It’s one thing to pen a project, to come up with the concept, beat it out, nurture it, feed it, mangle it with precision, beat it some more, gnash one’s teeth, procrastinate, talk about it a lot, write some more, and eventually end up with what you hope is a script.
It is quite a different thing to do this with a partner. Especially when your partner is a guy.
Last December, I was presented with a unique opportunity after coming up with a hare-brained idea that involved an actor that I knew, one I had met during the creation of They Live Among Us. An idea for an adventure/reality show came to me, and within a couple of months, the two of us had created a gonzo pitch presentation. Said show is now off to market, safe in the hands of third-party.
Flash forward. It’s August 1, and, since the inception of the aforementioned project, we now have one pilot with a full season breakdown, a couple of short scripts and are going into production with our Sci-Fi pilot, INTERGLOBAL TRADING FUND.
A year ago, I was rewriting (again), a little indie drama about a man and a pumpkin. These days, I’m writing about time-travel, rednecks, fast cars, fallen angels, reality tv and gargoyles. It’s pretty wicked fun.
A good writing partnership is a marriage of sorts. There is a lot of give and take. You each bring something to the table. Both partners carry the load. There is a common goal and vision. There is trust and respect. And, like marriage, it takes work. A lot of it. You have to learn to listen to one another.
The other night, we were working on tweaks for ITF. Very minor tweaks. Eventually, we found ourselves going over one scene between XIII and Howard. It’s a brief scene, but a crucial one. Ten lines. Over and out.
My eye scanned down the page. I didn’t like the ending line. It felt like a throwaway… which it was.
“Ending needs punch,” I said.
G’s voice sounded over the phone. “I agree.”
“Hmmmmm,” I made various humming noises, and little sing-song chirps as I read the scene again. “Here. This line needs to be at the end.”
“What line?” G said.
“Howard’s. ‘This requires a delicate touch.’ It’s a perfect cap.” I replied.
“It is a good line. And it needs to stay where it is,” G said.
I paused. “What?”
“It needs to stay there.”
“Huh-uh,” I countered. “I’m going to stand on this one. It needs to go to the end.”
“I’ll stand you down on this one,” G said.
We’re both pretty stubborn. Not in a ridiculous way… we both stand our ground when we think we are right. Stare each other in the eye, and wait for the other to blink. He’s former military; I’m sass from Oklahoma. Polar opposites. It’s a lethal combination.
“Stand all you want, but I’m moving it right….”
“No, you’re no…”
“…now….” I knew he could hear the click-click of the keyboard as I got my way.
“Would you just…”
“…just listen to me for a minute?”
I paused. “Alright.”
G asked, “Why does Howard call XIII in?”
“Because for Howard, everything rides on this jump. It’s crucial for him. His world hangs in the balance,” I replied, rolling my eyes.
“Yep,” G said.
I went on. “So XIII is the only operative who Howard places absolute faith in. He’s the one that takes on the most challenging transactions.”
G interjected. “Right. So, when XIII questions ‘two jumps in one day’ Howard answers him with that line as a kind of affirmation of XIII’s skills. It also informs the audience just how good XIII is, and why HE has to be the one to complete this transaction, right?”
“Hello? You still there?” G asked.
I blew out my breath with a Pfffft. Shit.
“Alright,” I said. “I’ll keep it there,” I muttered. Then, a moment of sacrifice – “Just for you.”
“Alright,” G said.
We continued on, talked about a couple of tweaks post table read, and hung up.
Why did I back down? Well, I made a huge gesture of self-sacrifice… but G knows me better than that. I backed down, because I discovered that he was right.
Just don’t tell him I said so. 😉
Give and take. Speak and listen. Check the ego at the door. Have fun. That’s what a great writing partnership is all about. Besides, I get to write action scenes. How cool is that?
Now, go write.
HRH, Princess Scribe
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Excellent! A great example of show don’t tell. Thank you for showing us how a writing partnership works when it’s working.
In spite of me! lol!
I am principally a songwriter, but I write with dramatic intentions for the live stage performance of my works in mind.
Though sometimes differences of opinion arise in a co-writing session, I find it to be an exhilarating opportunity to dig deep, not only into my own heart, but into the collective soul of our collaboration, which didn’t exist prior to our extended conversation, otherwise known as a song.
I have found that the greatest songs and theatrical pieces, that I have been a part of, have found their own natural course to the page and stage, in a true and natural fashion, when I just got out of the way long enough, and didn’t try to rationalize the shear chemistry of the beautiful dance of words and honest emotion that collaboration embraces.
After all, great writing is merely an honest conversation, with ourselves and the words that best embrace what truly needs to be conveyed.
The marriage of two wordsmiths can be a beautiful and rewarding experience, if you’re both willing to dance.
Indeed it can. Hopefully we both have rhythm. 😉
I believe what you’ve created with G is an attraction and respect based on mutuality. You each come to the table with similar goals and meet at the same level of heart, conviction and passion. When we meet at that level, we do. as you say… “give and take, speak and listen” knowing wholeheartedly it will be met with respect and reciprocation. These relationships in mutuality are our greatest teachers and most loyal advocates. I believe when we seek and nurture them we discover and share gifts we could never create alone. Thanks so much for sharing this today!
Amen! And thank you!
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i enjoy your story of successful co-writing. i have always wanted to write with partners, but often we broke up because we couldn’t reconcile our visions.