Follow me with this… Instead of having him losing the number of papers syndicating his comic, how about he loses them all at once. Then he just locks himself in his room for a few days. When he comes out, that’s when John, Tammy, and Mitch sit him down to have a talk with him.

I think that’d work. This way I can build on his walls of security thing. The comic was was grounded him, made him feel like he had a career. With his agent leaving him a message that the newspapers dropped his comic that part of his security is gone. He’s obsessed over the work he does on his comic. Often penciling and inking the same thing over and over and over until he gets it just perfect. But if his strip is canceled, that means its not perfect. That means it bad. Terrible. Horrible. That means he’s not good at it, never been good at it, and never will be good at it.

This can also open up how Mitch can show Tom how to get into the online comic business. He gets Tom to start using a computer instead of doing everything by hand. This way a mistake can be instantly corrected, instead of starting from scratch.

Having a job makes Tom feel normal, functional. Without that job it opens the corner of his mind up to thinking that he’s a loser, shut in, outcast. He doesn’t have a job. What kind of person doesn’t have a job. Only losers don’t have jobs. That’s the kind of thing that races through his minds, those are the types of thoughts he keeps having, keeps thinking about.

This is actually the opening that John had been waiting for. This is the event that John thinks he can use to help propel Tom toward recovery. It can be a game changer. And that’s why he jumps on it. Why he uses it as his chance to help change Tom for the better. Get him out of the house. Get him trying new things. Get him going to new places.

The newspaper is going to have to be part of a conglomerate. Oh…better yet, the newspapers that had been carrying him got bought out, and were scrapping all local talent and brining in just nationally syndicated comics. It’s not just the comic area too. They lay off writers. Editors. Run more AP stories. Basically they gut all the newspapers in the name of profit…which in reality is what is going on as more and more media consolidates.

John can ever use some shots of this on the TV news to help bolster Tom up. Show him that he’s not an different than all the other people who lost their job. It’s just the way things go. None of those people deserved to be laid off either, but they were, and now they have to move on from that and do something else.

If I go with the cancellation of the comic how is that going to get delivered to Tom? I don’t want it to be in person. No…an answering machine message would serve this better. That causes a problem though…how can John be aware of it. He can’t press the button and listen to it.

Got it! When Tom locks himself in the room he uses the phone’s intercom to talk to Tom. He then uses the remote controls on the phone to play the message for John. John thinks it’s stupid that Tom is using the intercom to talk to him when John is just sitting on the other side of the door. He can ever say something to that effect. That would make it work…and be believable, it also wouldn’t break the rules about what John can and can’t do.

I like this…I like this a lot better than what I had originally. John, Tammy, and Mitch sell Tom on the idea that this is a message, something akin to a higher power telling him this is his chance to try something new. They sell him on this idea and that can lead directly into what happens during act two. Tom will be on a journey to recreate who he is, discover how he can live without all the walls he’s built up for himself, and learn to take risks again.

And poof, just like that I figure out what Tom’s dramatic need is. He has to learn how to take a risk. He can’t calculate everything out, ever chance that something can go wrong, ever obsessive thought about the consequences of something not going perfectly. He has to get over his insecurity about the world, and drop the idea that it’s out to get him.

Without risking something he’ll never move on. Never be happy. Never find out what he wants to do with his life. And never forgive himself for the death of Grandma J. And that’s really what a lot of this is all about. He still feels guilty about her death. He never dealt with it like he should have. Instead he blamed himself and just started to pull back, building up his walls of security. Worried that if he gets close to someone else he’ll just lose them as well. He doesn’t want to take that risk, and it’s a risk he has to take.

But Tom has to come to that realization himself. But how….how can he figure that out. John and company sell him on the idea, but he needs to really come to grips with that at the arc of act two. He needs to really begin to accept that idea. He has to be scared he’s going to turn out like someone else, someone he doesn’t want to be like. He doesn’t want to be alone.

But who?

It’s got to be someone he’s familiar with. Someone he knows. Where would he come into contact with this person. Bingo….neighbor from when he was a kid. Tom’s dad can tell him about Mr. Jenkins who lives two doors down. He died and it took two weeks before anyone knew, because Mr. Jenkins didn’t have any friends. He didn’t have anyone to check on him. No one knew he was dead. John can tell Tom, “Remember when we were kids and you told me about Mr. Jenkins? The neighbor down the street who died and no one knew for three weeks? If you keep up like this you’re going to be Mr. Jenkins, Tom.” This can work right into when John finally let’s Tom know the truth.

You know, I feel a lot more comfortable about this story now. A lot of the gaps I felt like I had have settled down and started to form something more concrete. I always knew these problems were here, but I glazed over them to try and keep up with the workbook. I should have spent more time on this at the forefront when I was doing the treatment exercise, or even the character backgrounds. I’ll make sure I do that next time. I won’t force the character backgrounds or treatment just go get it done. I’ll wrap them around what I want to say about the character, coming up with reasons instead of just filler.

Well, hopefully this free association writing helped you see my thought process on how I worked around these issues. Maybe you can use it yourself.




  1. Nice Steve, and good luck to becoming a screen writer, I think you could do it, you seem to be a good writer.

  2. Hey thanks, I appreciate it!

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