For me, that’s what writing is about.”
The Social Construction of Screenwriting: It’s About Relationship
Those of us who are writers know firsthand the identification with the characters we create.
As screenwriters, we have the benefit of creating dialogue and socially constructing
situations where characters grow and conflict is resolved. Real life dialogue is not quite as
simple and creating a fictional world gives us a chance to say what’s on our mind, deal with
less than desirable situations, correct an injustice or explore a new subject without having
to live it. That is the case with a new television series on Fox that Alan’s working on called
Insomniac. He relays, “It’s about a female homicide detective in Philadelphia who discovers
she has Fatal Familial Insomnia. It’s a rare disease where people lose the ability to sleep.
They call it familial because it usually runs in families. It’s genetic. She loses the ability to
sleep. You lose the ability to cry. You stop feeling pain. You start suffering from
hallucinations. Dementia.” I thought it sounded like a horrible life and said so.
But somehow I knew that Alan would have a different slant on the story. He notes, “It’s
horrible. If you try and take sleeping pills or sedatives you will pass right through REM
sleep into a coma and die. Your life expectancy is about 24-months. When this happens
to her it makes her see her life and world differently. It actually makes her a better police
officer. It allows her to connect with her estranged son. It makes her a better person. It
allows her to look back on how she was actually sleepwalking through her career. She
would go A, B, C with a case and not really get to where’s the justice and truth inside a
case. She starts going back to her old cases to resolve what she’s unfinished. She
discovers all these things about life that she didn’t recognize especially books and
movies. She first tries to read books to put herself to sleep. She’s reading ‘Atlas
Shrugged.’ She’s watching ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ thinking it will make her fall
asleep and unbeknownst to her it’s interesting. It ends up affecting her police work
because she’s using these things.” Alan’s appreciation of his own life emerges from writing
about this character discovering new interests and focus while living with this debilitating
Relationships are complex as a screenwriter. You literally become an advocate and voice
for your characters. That is why many screenwriters feel personally violated when studios,
directors and even managers start tampering with their version of the story. There is also
the dual relationship of those who are shut out of the room when a writer is working on a
project. At times, a piece of paper gets more attention than those close to us. Another
aspect is the writer’s relationship with the public who see the glamour attached to the
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