On Wednesday, I opened up a couple of old files on my hard drive and had a look. One was a set of notes in Text Block Writer (my software of choice for screenplays, making Blake Snyder‘s Board digital) and the other was a plain old Word file.
The notes catalogued some disconnected beats of a Victorian Assassins movie that I scribbled down about two years ago. This idea first came to me in Summer 2004, when I was staying at a jungle hotel in Sri Lanka and my mind was alive with the Indian Subcontinent and ninja assassins. Obviously.
However, when I ran it past my cabal of writing friends, they tore it apart. Where was the motive? The character development? Leaping from rooftop to rooftop was all very well, but where was the substance? I thought about it for a couple of days and decided to rewrite it, adding a new love interest and changing the dynamics of the piece.
Which never made it past the Word document.
But on Wednesday, dusting off those old files, I remembered what I loved about that story – the essence that would not die in my mind. I rewrote it again, focussing on my notes and dragging out some beats to make a plot. Yet there were still some elements that just didn’t fit and I couldn’t make it work, even though it ran round my head when I went to bed at night and woke with my in the mornings.
When I got on my train Friday evening, I was intending to work. What actually happened was that my mind exploded. The smidgen of steampunk that had ghosted over the surface of the story came alive – let’s set it on a steamship! Let’s add a crazy inventor! Let’s have a showdown between man and machine!
Suddenly, it all worked. Between Swansea and Paddington, the movie unfolded, until I had notes for every single scene. Today, I have written most of Act One, racing through dialogue, building up my supporting cast, colouring in the details of my sets. If I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow, I might have a screenplay complete by the end of the week.
Which boils down to this: it can take years for something to grow, mote upon mote, but one day, it will become a snowball. If you’re really lucky, it will be a snowball of steampunk assassins.