Friday, November 29, 2013

Writing as a Naturalist, Or Letting Characters Breathe on Their Own

Its no secret that I'm not a naturalist. Quite the contrary. However, I've been mulling over something that I feel could be of some interest. I'm writing a screenplay (well, several screenplays at the moment) that I've begun with no small feat. I, as a Christian Theist, am writing this -- as the title suggests -- from a more naturalistic point of view.

There are several reasons as to why I've chosen to write this way.

One, I believe it honors the exploration of truth, especially within the context of worldview determination. I don't want to give away spoilers (I'm known to be quite bad about that), so I won't divulge much, but if you know me personally, I came up with the idea in my Advanced Screenwriting Class while at Biola University, and finished the draft in two weeks. I got an A, obviously. Being the teacher's pet helps.

But in this way, I've begun a major rewrite with naturalism in mind. Its been enlightening to create a character who is (possibly undergoing a gender switch from male to female; this isn't part of the story, just wrestling with the idea of making the protagonist a women) a pure naturalist. There is nothing out there save for the wind in my eyes and the blood under my nails. The realism sans super (or extra) natural is the driving heart of the story. Exploring this idea is not only new to me, but also very interesting.

Two, I believe its a unique mental and spiritual exercise. This is a sub-section of point 1. Partially, I believe I want to honor my good friends and colleagues (mostly in film) who differ with me. What better way to do so by accurately representing a point of view I don't subscribe to? Partially, I think the more pressing point is that I was once a naturalist and in some way, it is a helpful reconstruction of a part of my life that I don't entirely recall. Either way, its a marvelous exercise to write about characters with whom are living and capable of writing themselves.

Three and finally, because I think it is the best way to tell this kind of story. This is not to suggest that I don't write Christian characters with happiness, but that if one can construct a world and a character who speaks on their own to the point of disagreeing with the narrator, well, then you've done something unique and helpful. Let the characters and the world breathe on their own. Step back. Engage and just copy down where they go.

This is by no means exhaustive, or even entirely coherent. Its simply an exercise for me, and hopefully an experiment that someday makes it (legally or illegally) to the small screen.

Thanks for reading this mild musing.

--Nick

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