Inside Out’s Deleted Scenes and writing the right characters with the wrong problems

We watched the deleted scenes of Inside Out after watching the movie, and man, that was that a full writing course in a nutshell. The first version of the story with the same characters was *terrible*. It would have missed out on the whole point of what it did say and it would have been a sadly expected near-miss.

But instead it was wonderful. The amount of effort and love you have to show for your project to get hundreds of man-hours to get to a point where you can look behind you and think oh, shit, what did we just do? The cut scenes were already voiced by the actual actors even if it wasn’t drawn out, which meant they would have had to call the actors to say “Oh, guys, what we did sucks we need to switch up the characters, change their personalities and while we’re at it, we’re going to change the entire plot.”

I’m not comparing myself to Pixar, but I remember vividly the first time I looked at a project and realized that if a character was an asshole, then no one would care if he died. And if no one cared if he died, everything that happened from that point on was tainted by the wrong characterization. Cutting 40k of “finished” work and going back to the beginning of a story was something I’d never done before. It seemed…criminal or medical to have to lop off the major trunk of the story already up out of the ground because I’d made a mistake in characterization and the rest of the plot was built on sand.

It hurt, but I cut it. And the writing block that had crippled me wasn’t even an issue as I whizzed past the scene that had made the non-asshole brother’s death so significant. Having an insignificant death (unless the *insignificant* aspect *is* the significant aspect…in which case that becomes “Having an insignificant death that doesn’t mean anything) is a missed opportunity. It’s why Fred’s death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was such a punch to the gut. Why did he have to die? It meant nothing, just one more listed on the butcher’s bill.

I can count on one fist the number of people who said, “You’re right, this book does need to be rewritten” and rewrote it three times. One of my comments was “I don’t care what’s happened for the past twenty thousand words, it should be cut” and he cut it. That was in the third draft. I thought I’d get some blowback at any point, but it was a great learning process for both of us. He landed his dream agent last year because of the work we did. I’m not on a soap box. I rewrite my stuff multiple times. Every single thing that I wrote part of stepped away for six months and then came back to and finished where a magnitude better than anything I just sat down and wrote start to finish. Even if I wasn’t thinking about the characters, the world still had a chance to be real. Jackson made the Hobbit town a year before he filmed so nothing would look freshly built, and the results were jaw dropping.

There will always be the occasional gem that need you to hit yourself on the head with a rock and they appear fully form and in body armor, but for the most part, you’re playing a game of Mastermind where there are dozens of potential right answers, but what you put on the first line is your best guess at who goes where. There’s no second player telling you which one is the right color in the right place, but that’s where muscle memory comes in.

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