Putting characters through the wringer

The feelings you get from writing can be very odd sometimes. The most common one is the “you’re the shittest writer in the world” feeling from my experience. They can run the gamut from joy that I’ve gotten through a particularly tricky scene or solved a problem that was blocking me to an emptiness that comes when I realise a character isn’t going to make it to the end of the movie.

[Granted I’m still working on my first feature, so there may be some minor spoilers in that first paragraph…and the following.]

The feeling I got today was the weirdest, because it’s how I want the audience to react when they see the movie in theatres. I’ve had this many times before – because if you’re not feeling what the audience is supposed to when you’re writing the damn thing, how in hell are they meant to? – when a scene has worked just the way I wanted it to.  But today’s scene was meant to elicit some very strange feelings indeed.

I’m not going to go into too much detail, but the intended effect is for people to feel very discomforted during a scene which contains some sexual content. I’d have to explain part of the story and introduce you to the characters in order for you to fully understand, but the fact that this scene made me uncomfortable and somewhat aroused (and subsequently guilty about that) means that it’s working. In isolation it would seem strange and possibly even offensive to some people, but it’s working towards a payoff with the story so it’s necessary, not to mention being one of the highest-tension scenes.

Thing is, whereas the audience will see the scenes 20 minutes apart in the cinema (fingers crossed), I wrote the payoff scene in June, so I can’t help but have that isolated feeling. I’m in a strange place where I simultaneously feel what both characters are thinking and reacting to in that scene without anywhere to put that.

They’re living in my head and telling me I’m a bad person for putting them through this shit.

I guess that means I’m doing my job right.

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