I’ve been working on “The Anti-Heroes” for a few months now. I’d gotten the outline completed. I was deep diving each of my story beats and fleshing things out. However, the more time I spent working on the details, the more I found myself concentrating on one singular character.
The gist of “The Anti-Heroes” was that all the the worlds greatest monsters are actually some of our greatest heroes. Working in secret, they’ve kept the world safe for literally thousands of years. But since these are new takes on some of the classic monsters, I had to come up with new personalities and character backgrounds for them. While I wanted to pay some homage to their existing and familiar histories I didn’t want to be beholden to them either.
While I worked on the backstories and explored who these characters were, I kept coming back more and more to the vampire character named Vladimir Tepes. That name is a play of the Vlad Tepes III, which is who many believe Bram Stoker based Count Dracula on. I wanted him to be a nobel but conflicted character. Having walked the Earth for hundreds of years he had grown cynical of any chance that humanity could turn things around. Add to that his understanding that no matter what we happened to do to this planet (global warming, nuclear war, super virus, etc.) he’d be left behind to deal with the mess as the rest of us died out. Needless to say, he was quite a bit different than the Draculas that others might be accustomed to.
But as I explored him more and more, I felt less and less connected to the other characters. They started to become more of a problem that seemed to be getting in the way of the story I really wanted to tell. Background noise, if you will. And while it took a while, I realized that the the story I really wanted to tell was the one behind my new take on Dracula, and not the story I was trying to tell with “The Anti-Heroes.”
Part of why I wanted to share this was because I figured this out BEFORE I started writing my screenplay. I realized all of this while I was still outlining and breaking my script. It wasn’t 60 pages into a script I’d never finish. It was before. And I think that’s important.
All too often people (and by people, I mean amateurs like you and I) start writing before they are ready. They get this general idea of a story, and then type FADE IN and are off to the races. Often times they never finish the script, and if they do it’s a jumbled mess with no clear direction. They started writing before they fully realized the story they wanted, no…needed, to tell.
Not everyone needs as detailed an outline as I do to write a script. That’s perfectly okay. Everyone works differently. But, what’s important is that you don’t write your script until you know the story you need to tell. This might take weeks or months, but it’s important that you wait. Keep deep diving your idea and characters until they is no questions left about what you’re going to write, and how you’re going to write it. When you’ve reached that point (whatever the method) then you’re ready to write.
This isn’t to say that your end result won’t differ drastically from the script you set out to write. Anything can happen once you start writing. The same thing goes when you move from one draft to the next. But what you want to be absolutely sure of is that you know your story and you know your characters. Don’t “feel it out” as you write. Know it before. Because if you run into issues with your second and third act, the real problem lies with what you wrote in the first act, and sometimes even before that.