As I wrote earlier today, once you have developed the characters you should sit down and write a couple of scenes in prose that put two characters together and see what happens. I’ve done just that below. There are two scenes below and I think both will find there way into the story. The first scene takes place in the house between Cynthia and Simon. In it we start to learn about the depth of meaning the house has for Simon. The second scene takes place between Derek and Ronald and will replace the ‘illegal trickery’ that was mentioned a couple of days ago in my 9 Story Pillars. Just remember as you read the two scenes, I’m a screenwriting not a novel writer. Even my prose often reads like a screenplay.
Cynthia stood at the front door of the house. Across the street the crew had finished excavating the hole in the earth and where preparing to start pouring the cement She took a sip from her coffee mug.
“That is why I fight to hold on to this place. What you see right there.” Simon behind her already dressed in his suit for church. “The world is becoming concrete and there’s nothing human about concrete. This house has stood through two world wars and generations of the builder’s family. This house can tell a story. Many stories, if it could just talk.”
“I understand.” Cynthia said.
“Good, because that husband of yours doesn’t. He just sees the money. The quick buy out. He’ll walk away from this place as soon as I’m dead.” Simon turned back to the living room and sat in his easy chair. “I’m getting too old to fight this fight. That’s why I reached out to Derek. I needed help. But I’m sorely disappointed in what I’ve found.”
Cynthia sat down on the end of the sofa closest to Simon and once again took a sip from her coffee. Simon lowered his head and looked at his hands. Cynthia saw his age for the first time. This is a man who is ready to give up. A man who is ready to die. “Derek won’t the house. I promise you Simon.”
Simon shook his head and looked over to Cynthia. “You can’t make those promises Cynthia. Only Derek can, and he won’t. A million pounds is a lot of money, no matter what currency you convert it to.”
“He won’t.” she said.
“He will.” Simon countered. “I know that with my heart and soul. This house is dead. It’s memories drained. All for nothing. I couldn’t admit to myself that I had survived Nazi Germany until I passed through that door and sat down in this very chair. There were times sitting in that cell where I wanted to die. But I thought of home. I thought my mother and father and Patrick. And this house and I kept going. I kept breathing. After my plane was shot down I spent three years in a German cell and the only thing that kept going was the thought of returning to this house. My home.”
Cynthia hadn’t moved as Simon relived those three years in the span of several sentences. She understood what this house meant to Simon. Survival. And without it, he’s just going to die. “I swear to you. I will not let Derek sell it.”
* * *
Derek knocked a second time on the side of the construction office’s door and waited for someone to answer. The door finally opened and Ronald invited him in.
“What can I do for you Mr. Hastings?” Ronald said.
“I’m here to talk about the house.”
“Then talk.” Ronald took his seat behind the metal, office desk leaving Derek to stand across the desk from him.
“My great-grandfather wants to die in that house.” Derek said.
“He’s told me that.”
“After his death, I will take ownership of the house. Once that happens, I will sell it to you and your company. But he lives in it until he dies whether its a year from now or ten years from now.”
“I don’t have the time to wait ten years, Mr. Hastings.”
“You’ve waited over a year. What’s a couple more?”
“Than let’s fix the price now. The longer I wait, the more resale value you lose. I’m offering ten million dollars, whether it’s tomorrow or ten years from now.” Ronald said. He looked up at Derek locking eyes with the younger man.
“Ten years from now the property is going to be worth so much more than just a million.” Derek said.
“True. But that’s the price of making me wait.” The office filled with silence. Derek considered the offer on the table. “Simon is nearly 95 years old Mr. Hastings, I don’t think we’ll have long to wait.”
Derek nodded to himself. “You have a deal Mr. Wainwright.”
The two shake hands. “Pleasure doing business with you. I’ll get the paperwork written up.” Derek turned and returned to the door. “Mr. Hastings, I don’t know how things work in Canada, but here in England a handshake is as good as a signature.”
So there it is. To Simon, the house kept him sane and alive while spending three years in a Nazi cell. His memories of home kept him connected to who he is and where he came from. His memories of the house saved his life and now he’s returning the favour, trying to keep the house alive. Meanwhile in the second scene, Derek gets himself into a little trouble by making a deal with Ronald to sell the house after his great-grandfather’s death.
I think these two scenes will make up the MIDPOINT of the screenplay. The Midpoint is defined as the moment in the middle of the screenplay that offers the characters a moment of rest just before introducing new information that twists the story in a completely different direction. The conversation between Cynthia and Simon is a rest moment that introduces new information, allowing the reader to start to understand the connection Simon has with this house. The twist is Derek’s deal with Ronald that will see him sell the house to the developer as soon as Derek takes legal possession of the house. Imagine the conflict between Derek and Cynthia once she leans of this deal? That is important because in the second half of the second act all hell breaks loose and the Hero finds himself with more conflicts piled on him.
You know it just occurred to me that I haven’t built the STORY QUESTION for this screenplay yet. The Story Question is the driving force of the screenplay that is asked at the Inciting Incident and answered at the Climax. Looking at what has been developed so far the question seems obvious.
Will Derek manage to keep the house in the Hastings family?
Sounds a little too simple, doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. The Plot Points, Obstacles and Midpoint are all driven by this question. What happens at those five Pillars will directly affect the answer of the story question. Right now the question is asked at the Inciting Incident when he learns of the house and his great-grandfather’s struggle to keep it. The First Plot Point is when Derek meets Simon for the first time. The First Obstacle is the point in the story where the Hero nearly fails without realizing. I think for the moment this will be the first meeting between Simon, Ronald and Derek where Derek actually tries to talk Simon into selling the house. The Midpoint is written out above. The Second Obstacle is the point where the Hero is ready to give up. This is the point where Simon drops dead and the house falls into Derek’s hands and he’s ready to follow through with his deal with Ronald. Finally the Second Plot Point is the point where the Hero overcomes his flaw and does the right thing. When Ronald arrives at the house with the paperwork for Derek to sign, Derek actually refuses to sign it.
Compare this paragraph with the initial listing of the Nine Story Pillars and see the difference. This time around Derek is driving the entire story. Derek’s actions at the Midpoint actually come around and bite him on the ass during the Second Plot Point. His flaw, greed, led him to make a mistake and his character growth forces the character to overcome his flaw and fight for what’s right. Maybe the scene where the light comes on in Derek’s head can be at his Great-grandfather’s funeral. Derek would realize at that moment that he is the last living member of the Hastings family and it is his duty to not only save the house but to keep it in the family to one day pass it to his own son so that the memories of the family never die. Maybe after Derek refuses to sign the paperwork he takes the story to the media in an attempt to win support. Who knows, but now the plot line choices are driven by Derek.
This is a great example of how a story can be developed while learning about the characters. After writing out two random scenes I was able to restructure the entire story making it Hero/flaw driven. The Hero will not only learn that there’s more important things in life than wealth, he’ll also learn that the number one thing in life is family. Family first above all else.
My next post will be about the locations of the story and how you can learn about the location with a little research. Hope to see you again soon.