The movie that ruins everything

The thing about When Harry Met Sally is… it’s perfect.

You can disagree all you want to, but know that your argument is invalid.

Maybe it’s the chemistry between the king of comedy and the queen of chick flicks, or maybe it’s the snappy dialogue that flows so naturally from one scene to the next, or maybe it’s that director Rob Reiner is the man and screenwriter Nora Ephron is a freakin’ lady-boss—but I can say with 3000% assurance that I adore every single thing about this movie.

I don’t know when I fell in love with When Harry Met Sally (actually I do: about two seconds after I first heard Billy Crystal’s character describe Meg Ryan’s as “one of those cheerful people who dot their “i’s” with little hearts.”), but ever since then, I’ve been completely infatuated with writing guy/girl-friend relationships like theirs.

Even though I know I can’t, because it’s already been perfected. CURSE YOU, EPHRON.

This movie is like the epitome of relationship and tension and love and life, and if you think that’s cliché, you can leave right now because I will defend this movie to the death (as a side note, Rob Reiner’s other goldmine of awesome is The Princess Bride, which I will also defend to the death—NO, to the pain). Admittedly, sometimes when I’m writing a guy-girl friendship/relationship, I have in mind the scene in the movie when Harry tells Sally that they can never be friends.

My latest project was one of those times. I’m part of an student-run theatre organization called Brand New Theatre (and when I say I’m part of it, I mean I’m on the “executive board of directors”… whatever that means), which selects new, student-written plays to produce every season. Anyone can submit, including myself. So this season, I decided to write a short play (a one-act) for submission for the first time.

I confess… I sat down with nothing but Harry-and-Sally-like characters in my head. No real plot, no conflict, just two friends. Sitting at a table. Talking.

Unfortunately, you kind of need a conflict to make a story exciting. At least, I think so. Watching the characters in Sam Beckett’s Waiting for Godot sit around on stage talking about nothing and waiting for someone who ***spoiler*** never actually arrives is not my idea of a good time.

So the girl, Bianca, turned into a 6th-grade teacher doing a lesson plan while the guy, Peter, stuffs envelopes with invitations to his wedding to a girl he met four months ago. And suddenly, I realized that Bianca doesn’t want Peter to get married. Why? Not because Bianca loves Peter, but because Peter’s fiancée is in love with someone else, and Bianca is the only one who knows.

BOO-YAHHH conflict.

I did a dance. Not really. But mentally… yeah.

So… anyway… I worked and worked on this, and the more I developed the story, the more I realized that it is nothing at all like When Harry Met Sally. However, the characters are (to an extent). Bianca is a passionate, opinionated, tomboyish version of Sally, and Peter is a gentler, less morose version of Harry. It’s like the roles are switched. I swear, this movie is engrained into my soul.

In any case, I’ll continue to rework it… because in all honesty, I wrote it way too quickly and didn’t give myself enough time to smooth out the rough patches before I submitted it. But I guess that’s the great and terrible thing about writing—you’re never finished. That and you realize that it is in fact possible to sit too much.

Samantha Chaffin

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3 thoughts on “The movie that ruins everything

  1. deshipley says:

    All the best stories have relationships at the heart. (Yeah, that’s a bold blanket statement, but I can defend stuff to the pain, too!)
    Good luck on the Brand New Theatre’s executive board of directors! Let me know when you have any idea what you’re in for. X)

  2. TheJaneite says:

    So……don’t hate me. I’ve never seen this reportedly wonderful movie. However, if it’s Meg Ryan and the folks who were incredible enough to create The Princess Bride, I guess I’ll have to check it out so I can share in your joy. 😉

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