Man, Stories Are Everywhere!

Just opened my Writers Almanac email from a couple of days ago. Found this tidbit…


It’s the birthday of a writer who said: “The best emotions to write out of are anger and fear or dread. The least energizing emotion to write out of is admiration … because the basic feeling that goes with admiration is a passive contemplative mood” — critic and theorist Susan Sontag, born in New York City (1933) and raised mostly in California. She was a major figure in the avant-garde movement and a woman known as “the Dark Lady of American Letters.”

She went off to the University of Chicago at the age of 17, and she married one of her professors there 10 days after she first met him in a lecture.


Zowee! Can you imagine that phone call home to the parents?! What a show stopper it must have been. You send your child to college and you expect he or she may get arrested for being drunk Freshman Weekend, but not that they got MARRIED. I’m sure there’s a feature film in here somewhere… perhaps along the lines of AN EDUCATION, which I adored.

And what about the faculty meeting the week after? An English Department meeting, to boot. All those guys in tweed and with pipes in 1950. This is a story where period would really matter. It would be worth the money to set it in 1950. The war is barely over and who knows what other 1950s events would affect young Susan and her husband.

You don’t have to write this story about Susan Sontag, of course, but about a precocious (duuh) 17 year old college freshman…

Not to mention that, at 16, she’d had her first lesbian relationship. Her husband was 28… 11 years older. But what if he was 35? Or 45? How would that change the story? How would conflict arise? Would he know she was bisexual or would that come out under pressure? Would he want her to have a threesome and then lose her because of it?

So many ways the story could go… How would her parents get involved? And the girl she was with the year before… what if she were a jealous lunatic?

A good question to ask: who is the main character? It could be the college freshman, but it could easily be her girlfriend, or the college professor. At what point do you start the story? Do you tell it in flashback? I could spend the rest of the day asking questions about this situation, but you think of some yourself…

How can you take this little nugget and turn it into THE MOST DRAMATIC (or hilarious!) STORY YOU POSSIBLY CAN?!!


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Filed under character, Screenwriting

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