Writing for Someone Else

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They say you should always write for yourself first. “They” are other writers that seem to only write instruction on how to write successfully. Maybe they had a great career at one point; or maybe they adhere to the old axiom, “Those who can’t do, teach.” I certainly do a lot of writing that makes me no money (read: all of it). But, I preach more than teach. (If people get something from my writing, that’s awesome; if not, I’ll continue to write regardless.) When I write fiction it is almost always based on me. Even when the story doesn’t follow my own experiences there are elements that showcase my thoughts, insecurities and strengths. I like to think this is normal.

I’ve had a lot of ideas for movies. For one such movie I recently had a burst of inspiration and started writing a treatment. I don’t believe writing a treatment is standard practice these days, but I’m writing it for me, because I want to get the broad strokes down before I lose them. Like any, it could be a good story if I handle it properly. It’s an older idea, but I didn’t know the protagonist’s real underlying issue until now. Now I do, because I know myself a little better. Even if I’m wrong, it will still work. It will still make the iceberg float. I feel I understand enough now to guide my protagonist through the story I want to tell and have him appear human on the page, rather than a morose victim of circumstance. Now he takes part in responsibility.

So, who am I writing for? I’m still writing for myself, but I see the hero as a specific actor. I don’t want to say who only because who the fuck am I to be writing with any specific actor in mind? Like any wise aspiring nobody, I have to assume the script will never get into this person’s hands, and that it will never get made, and that no one will ever care. All hope and dreams aside, of course.

Of this actor, I have read about his recent changes, and read interviews concerning things he’s done since getting famous. Am I foolish to think maybe he could identify with this character? With me? It doesn’t matter. It’s opened up everything. Dialog I would never think to write now finds its way to the page. Words once spoken by me now come from him with a different magic. I no longer see myself up on the Big Screen, I see him. I see him in my apartment and in my car. I see him making the mistakes I’ve made and kissing the girls I want to kiss. He is being the jerk I have been, and he is doing it funnier and with a different song in mind. Save this actor’s look and delivery, I am breathing life into a character using a complete stranger as a vehicle. I am Being John Malcovich, if you will. No, that is not the actor I have in mind – but wouldn’t that be funny?


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