How to represent grief effectively?

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  • How to represent grief effectively?

    I'm revising one of my scripts and wondering how to address a note that "character deaths are telegraphed and lose emotional impact."

    I've been trying to think of scripts in which grief was conveyed effectively. Any suggestions/examples?

    I looked at the Oscar nominees for this year, and found this example from Beasts of the Southern Wild.

    I thought it was wonderful, but I'm not sure what to learn from it...?





    !!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!



    Wink looks at Hushpuppy in reverence. He knows it’s the last
    time.

    Wink motions for her to come closer.

    Hushpuppy inches toward him. It takes all of her might. She
    sits on his bed.

    Hushpuppy takes her to-go container from Elysian Fields out
    of a paper bag and pops it. She unwraps a gator nugget, dips
    it in hot sauce, and holds it out for Wink to take a bite.

    Hushpuppy watches as Wink chews weakly. She eats one
    herself.

    Wink and Hushpuppy draw it out. They don't want it to end.
    It takes a full minute for him to swallow the first bite, and
    she paces herself to finish when he does.

    WINK
    (barely audible)
    Real good.

    Wink's chest heaves up and down, harder and harder. A tear
    rolls down his face.

    WINK (CONT’D)
    (choking up)
    No crying, you hear?

    She holds them back, being tough for her Daddy.

    HUSHPUPPY
    No crying.

    Hushpuppy’s face hardens, and even as the tears fall, we see
    a strength and composure that only Wink could have put there.
    She falls into his arms and he embraces her.

    Hushpuppy squeezes Wink. She does not let go. She stays
    strong.

    Wink’s hand trembles on her back.

    She holds him as his deep, warm, heartbeat slows, slows, and
    stops. His weight slumps over her. She keeps on holding
    him, but she knows.

    EXT. GRAVEYARD BY THE WATER - DAY

    Steadfast, Hushpuppy holds a torch on the edge of the
    Bathtub. The Turck, piled with branches, floats in front of
    her.

    She lowers the flame and lights a cloth covering Wink’s body
    aflame. She pushes the funeral pyre out into the current.
    We watch the boat flames drift into the foreground, covering
    Hushpuppy face with flames. She looks into them in all her
    grief and wisdom.
    Last edited by LauriD; 02-09-2013, 08:57 AM.
    "People who work in Hollywood are the ones who didn't quit." -- Lawrence Kasdan

    Please visit my website and blog: www.lauridonahue.com.

  • #2
    Re: How to represent grief effectively?

    I haven't seen this but it appears as if we're getting a brief reminder here of something they used to share, the takeout, and we're witnessing the last time. Showing something concrete that she's about to lose besides the person.
    "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
    Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

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    • #3
      Re: How to represent grief effectively?

      Originally posted by WaitForIt View Post
      I haven't seen this but it appears as if we're getting a brief reminder here of something they used to share, the takeout, and we're witnessing the last time. Showing something concrete that she's about to lose besides the person.
      oooh! good point!
      "People who work in Hollywood are the ones who didn't quit." -- Lawrence Kasdan

      Please visit my website and blog: www.lauridonahue.com.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: How to represent grief effectively?

        As outsiders it's easier for us to latch on to smaller details like that, like losing their shared experience with the takeout, than to imagine what it's like to lose a person we don't actually know.
        "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
        Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: How to represent grief effectively?

          I quit watching True Blood after the second season, but SPOILER the episode in the first season where Sookie is dealing with the aftermath of her Gran's death, she sits down at her Gran's kitchen table and slowly eats the last piece of the last pie her Gran made. Oh man, I fell apart. Masterful.
          "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
          Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: How to represent grief effectively?

            ok, how about some examples that don't involve food?
            "People who work in Hollywood are the ones who didn't quit." -- Lawrence Kasdan

            Please visit my website and blog: www.lauridonahue.com.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: How to represent grief effectively?

              It depends on what way you want to go with it but for me the Buffy episode 'The Body' nails the feeling of grief. It's an empty, uncomfortable episode and I can't think of any film or series that has pulled it off quite as well.

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              • #8
                Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                I agree. The impact of the moment of death, and empathy with the grieving survivor, is built on how their relationship was crafted before the death. If done well, I think the audience is with you 100% as long as you don't lapse into melodrama.

                Terms of Endearment danced at the edge of melodrama but I think the "goodbye" scene with Debra Winger's character and kids was really good.

                But I'm wondering about this note as you posted:

                "character deaths are telegraphed and lose emotional impact."

                "Telegraphed" seems to me something different than dramatizing grief at the moment of death.
                Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                • #9
                  Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                  Telegraphed means your character death is foreshadowed, or obvious, and therefore loses the element of surprise.

                  Not sure what that has to do with representing grief, but why not go with the opposite of what you've seen 1000 times before?

                  Like show someone hysterically laughing during the church service.

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                  • #10
                    Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                    Originally posted by TheConnorNoden View Post
                    It depends on what way you want to go with it but for me the Buffy episode 'The Body' nails the feeling of grief. It's an empty, uncomfortable episode and I can't think of any film or series that has pulled it off quite as well.
                    Can't find the script but I found the episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6A0WHQSpfI
                    "People who work in Hollywood are the ones who didn't quit." -- Lawrence Kasdan

                    Please visit my website and blog: www.lauridonahue.com.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                      Originally posted by LauriD View Post
                      ok, how about some examples that don't involve food?
                      Says the lady who started the food fight, haha.

                      Thanks kintnerboy -- I was pondering what telegraphing meant.
                      "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
                      Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                        Originally posted by kintnerboy View Post
                        Telegraphed means your character death is foreshadowed, or obvious, and therefore loses the element of surprise.

                        .
                        Yeah, that part I figured out. It was more "how to show the emotional impact" that I was struggling with.

                        But I think a certain amount of foreshadowing can be good. For example, in one of the later Game of Thrones books, you just KNOW the characters are riding into a trap, and there's a real sense of dread, which is good. It wouldn't be as effective without that foreshadowing.
                        "People who work in Hollywood are the ones who didn't quit." -- Lawrence Kasdan

                        Please visit my website and blog: www.lauridonahue.com.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                          21 Grams has some great scenes with Naomi Watts; I think the one that lingers is breaking down whilst washing her children's clothes (after their death, in case you haven't seen it...)

                          It's her trying to return to old routines, be a mum to children who no longer exist. It's almost unwatchable.
                          My stuff

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                          • #14
                            Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                            Saw THE VERDICT 1982 with Paul Newman recently.

                            He starts a broken man and he's an ambulance chaser, pretending to know the deceased at funerals to hustle business. Great examples of how low one can get.

                            Then he takes on a case where he represents grieving relatives of a woman who has been permanently comatose.

                            Great film. Lots of grief. Might give you some ideas.
                            Story Structure 1
                            Story Structure 2
                            Story Structure 3

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                            • #15
                              Re: How to represent grief effectively?

                              Tears. Lots and lots of tears

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