Keep your story options open
So beautiful. The fullness. The curves. You make me smile. I want to be with you forever. You’re perfect. I love you.
This is the greatest paragraph ever written. The most beautiful dialogue ever conceived. A scene that will be remembered for eternity.
Many of the posts I’ve written have been about cutting yourself some slack, about overcoming the inner demons of doubt. Giving yourself permission to fail. That perfection isn’t your goal.
Well, now we need to remember that not only is perfection not your goal, it is not even possible. There is always room for improvement, so please don’t ever fall in love with your work.
When creating a new work—a novel, screenplay, whatever—it is important to leave yourself as many options as possible, to keep all of the doors open until you reach a combination that works best for you.
Too often, however, writers jump into their work, pursuing the idea that offered the first blush of love. In their zeal to express that love, they put on blinders to other possibilities. Perhaps it is a pure love, but I’m confident for a few of us, it’s also probably fear of never finding another love.
And once we express that love, we are loathe to question it, even when presented with another option. This is the only way the scene can be written. This is the best way to achieve the point of the scene. Everything else is weaker.
Maybe you’re right, once or twice in a work (or career), but rare are those moments. So let me recommend something scandalous.
Start seeing other options.
I’m not asking you to fall in love with them or to fall out of love with your original idea, but infidelity can be healthy. It may even make you appreciate your first love all the more. (Why do I suddenly feel like Silvio Berlusconi?)
Just dip your toe in the water, if this idea makes you nervous.
If your lovers currently meet in a restaurant, explore what would happen if they met in a post office, a house of mirrors, a sanitorium.
Too much too soon?
Then change the type of restaurant. How would your scene change if they were at an expensive restaurant, McDonalds, a hot dog cart, on a picnic?
Try this with any and every aspect of your story, and do it as early as possible. The longer you work on a project, developing its specifics, the harder it will be to change any aspect of it beyond cosmetic editing.
That path you see to your goal may be less of a path and more of a cavernous rut you’ve worn by running over the same idea time and again. Wait too long and you don’t see anything else. You can’t see beyond its limits.
Don’t let that happen to the concept that you love and more importantly, to the creative spirit you continue to nurture. It may be painful. You may have to walk away from the one you love, but trust me, you will fall in love again. I promise.
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