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By Derek Ruth · February 13, 2010
There comes a time in the creation of your script when you’re going to have to cut out some of your favorite ideas. It’s a tough job, but one fo the most vital in the process.
It sounds horrible: “Kill your babies!” But please understand that I am not advocating the genocide of newborn infants.
Your babies are your ideas. You gave birth to them. They’re yours. And sometimes it’s extremely difficult to let go of those fun, fresh, and fantastic thoughts.
But if I instructed you to “Kill your ideas!” the point doesn’t hit home quite the same way. So “Kill your babies!” it is.
And you must be vicious. You must be lethal. You must have no mercy. If the pen is truly mightier than the sword, use it to snuff out any idea that you’re keeping around for the wrong reasons or forcing into the script just because you like it.
But how do you know when to kill or not to kill? This is a very difficult question, and the best way I have been able to illustrate is through the just as frustrating 100% RULE.
The rule is simple: you must be 100% confident with your script decisions all the time, every time.
When it comes to screenwriting 99% just doesn’t cut it, because if you’re only almost sure – even 99% confident – that your great, new idea is going to work, than that means some of your audience – even just 1% – won’t believe it.
If you aren’t completely sold yourself, you should never expect your audience to buy what you’re selling.
But don’t be premature with your attacks either. Just because you don’t have complete confidence that one of your babies is going to work, start asking questions to see if you can solve any lingering problems or concerns. Use our CHARACTER and STORY QUESTIONNAIRES. Put your characters in SCENE EXERCISES. Explore our STORY SCENARIOS. See what you discover. But whatever you do, find the answer, because just hoping that your ‘baby’ is going to be self sufficient is simply never enough.
And remember, you can always kill that baby for this script, file it away, and pull it out again for another story for another time. Nothing truly dies.