This week I watched the first X-Men movie with my son. My husband declined, saying he hadn’t been that impressed with the plot when we saw it in the theater. He was right. The movie is more about introducing the world and characters. I loved it. I remember walking out of the theater with my mind buzzing over the amazing concept of mutants and powers. I kept thinking of cool mutations I could have, asking my husband what he wished he had. My man humored me, but he had had these conversations with his friends back in junior high when they read the comics. My enthusiasm was about ten years too late.
He also suspected my excitement over the X-Men movie was tied into Hugh Jackman. He’s right on that too. My jaw dropped at the very beginning of the movie, where a bare-chested Wolverine wins a cage fight. Yummy. I’ve been a fan of Hugh since. But it was Wolverine that I fell in love with. The vicious but noble character is by far the favorite of fans.
But my thoughts on X-Men and Wolverine continued way past what was normal for enjoying a movie. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Seriously, I was worried about myself. I had two young children to take care of at home and my thoughts were constantly in another world. I confessed to my husband after two weeks of this. He rolled his eyes and continued to work on his PhD.
I decided I would write my thoughts down and maybe that would end my obsession. I jotted an outline and realized I had no idea how to write a movie. I had only written a few short stories, and the beginning of a few novels. One hundred and eighteen pages. That’s how long a movie is. The format is strange too. I found screenwriter forums online that let me read scripts, and ask questions. I took books out of the library about screenwriting and the movie business. For Christmas that year, my father gave me screenwriting software.
A few months later I realized two big things. The first was that my movie would never be made onto the big screen. Ever. Not unless I left my family, moved to Hollywood and used some kind of mutant power on 20th Century Fox. The second was that I had to stop reading about screenwriting and actually write a complete draft. I decided that I was writing it for my sanity. I had to get this Wolverine obsession on paper completely and then get on with my normal life.
I did. It was the first time I had ever written something long, real, and not a school assignment. It was a proud moment for me when I handed my first draft to my very patient husband. He read it…and looked at me…looked down…looked back at me.
“Honey, this is a romance. X-Men isn’t about romance.”
“But they had stuff in the movie!”
“But it’s not the main story line.”
He was right, of course. I was just in love with Wolverine. But I didn’t give up. I started researching.
I needed to know more about the world if I was to do it right. The internet is amazing with databases on all the mutants and their histories. I dragged the kids with me to the comic book store, and was usually the only girl, the only mom, and the only one over twenty five. I was also completely confused. Apparently the X-Men comic had been going for quite some time by then and had a myriad of spin-offs. I met a man who had a very good job during the day that let him afford his comic-buying hobby. He enjoyed helping me find a selection of issues that would give me voices and appropriate behavior to the characters I was using.
I fell in love with more than Wolverine’s chest. The whole world was so fascinating and exciting and I got more ideas for my movie. I found a main plot line that made the characters have to fight and use their powers and work together. Of course there was still romance, but that was woven in and pared down. I think only one scene from my original draft of X-Men: The Eleventh Plague made the final cut.
After re-watching the movie this past week, I didn’t get into all of this with my son. I asked him if he liked it, and he did. I found the pile of “research” I still had and gave it to him to enjoy. My obsession ended with writing that movie. All in all, it was a year of my life. Was it a waste of my free time? I don’t think so. It opened the world of screenwriting. I’ve since written a few short movies that I produced myself with the knowledge I gained. I still enjoy graphic novels, comics and manga to this day. And I always earn geek points in conversations with my X-Men knowledge.
Probably the most important aspect of it all was learning how to write: the research, world-building, drafts, editing, accepting criticism and holding a finished copy of my work. The intensity I felt for this fictional character carried me through the process. Wolverine was the beginning of a long line of obsessions that have led to creative projects over the years, but he was my first and that’s special. His claws will always remain in my heart.