I thought that I would share the creative process that resulted in the screenplay “Stealth.” It’s an interesting story that took seven years for me to complete. It started with an idea that changed and developed over the years so that the final script was nothing like my original intended story.
It all started with an idea that I had once for a superhero. I thought it would be interesting to have a young child, about ten years old, who had the ability to fool people’s sense of vision. He would be able to hide in someone’s blind spot and would become invisible to that person. It was an interesting idea that I thought could work really well. This boy would become Stealth, a superhero.
The interesting thing about this boy would be that his mother had died a year earlier and he wanted to pay her a special tribute. He was an artist and quite adept in his art. He would illegally paint a mural of her on the side of a downtown store. He would get in trouble for it and end up having to work for the storeowner to pay off the damages.
That was the original idea for the story. It was going to deal with the father and son relationship and the hard times they both had with the loss of the boy’s mother and the father’s wife.
I had the idea for it years before I had written anything. I didn’t have the time to start writing at that point in my life. I had the first act clearly set in my head though and I was determined to write the story. Two years after getting the first idea, I sat down to write the novel.
As I was writing it, I could visualize it so well in my head. It seemed to be borrowing conventions of the movies. I changed scenes frequently like I was following the 30:3 rules of film. It felt like it would work better as a movie than as a novel. It was also my first attempt at writing a novel and I had a difficult time with it. I kept going into the characters heads, more often than I should have, and had far too many flashbacks. The father and son characters became very similar. They both daydreamed frequently, almost like Walter Mitty and as I was writing I realized I was borrowing way too much from that famous story character.
My novel got up to chapter three and I had told the whole first act that I had seen in my head. Life got in the way and the story got pushed to the side for a while. The novel didn’t feel quite right to me and so I abandoned it. I always hoped to get back to the story but I kept myself busy doing other things for four years.
Six years after coming up with the original idea, I realized that my story needed a complete reworking. I reread my handwritten novel as it stood. It felt like it should be a movie. It made sense to rewrite it as a screenplay instead of a novel. I also realized that it would work better as a movie if the character were older, so I changed him to a first year university student. It also ended up steering away completely away from the superhero aspect. The story became about the boys struggle to find himself and the family’s struggle to remain together after the death of the mother.
This time I decided to write it on a computer. I did some research about screenplay formatting and set the tabs on my word processor and got to work. I found it much easier to write the screenplay than the novel. I wrote the first act by looking at my original handwritten novel. I threw out all the flashbacks and changed several things about the original story. I then had to stop and think about where the story was going after that first act.
I started writing the screenplay in January. I wrote and wrote and wrote. The words seem to just come to me and it became easier as I got further into it. I think it might have been because the story had been peculating in my head for the past seven years. On February 28th, I finally typed “Fade to black. Roll credits.” I couldn’t believe that the story had finally finished itself. I felt such a high. I can’t even describe it. It was an amazing feeling to know that I had finally written something of substance. It was an absolutely incredible sensation that I find hard to put into words. I think it has been described as a writer’s high. It felt a bit like when I finish a running race. It’s just a great feeling of accomplishment and it feels amazing.
I knew that writers need to do rewrites and I also knew that rewrites happen best once a writer has distanced himself from the work somewhat. So I went right into my next writing project. I wrote a verse novel, and once again I zoomed through it. It seemed too early to do the rewrite so I started working on another novel. After I finished my next novel I decided that it was time to revisit “Stealth” again.
I sat down and read the screenplay all in one sitting. I read it with a pencil in my hand and made any corrections that I felt I needed to. I threw out a few scenes that didn’t seem to be essential to the story. What is left, I think is a great story that I hope will be produced someday.
This was the first story that I wrote after deciding to become a serious writer. I was never good at visual arts. My mother is very much alive and I never got into trouble with the law. Some people like to think that the stories authors tell are really disguised versions of their own life. Nothing could be further from the truth. This story is completely fiction. I made it up. I also made up a fictional city to further illustrate this fact. I hope that you will be able to see the major motion picture of it some day.
Tomorrow: A Recipe For Writing