Making mistakes in writing and improv
13 scenes written, and the final confrontation started. Our hero stands seemingly alone, surrounded by the villain’s crew. But she knows she’s got a trick up her sleeve, thanks to her nearby hidden friend.
Who the villain demanded be brought to him a few scenes ago. And for some reason seems to have entirely forgotten about in the meantime. While the audience clearly won’t have done.
I thought I’d cunningly weaved together a bunch of story threads to a satisfying conclusion, but part-way through the final scene I was brought up short. Sure, the villain is ranting in classic villain style and is sure of his victory, but getting the audience to buy that he’s got such a short memory span when it comes to our protagonists is pushing things a little far. I’m going to have to fix this problem.
And that’s great.
Yes, it means this is going to take me longer than I expected. Yes it means that I “messed things up”, but that happens. Sometimes in improv brilliant scenes are fed by a confusion on the part of one improviser, but only provided someone takes that issue and runs with it. Obviously when scripting it’s a slightly different process, but fundamentally so solve the problem I used the same technique that I use while in the middle of an improv scene – “Yes, and…”. In improv this simply means accepting what has just happened (even if it was a “mistake”) as now part of your scene(“Yes”), and developing the idea and building upon it (“and…”)
In this case I accepted that the villain would question why said friend was missing (thus saying “Yes” to the idea that the villain would notice), but also realising that there must be something more to the story to explain how this had happened (thus adding the “and…”, but I won’t give away what I actually added here). Realising my problem got me asking the crucial question – how did this character actually come to be where he was. And fixing it has allowed me to not only answer this question, but also to give another character a particular awesome moment, and to make it clearer how everyone contributes to the eventual climax of the show – all things that I probably wouldn’t have thought to add without this “mistake” to slow me down.
Still, there’s plenty left to do. Changes are hard work, and I’m not entirely happy with my villain – I want a relatable villain but sometimes they veer a little too close to sounding entirely reasonable. Maybe the mistakes I’ve made there will lead to me drawing out a new element of their personality and making them someone the audience will really love to hate.
Or maybe not. Sometimes a mistake is just a mistake. But I’m going to try to keep trying to treat them as opportunities, both in writing and in life. For me it’s certainly better than dwelling upon them!