Recently I pulled out an action script I wrote three years ago. After I finished it, I never picked it up again. I loved the concept of the script, but I knew it needed a lot of work and I couldn’t figure out where to start. So I took it out and started making notes on it as I re-read it. Of course that is not the right thing to do. You’re supposed to read through it first then start taking notes, but I’ve always been a rebel. I managed to rework the first act into something I thought introduced the main character well while still giving good action sequences. Then I hit a wall in the second act. I was taking out whole scenes and had nothing to replace them with. I needed a good guideline to help me mold my second and let’s face it, third acts.
So I turned to Sam Raimi’s Spiderman. Although my script isn’t a superhero origin story like Spiderman, the main character moves from a small town into a big city like Peter Parker. I needed to show him balancing his life as a superhero and regular guy while trying to establish himself in a new setting. I thought this Spiderman would be the perfect template to study for my script.
So in my notes for Spiderman are numerous side notes I made about certain plot points. Just little food for thoughts I will sprinkle throughout this post. First Side Note: Peter was bit by a spider and didn’t report it to the teacher. He should’ve went to the hospital! What if it was poisonous? Smart kid, stupid actions.
Although I had already worked through my first act, I saw that the villain in Spiderman was introduced almost immediately. As a matter of fact, Peter Parker and Norman Osborn had parallel storylines throughout the film. It made me realize that I didn’t have a set villain in my script. There were a few bad guys, and later one of the bad guys develops into a major antagonist, but not until the third act. I needed to develop this character more, introduce him much earlier and give him a definite agenda. Make him more than just someone who does bad things to good people. He needed to have needs and goals like Norman Osborn. Osborn wasn’t just a bad guy. He was a scientist and businessman who was at risk of losing everything he’d built. And when he’s introduced, you can see the strained relationship between Norman and Harry, so you know that Norman sacrificed time with his family to build his company. But he thought it was worth it because he was preparing a legacy for Harry. Now he was in danger of losing it all, so he did what he could to keep that from happening. My villain is not as sympathetic as Norman Osborn, but he still needed a clear reason why he did the things he did and why he wouldn’t let some corny superhero stand in his way.
A couple of Ben Side Notes: Ben was a supervisor for 35 years, he’s old as heck, why wasn’t he able to just retire? Why wasn’t he saving up? Their house has got to be paid for – why couldn’t he draw social security and get a part-time job as a security guard? 68 years old, he should’ve retired three years ago. People retired at 65 in the early 2000s, it was before the housing bust. Who teaches their child not to beat up the bully that’s been tormenting them? Final Ben Side Note: Yea, Peter was being petty, but if this were real life and not a comic book movie, you would not put yourself in the middle of a robbery, period. This ain’t Hell or High Water. Ben’s death, still not Peter’s fault.
The scenes where Spiderman doesn’t appear, but is talked about by other characters was helpful as well. It showed how other people felt about him and you got to see the buildup of his superhero lore. This is certainly important for my superhero because he really cares what other people thinks about him. As a matter of fact, it’s the driving force of the plot. It would be interesting to see what his lore is in his new location. Not only did those scenes buildup Spiderman, but it also setup a possible job for Peter. Because even Superheroes gotta pay the bills. I had a life outside of crime fighting for my hero, but I changed the way he was introduced to it because of these scenes. I’ve always loved a good cause and effect in a story.
Final Side Notes: MJ just finished talking to Peter and Spiderman is not disguising his voice, not even a little bit. Girl, for real. Peter has some thick ass blood. Aunt May was certainly a homemaker and Uncle Ben was unemployed, how is she paying the bills now?
I’m also rethinking the love story in my script. I wanted to add a love triangle, not for the sake of added conflict, but I wanted to parallel what he was going through in his superhero life. The world around him is generally clueless to his existence just as he is clueless to his friend’s feelings for him. I thought it might be nice to show him unknowingly inflicting the same pain on someone else that is inflicted on him everyday. Not your everyday love triangle, but Alfred Hitchcock always said, avoid the cliché.
I won’t go into how I changed the third act (because spoilers), but I will say that expanding my villain gave me a better action set piece for the finale. So overall, I feel better about this draft. It still needs some polishing, but I think it has improved. Reading scripts similar to what you want to write has always been a practice for writers. It’s why I have a collection of television and film scripts on every flash drive, external hard drive and computer I’ve owned. You’re not looking to copy what’s been done before, but looking at how someone else has done it, can help you see your own script through fresh eyes. Just comparing my script to Spiderman helped me understand it better. And understanding it made me less afraid of re-writing it.