While I was on vacation my husband, Guy, gave me the news that Alec Guiness had died. Guy then read a little blurb from the newspaper about Alec’s talent and distinguished acting career. I said, “I wonder if it will bother him that he’ll always be remembered the most as Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
“He’ll be remembered as other things too,” Guy said.
“Name one,” I said.
Guy had to think a minute. “He’ll be remembered as the leader in ‘The Bridge On the River Kwai’.”
Which just goes to show you what I know about film trivia, because I didn’t even know Alec Guiness was in that movie. I watched it one Saturday afternoon when I was about ten years old and only remember one thing about the movie. This guy was taken prisoner by the Japaneese during the war and forced to build a bridge. He knew it was for his best interest if the bridge was destroyed, but when it came right down to blowing up the bridge, he felt like he couldn’t do it. He’d put to much of himself into the bridge to destroy it.
I spent a lot of time during my vacation thinking about this phenomena–a phenomena which seemed so strange and unbelievable to me as a ten year old.
Do I have negative things in my life, things which I know are not for my best interest, that I can’t get rid of because I have too much of an emotional investment in them?
Uncomfortably, the answer is maybe. Or probably. OK, it’s yes, but I don’t won’t to talk about that. However, the subject of burning bridges fits perfectly into my writing message this month.
If the passage ain’t helping your story, honey, dynamite that sucker out of there.
We get so caught up in our stories, in our characters, and in our plots–we invest so much in them emotionally, that it becomes very hard to cut anything. We love our scenes and characters. They are our friends.
Trust me, you need to be objective about what you’ve written. After you’ve written something, preferably months after you’ve written it, put on your editorial hat, and go over your piece scene by scene. Look at the goals, motivation, and conflict in each one. Ask yourself, what is the point of this? What does it add? Have I said this somewhere else? Is there a better way to say it? Does it address my story question?
Don’t hesitate to cut or completely change things if you can make it better.
I know. It hurts. It took us so long to craft our work. We put so much of ourselves into it. But next time you edit, think of Alec Guiness, not as Obi-Wan, but as the River Kwai guy, and don’t be afraid to burn your bridges.