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July 23, 2008

The Black Death Revisited

I spent most of today reading through and doing a light re-write on the second screenplay I ever wrote, "The Black Death." I re-arranged some scenes, made some action sequences clearer and more exciting, cleaned up some dialogue, deleted a lot of unneeded dialogue.

I haven't read it in some time, and I was happy to see that there is still much to like here. But what was actually quite surprising to me was how much of it was similar in conflict and setup to the latest screenplay I completed, "The Kingdom of Tovenray." I've heard it said that every writer has a story they are always trying to tell. One of my mentors at UCLA always has children caught in messed up, dangerous situations, for instance. If you had asked me yesterday if The Black Death and Tovenray had anything in common, I would have honestly told you no, not much, because I was completely oblivious to how similar things were. So I must be trying to get something out of me here.

Both stories have a reluctant hero who doesn't want to take up their grand destiny (in fact, the opening of both stories finds the heroes actively denying who they're meant to be) but is forced into the quest to save a loved one.

Both stories have a young boy who is captured by the evil villain and pressured into becoming that evil villain's son.

Both stories have a part where the hero is being trained by a mentor character and thinks he (and she) is ready and don't need any more of this training.

Both stories have a moment where the heroes refusal to take up his (and her) destiny results in a tragedy.

In both stories, the evil Villain has a daughter who actually is good hearted and ends up helping the good guys.

Of course there are tons of things which are very different, (and in fact I could probably think of many other stories that have these same basic elements in them, ones that aren't written by me at all) but still I was pretty stunned to see how many similarities there were... I guess there's a lot to analyze about my psyche there!

I'm happy to report that I'm now MORE charged up about adapting this story into a graphic novel. It was only my second script and I've learned so much since about writing and what you should be doing with a screenplay, but I must say that it's a very visual story with a ton of cool moments to see on the screen, yet there's a lot of heart in the story too. So all together, not bad. And actually, pretty good.

Posted by jason on July 23, 2008 01:23 AM


that's so cool, Jase--I love it when you can tangibly see your own progression as an artist--and how you have learned so much in the recent months. It's also exciting that you never have to stop learning...

Posted by: jessica on July 23, 2008 02:14 AM

They sound wonderful! They do remind me of Star Wars; as you said, there are probably many other stories with similar elements in them. I am reminded of that verse in Ecclesiastes that states there is nothing new under the sun. You can see it a lot in movies, similar movies will come out around the same time (like Deep Impact and Armageddon). I guess the key is to create a different slant or nuance that makes the story seem fresh and new.

Posted by: kathiek on July 23, 2008 12:38 PM

Star Wars really took a whole lot from Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey (Campbell believed in something called the monomyth, which were elements of all enduring legends and stories). Lucas deliberated used almost every element and many many films (Lion King does it REALLY explicitly) take from Campbell's influential work as well. So yes, you'll very often find An Ordinary World, An Extraordinary World, A Hero's Call to Adventure, The Refusal of that Call, a Mentor, etc...

And these monomyth elements are really kind of universal through stories so it makes sense that many would show up (or even be used deliberately, which isn't the case with me normally). But what's especially weird to me is the parts with the children. One being pressured to become a son of the evil person. The daughter not being on the same side as the evil one and eventually switching away from her evil father. Those aren't especially common but I did it twice!

Posted by: jason on July 23, 2008 01:39 PM

Clearly, it's a story line that resonates with us on some core level, otherwise we wouldn't see it everywhere as much as we do. I would be interested in reading/seeing your work, Jase, depending on its final outcome.

Posted by: kathiek on July 23, 2008 02:34 PM

Jase, I wonder if that is what Lyric is destined to do?

Posted by: Jonathan on July 23, 2008 11:58 PM

"Lyric, I am your father!"

Posted by: Kathiek on July 24, 2008 12:11 AM

lol, Kathie!

Posted by: jessica on July 24, 2008 04:07 AM

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