It’s Wednesday, welcome to the inaugural “Tales from the Script". I thought it would be fitting to share from The 6th Sense – you know, script/crypt/dead people? If you haven't seen this film, I encourage you to do so - and to read no further until you have.
Love him or hate him, M. Night Shyamalan created a truly masterful work in this film. I remember being completely gob smacked when I saw it. Not just because of the twist, but because it was so well done. Bruce Willis was very well cast and played his part perfectly. We'd seen him attempt the "mentor to a little boy" before in Mercury Rising and it was okay – the hot chocolate still moves my heart, but here he really brought the developing relationship with the child to life and showed the transformation of Dr. Malcolm Crowe with unexpected poignancy.
If you have never read a movie script, this is a wonderful place to start. It actually gave me chills reading it. Scripts read fast, often faster than watching the film, but provide all sorts of insight that you don't get from seeing the movie (or reading the book). It isn't that reading it is better, just different. If you need help finding a copy send me an email - I should be able to hook you up. (I read this one using the Nook app on my iPad.)
The specific point I'd like to make, other than the obvious that there is no wasted space in the story (every scene does more than one thing) and it feels alive - how's that for irony? - is that as an author, we get to choose not just the words we use, but the events we write about. Even writing non-fiction, there is always more to the story than what we have the time and space to relate. Choose your pieces carefully.
In this film there is a scene where Malcolm and Cole are in the hospital and Malcolm does a magic trick. At this point in the script we need, structurally, to see a change in their relationship and in their characters but writing three scenes would be cumbersome - and long. A single scene accomplishing these actions is best - but what scene? They could go out for ice cream. They could play bingo. They could spit into the river from a bridge. Shyamalan chose magic. There's a payoff later in the story that wouldn't have been there with anything else. It’s part of what sets him apart as a master story teller.
It's also a very well written scene. He didn't choose a goofy trick, or something so complicated that it couldn't be described. Instead, it's a trick that is easy for the reader to visualize yet remains active for the characters and is engaging to watch on screen. Oh, and the trick? It's like Malcolm himself and we learn even more about how the character views himself. The simple choice about how to handle a story development point resulted in a powerful moment between the two main characters and I suspect that, when you read it, you won't be thinking about character arcs or plot points, you'll be thinking about whom you can show the trick to.
So what am I reading now? The one about UBL - can't remember the name it's so mesmerizing.
Every Wednesday I will apply my stunning intellect and biting wit to another recently consumed script in "Reel Life Stories of the Hollywood Patrol", or my travelogue, "Where the Reel Meets the Road". Maybe I should just stick with "Tales From the Script"?