Holiday yesterday, so I didn't have the chance to get around to the DWPFF entry until today. The last time we talked about the DWPFF project I mentioned how the editors, Chris Stevens and James Powell, had provided me with enough guidance to start the first draft of my script. And they really did. Based on all the information I'd received from them, and primarily from James, I wrote up a new synopsis for the story that went a little something like this...
A brilliant doctor that has designed nanobots with the potential to cure any type of disease is sidetracked when his son is plagued with cancer and a brain tumor. The nanobots fail to cure his son, and the doctor decides to spend all his free time making his son as happy as possible before the end. A friend and colleague of the doctor visits hoping to convince him to continue his work and get his son the best treatment available. The doctor would rather his son be as happy as possible before the end, and so he reprogrammed the nanobots to be a companion to his son. The son has a seizure or stroke or something, and the doctors bring the boy inside for treatment. The nanobot pet sneaks into the room of the son, and the doctors notice it just as it disperses and enters the boy’s body. The nanobots journey with the boy in his memories, battling against the cancer and the brain tumor as the two doctors observe from the outside. Eventually the nanobots prevail against the sicknesses and the boy comes out of his coma revitalized and healthy. The doctors marvel at the intelligence of the nanobots, and realize that all that was necessary for them to work properly was the love of the little boy.
My idea was for the two snakes to be the two fatal diseases the boy had. One snake would be cancer, and the other snake would be a brain tumor. I decided that the father of the boy would design the nanites first, hoping to revolutionize the medical industry, and that his son getting sick would just be a coincidence. The nanites would fail, resulting in the father forming them into a robot to be a companion for his son. Eventually the son would have an attack or seizure of some sort, and the nanobot would overcome its limitations and save him.
At any rate, looking back on this now I see that it has some of the same problems my earlier efforts had. But at the time I thought it was pretty perfect and was told to go forward with it. This was in late September of last year. When I finally submitted my first draft of the script it was early November. Keep in mind that the script was only twelve pages long. One of the biggest problems I've had in becoming a writer is procrastination. I will always (always!) find something else to do before I write. For the first time, this year, I'm actively working against this terrible habit. I'm finding some success with the "one word" project that is seeping into other writing projects. But to say that I'm completely cured would be false (I could have written this entry yesterday, remember?). Last year was probably one of the roughest years I've had as a writer, and this script might have never been finished if Chris Stevens hadn't emailed me in late October to tell me that he'd be coming back aboard as my editor.
I'm pretty sure James had grown tired of not hearing from me. He'd asked me for a longer synopsis, page breakdowns, and given me plenty of food for thought--and I'd responded by not responding. I think the only thing I'll ever regret about this experience is squandering the chance to interact more with James Powell. He is a wonderful editor, and I really dropped the ball. Once Chris contacted me I sent him the synopsis above, and while I feel certain he had issues with it, he asked me to get a script together based on it as quickly as possible. Chris emailed me on the 25th of October. The last time I'd talked to anybody about the project was in late September. Chris was hoping I'd be able to get a first draft to him by the 1st of November, but I didn't end up sending him the script until the 7th.
The script wasn't all that bad. Chris said that he rather enjoyed it once it got moving, and in that spirit he asked me to cut the story down a bit so that it moved along a little quicker. Instead of fighting two diseases one after the other, Chris asked me to cut it down to one. The basic idea being that I was pretty much just telling the same story twice in one script. The original script I wrote took up the entire 12-page limit, so I cut the second scene of the nanobot vs. the disease and brought the page count down to 8. Once I'd done that I sent the script back to Chris. He still wasn't entirely satisfied. First, there wasn't enough interaction between the boy and his father. And second, I'd introduced a character that never appeared in the original Rikki Tikki Tavi story--the colleague of the father. My idea was for the colleague to be a counter-point to the way the father was dealing with his son's sickness. Where the father knew curing the disease was hopeless and just wanted his son to be as happy as possible before the end, the colleague spent his time arguing that treatment was still a viable option, and that perhaps the father could perfect his design of the nanites in the meantime. I felt like I needed a foil beyond the "snakes" because a strong portion of the story took place before the boy succumbed to his symptoms.
Chris didn't have a huge problem with the inclusion of the colleague in the script. What he had a problem with was my choice to make the colleague the driving force behind the story. The colleague was the one who witnessed the miraculous recovery of the boy, along with the father, and the colleague was the one who provided the narratative at the end. It was a larger role than the character needed to have. Chris and I butted heads over it for a while, at one point considering setting the ending in a classroom, years after the nanobot had saved the boy, with the colleague as a teacher instructing a roomful of youngsters all with their own nanobot pets. We'd even gotten to the point where I wrote a script with that exact ending. But when I sent it to Chris, fully expecting him to love it body and soul (even though I had my own reservations about it), he sent me back an email that changed everything. And we'll talk about that email and what came of the story because of it next time.