I’ve spent a good few hours getting unreasonably excited about narrative compression and I’m going to explain why.
I’m going to sit down and do a redraft of True Brits over the next two weeks and I’ve been planning what’s going to change. This will probably be the most extensive change I’ve made to the script so far. It’s getting gutted – time frame being reduced, characters repurposed and combined, segues straightened out. The sort of thing that would terrify me a couple of years back but now I can’t wait to get going with.
In doing all of this, the story becomes what I wanted in the first place: a tale of youth disrupted, which I suppose the earlier drafts still are but this version will (hopefully) make that disruption more keenly felt across many more characters. The structural flash is going to take a bit of a hit but if I’m honest that was mostly a lot of intellectual vanity on my part; the audience wants to connect with the character and the world and this story sort of promises that and then tells them to go fuck themselves. You’ve got to have a very good reason to do that and I can see now that the twist the structure was meant to set up isn’t really worth the space or narrative disruption. Basically, a moment of “oh!” isn’t worth trading in for an hour full of “ooh…”
Without trying to sound too grandiose about it, this is what I think writing really involves. I used to think that because I could write what people called good dialogue, that writing would be a synch. But being good at writing dialogue is like being good at football on YouTube. It seems cool and impresses in bursts, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you a whole lot about the player. Density of character, economy of storytelling, manifesting drive through action – those are the marks of quality writing (to me anyway) and the ones that take loads of practice to get right. They’re the writing equivalent of being able to use a football to hit a tree forty yards away.*
*Only one impresses The Kids, however.