the write way to say goodbye

Last week I finished writing my screenplay. I have the cover letter, the two page synopsis, my resume, and the first five pages of the script all ready to be sent to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Of course, the application process doesn’t even open for another month but I like being prepared.

It’s been, well, quite a long time since I finished any piece of writing, let alone something of this magnitude. 104 pages and months of work. Years, really. Some of these characters, like Scottie, Mac, and Giovanni (although he was originally named White), have been with me since my sophomore year of college. For those keeping track, that’s was a decade ago. Ten years of carrying these characters around, listening to their chatter in my head. Ten years of planning, of thinking. Ten years of imagining what they look like, of drafting their back stories, of hoping for their future.

I know these character so well. They are me. I am them. I know things about them that never make it anywhere near the script, but they are there, layered beneath the story all the same.

Ten years, and now their stories have been told. And my job as a writer is complete.

I mean, yes, this is just a rough draft. There is still editing to do. And, of course, if I get accepted into the Sundance Lab it’s a workshop. Which means I will spend five days working on the script. After that, well who knows where it may go. And even if I don’t get in, it’s not like I’m going to take this script and shove it into a box and forget about it.

But in typing those finite words “The End,” I closed one part of the journey. The most exciting part, if you ask me. Because for months I got to delve into this magical world that I had created and watch these characters come to life. If you don’t write, it may be hard to explain that I don’t always know what they are going to do. I don’t have complete control over them and I take the greatest satisfaction as a writer in those moments when my characters have become so completely whole that they surprise even me with their actions and reactions. There is one particular scene that left me so horrified, I couldn’t look at the script for three days. I just didn’t see it coming. And while I hated writing it, I had to be honest to these characters that I had created. Even if that means allowing them to do terrible things or standing by and watch terrible things being inflicted upon them.

It’s all done now. Even when I approach the script for editing purposes, it won’t be the same. I know how the story ends. The story did end. I know, I wrote it. Although, to be honest, I’m pretty sure that’s why it took me nearly two months to write the final battle scene. I knew that in doing so, I would be forced to say goodbye.

It’s been so long since I finished anything, I had forgotten what it feels like to say goodbye. I had forgotten this profound sense of loss. It’s this insane hole in my heart that I don’t ever remember having before with any piece of writing. Maybe it’s because no other piece of writing has gotten under my skin quite like this has. It’s practically imbedded into my bones. Maybe it’s because Scottie has always been my most beloved character. Variations of her pop up in almost everything I write.

Truth is, Scottie was not the original Scottie. That is, I created a character many, many moons ago named March Adams. I was in college then: shy, quiet. Introverted and unsure. March was my polar opposite. This was a woman who was confident and self-assured. She didn’t take shit from anyone and she fought for what she believed in. She knew who she was and lived the hell out of it, making no apologies for herself.

A few months later, when I began drafting a story set in Cleveland in the 1920s, I wanted a memorable female speakeasy owner who was just as cool and confident, just as brash and bold. And thus, Scottie was born.

At 20, March and Scottie were the type of woman I wanted to be.

At 30, March and Scottie are the type of woman I have become.

Maybe that’s the difficulty I’m having with all of this. It’s not that I’m saying goodbye to this story or a fictional character, I’m saying goodbye to me. I’m saying goodbye to the ugly duckling twenty year old and saying hello to the graceful thirty year old swan. Maybe, just maybe, this particular chapter in my personal book is finally finished.

Regardless of who I am saying goodbye to, at least I can be assured that I gave her a brilliant and fitting send-off.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

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