I try not to be too precious about my writing. Once a script is finished, I don’t cloister it away in a subterranean vault like some rare gem that only those with special iris-protecting goggles can bear witness to. No, I like to get opinions on it. I appreciate the feedback. I need the feedback. Now, I still want said feedback to be delivered in a kind and compassionate fashion. Really, you don’t have to tell me that my script is a literary abomination that practically made your eyes bleed. Believe me, when I receive comments like, “I didn’t find one misspelled word” or “Your margin spacing was an inspiration,” I pretty much figure that I’ve missed the emotional mark.
Luckily, I have a diverse group of trusted advisors upon whom I force bestow my scripts for their thoughts and suggestions. I know some incredible writers and I also know some super-smart film-lovers (and then, of course, there are the highly-insightful parental/sibling/in-law units), so I feel like I get a good range of opinions. It’s asking a lot for someone to carve out a couple of hours to read a random collection of exteriors and interiors, dialogue and description – if I’m going to make such a request, then I’m going to absorb the resulting observations. I may not agree with all of them, but a fair amount will settle in and resonate.
Anyway, this is my long-winded way of describing an interesting piece of feedback I recently received on Beneath the Surface. The feedback (and this came from a new source): I need to change the name of one of my main characters. (And, by domino effect, the last name of a few others.)
The sister in my script, JESSICA, is married to TOM BARRETT. Now it should be noted that Jessica’s name changed a few drafts in. She started out as Sarah (a name I love – and it will appear in a future script, mark my words), but I realized that I wanted her brother, Bud, to call her by a nickname. I tend to bestow nicknames upon my nearest and dearest, so I thought Bud calling his sister by a nickname would further indicate their past relationship. You know…the damaged past relationship that was being buried (here it comes) beneath the surface. (See how deep this thing goes?!?) And Sarah doesn’t really lend itself to a nickname. Plus, I was friends with a Jessie in school who was definitely rough around the edges, a total kick-ass, and completely intriguing to boys. Yeah, goodbye, Sarah – hello, Jessica/Jessie.
So the Jessie in my script reinvents herself to become Jessica. And she ends up marrying Tom Barrett. Tom is a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy – he’s kind, he’s smart, he’s a successful photography professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
However, he’s not running for Governor of the state.
But this guy is:
The TOM BARRETT above is the current mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And you may remember hearing about him when he hit the national news scene after being attacked as he tried to break up a domestic dispute at the Wisconsin State Fair.
Yeah, the Tom Barrett above is a pretty cool – and brave! – guy.
And I’m on my way back to the drawing board…
What to name this key character? Charles Foster Kane? Michael Corleone? Keyser Soze?
If y’all have any suggestions regarding the name change, I’m all ears! (And thanks, Mr. T, for that valuable piece of feedback. I owe ya one!)
NEXT UP: The Music Man