Sue the Screenwriter on falling in ‘unreal’ love

Posted in Blogs, Theater and Dance

SUZANNE KELMAN, Dec. 7, 2012

“Love is in the Air … or at Least on the Page”

We screenwriters are odd breed of storytellers. We live two lives. The first is the real one that does the washing, pays the bills and cleans the toilet. Then there’s the other “real” one that takes place in our heads, and where we fight courageous battles, win over our lost loves, defend our kingdoms and occasionally get murdered.

I had an interesting experience with the current screenplay I’m writing; I actually fell in love with one of my characters, an unreal person who came out of my head!

I’m not talking about the swoony “I fancy Mr. Darcy” kind of love; I am talking about a knot in my stomach, crying at songs on the radio and not being able to eat kind of love. My body actually manifested physical feelings, of the phantom pregnancy sort, the kind of love feeling I remember from 150 years ago, when I first met my husband on the other side of a bad 80s perm and pink spandex pants.

It all started with a screenplay I am working on with my writing partner Rosie Woods. It’s a story about a woman who is willing to forsake the love of her life in order to allow some of the greatest works of historic literature to be written.

The British actor Colin Firth at a film event in Britain in 2011. (Photo courtesy of the Coventry Telegraph)

So in order to really understand the character, I was spending a lot of time working on what writers call the backstory, the story behind the story. Writers often create these to help them connect fully with their story. They basically come up with a life story for the person before the character enters the storyline. Some writers use cues. They may have a visual board of cuttings and photos that inspire their story, or listen to certain music from the time period they are working in. (At the Goody 2 writing studio we have a picture of Colin Firth on the wall. He seems to work for every story!)

So anyway back to falling in love. I had emerged myself in this character’s life for a week. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the man behind the public person I had read about in books.

And then, one morning I woke up, and the world looked a little brighter. The birds were singing a little sweeter and my coffee smelled a little “coffeeer” (Is that a word? I doubt it, but I don’t care because I’m in love!)  I wanted to go up to people and hug them for no reason; strange people, sad looking ferry workers or the guy slumped in his car holding a Seahawks travel mug as he stared Zombie-like at the water. I was up in the middle of the night with a knot in my stomach and I was breaking out in pimples.

I couldn’t figure out what was going on, when suddenly it struck me like an anvil in a Roadrunner cartoon. I wasn’t sick. I was in love! Well, my body and emotions were in love, but my mind was telling me, “What do you two think you’re playing at?” It’s amazing what the power of the mind and one’s emotions can do when they work together.

So if someone you don’t know comes up to you on the ferry and hugs you for no apparent reason, you don’t need to call 911. It’s probably just me, or another storyteller, whose just fallen in love with one of their characters.

Watch out for those murder mystery writers!

Suzanne Kelman is a multi-award winning screenwriter. Two of her screenplays have been optioned and are in development, while another is in pre-production and due to begin filming in Europe in 2013. Kelman currently enjoys teaching screenwriting classes each month at her home studio in Bayview. If interested, email for details.

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