Candy Canes Cause Writer’s Block (A Peek into the Screenwriter’s Mind)

If you don’t follow my blog (And why don’t you? It’s fun, free, and can often be well-written and laugh-inducing!), you might not understand what’s going on here, so let me fill you in on what’s happening…

I am a screenwriter, who often doesn’t dedicate enough time to his craft (things like the mortgage, bills, the need for health care and food tend to get in the way…), so I created this blog to help get the creative juices flowing.  Every once in a while, I’m going to break away from our regularly scheduled blog programming to talk about the screenplay, my process, or to try to work out my writer’s block right here with you.

At the moment, I am on page 91 of the new script.  I had to stop last night because I came to a seemingly unconquerable road block: a six foot plastic candy cane.  No, this is not another of my silly blog stories, but the actual truth.

About a month ago, I made up my mind that a little piece of throw away action from the first act needed to be revisited in the third act.  In that earlier scene, one of the characters steals a giant plastic candy cane from a Santa’s Village at the local department store (as odd as that sounds, it actually makes perfect sense in the story and is essential to the character’s back story).   It was meant to be a quick joke and way to show growth for the character, but somehow, my brain locked on the existence of this prop and made the executive decision that it needed to be used again.

As I’ve established in earlier posts (again, playing catch up for you non-followers…), I have this horrible affliction of insisting on writing without an outline.  I start with a well-formed idea, but never know how a screenplay is going to end.  Heck, I don’t even know how I’m going to get the story to the end of Act One.

I have tried to outline, and it felt like writing in handcuffs.  I honestly could not do it.  My writing style is dependent upon just following my instincts and letting the Writing Fates guide me down the right path.

The Candy Cane Conundrum is a perfect example of that process.  The candy cane was not in the script for the first few months, but when I did a rewrite of the first act, I added it on a whim.  Now, something that simply seemed funny to me at the time, is going to become a key part of the story’s climax.  Maybe that sounds ridiculous to you, but I assure you it has always worked for me.

Mind you, I did run the idea past my Trusted Reader.  You don’t know what that is, do you?  I am extremely superstitious and will not discuss my script or let anyone read it until I am done with the first draft.  Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, and one of them came up for this particular script.

I was chatting with the director of The Retirement Party (if you don’t know what that is, read the “Our Story Thus Far” post which includes the movie’s trailer) and he asked me what I was working on because he wanted to direct another of my scripts.  He’d also just started his own production company, so I knew I had to jump at this chance and see if he’d be interested in the new idea.  He was and is now waiting to read the first draft.

The Trusted Reader is the one person I allow to read the script as I’m writing it.  She is the only one with whom I will talk out the plot, run ideas, and allow to suggest changes.  A Trusted Reader is vital to my screenwriting process since I do not outline and I am constantly rewriting while also creating new pages.  I need her to tell me that the story still makes sense, and that I haven’t edited out a crucial point that explains why the characters are in a certain setting.  It all gets very confusing in my brain when I’m in the middle of a script.  I need someone to fight through the clutter and give me an honest opinion.

So, if you’re a writer and you don’t have a Trusted Reader, I suggest you get one immediately.  Don’t even think about stealing mine, though.  She’s got an iron clad contract and is not going anywhere.

My Trusted Reader even helps with the blog.  While she doesn’t read the entries before I post them, she does give me feedback and suggest tweaks, which I implement to further enhance your enjoyment of my writing.  You guys all owe her a big thank you.

Back to the Writer’s Block issue.  Sure, it would be simple to just forget about using the Candy Cane and simply move forward, but that would be cheating.  One of the things I love about writing is the challenge it presents.  I am truly happiest when I am tapping away at the keyboard, creating my worlds, putting words in the mouths of my characters, and figuring out how to get them to happily ever after.  Were I to take the easy way out and back away from a challenge like this, I would not only be depriving myself of the fun of solving the problem, but would also knowingly be putting an inferior version of my story out into the world.

I solved this problem like I always do…I put on my writer’s hat (it’s the Notre Dame one this morning to honor the #1 football team in the nation.  Go Irish!) and went for a long walk.  I thought through the possibilities and came up with an idea that I really think is going to best serve the story.

My name is Austin, and I’m a screenwriter.  That means my brain works funny.  Hope you enjoyed this little peek inside my skull, and I’d really like it if you continued to read my blog.  The words don’t mean as much if no one is enjoying them…

If anyone else out there is a screenwriter, and you want to talk about the creative side of things, feel free to shoot me a comment or email.  This Modern Philosopher never walks away from a chance to do some Deep Thinking on a favorite topic…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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8 Responses to Candy Canes Cause Writer’s Block (A Peek into the Screenwriter’s Mind)

  1. Scriptwriters unite! I’m a playwright, but *also* work without outlines, and come to my script endings as surprised as the audience does, alot of the time. Part of the fun of it is seeing what the characters are gonna do next, and the consequences of their actions…cuz at some point they take over telling the story and I’m just the chick who happens to be there to write it down. In other words: I feel your candy cane pain, and wish your character’s new journey, well 🙂

  2. pamtanzey says:

    My thanks to your Trusted Reader. Nice job, both of you.

  3. Long walks always help me when i’m stuck on a scene, as do long drives, although I’d feel lost without a ridiculously detailed outline. I’m glad you still managed to get it worked out!

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