There’s a scene in my novel-in-progress that I absolutely love. It has magic, romance, and the flavor of a fairy tale — everything I’ve tried to accomplish in this book. When I reread it, I don’t get that ‘Oh good God, who am I kidding” feeling that comes from most of my draft work. I’ve lovingly polished this scene until every single word shines, and the beta readers I’ve shown it to agree — it’s pretty awesome.
And next week, when I start revising my novel, I’m planning to kill the whole chapter.
Blame The Incredibles and Brad Bird.
The Incredibles, for those of you not graced with nine-year-old boys, is the Pixar movie that on the surface is about a family of superheroes forced by social circumstances to live undercover and hide their gifts. But it’s also the story of a marriage that may be in trouble, of dreams deferred, of the sacrifices you make as an adult for family and what happens when you get a chance to take those dreams out to play again. We watch it ALL THE TIME at my house, and all of us, not just the nine-year-old, can quote it. (You should hear me deliver the lines “Greater good? I’m the greatest *good* you are ever gonna get!”)
But somehow I’d never managed to watch the extras included with the DVD until last month.
Last family movie night, the kids were angling to stay up later, as kids do, and after the movie we popped in the extras DVD, cruised through the shorts and were about to declare bedtime when my son punched the deleted scenes arrow. Suddenly, producer Brad Bird was talking about why these scenes didn’t make the cut.
Bird and his team eliminated scenes for all kinds of reasons — to cut screen time, to amp up tension, to give other characters more impact. Every single one of those deleted scenes was a tiny jewel, and it’s obvious it pained Bird to cut them. In one take, you can hear the wistfulness in his voice. “When we lost it, we lost one of my favorite scenes in the movie. .. In my ideal version, I would have that scene back.”
But wait, you say! Bird is the director! And the writer! Surely, if it is his favorite scene, it should make the cut, right?! He’s the boss, and he carried the story in his head for at least 10 years before starting work on it. And cutting isn’t a decision he takes lightly:
[pullquote]“In the editing room, when you want something but know you’ve got no leg to stand on, it’s the worst. Like expelling a kidney stone emotionally.”[/pullquote]
“In the editing room, when you want something but know you’ve got no leg to stand on, it’s the worst. Like expelling a kidney stone emotionally.”
So why, if it is so painful, the scene is his favorite AND Bird has the power NOT to cut it, would he do so?