Nellie Clark - 4TH DRAFT | Skillshare Projects



Nellie Clark - 4TH DRAFT

I am open to all suggestions! Please let me know if you have ANY advice. 


Okay, 4th draft is up. Not much different except some scene directions (which I'm not sure are 100% correct in terms of screenwriting) and adding ages. I changed Nellie's age from 17 to 18 in order to make it more legit (if that were at all possible in this story). I did change the flashback a little bit. Instead of Nellie searching for a 4 leaf clover, I had her sing "Daisy Bell," to which Charlie gives her the nickname "Nell Bell." In the original story I had him refer to her as Nell instead of Nellie. I thought i'd add a bit more with a nickname. 

Step 1: Selecting your text - 

I chose “Nellie Clark” from Spoon River Anthology:

I WAS only eight years old;

And before I grew up and knew what it meant

I had no words for it, except

That I was frightened and told my

Mother; And that my Father got a pistol

And would have killed Charlie, who was a big boy,

Fifteen years old, except for his Mother.

Nevertheless the story clung to me.

But the man who married me, a widower of thirty-five,

Was a newcomer and never heard it

Till two years after we were married.

Then he considered himself cheated,

And the village agreed that I was not really a virgin.

Well, he deserted me, and I died

The following winter.


What the fuck, right?

This story stuck out to me more than any other. It was the raw emotion and lack of information that gripped me. How did she die? How did the sexual encounter actually happen? I sought out to answer these questions through my screenplay. I wanted something to challenge me, make me write something completely different than my norm. I like the strange and unusual because they’re memorable (which makes me think of the quote from Beetlejuice "live people ignore the strange and unusual. I, myself, am strange and unusual"). Although the entire story is not meant to be relatable, broken up into pieces it can be. 


My first thought was how did Nellie die? suicide was my first answer, but then i thought that was too obvious. Then my thought moved to childbirth, but after a few drafts my writing has progressed to suicide again. How did the sexual encounter actually happen? I could make it horribly traumatic and gut-wrenching, but I don’t think anyone would care to read or see it (I know I wouldn’t want to watch a child rape scene on screen). So I decided to make Nellie and Charlie best friends who grew up together. It’s an uncomfortable scene, I agree, but it’s supposed to be. Charlie is taking advantage of Nellie, but it’s confusing to her because he’s being affectionate beforehand.

In order to make matters more confusing, I had Nellie and Charlie continue their relationship even years after. Why? Just ease up your tension and stereotypes about the situation and imagine a small country town of about 250 people, no one formally educated -- except maybe the doctor. Nellie is only 17, pregnant, and a smoker. She has been married to Tom for 2 years. This is the norm of the area. Nellie and Charlie grow up together and are inseparable, but then Charlie takes her virginity at an extremely young age. Even though Nellie is physically hurt (and doesn’t understand what’s going on), she still believes they are friends. She wasn’t screaming or yelling, and he wasn’t forceful.  They shared an intimate bond. Why do women continuously run back to an abusive husband or boyfriend? Because they’re a security blanket.

MY PROCESS. In all my years of writing I was always told SHOW, not TELL. There is a rhyme and reason to my writing (and perhaps my madness). I do not need to spoon-feed you. People are capable of inferring the facts. And sometimes I leave things slightly open interpretation because I want the reader to imagine the details themselves. Isn’t that exactly what Edgar Lee Masters did in this very poem? Mystery adds interest.

Step 2: Drafting your Screenplay - 





Step 3: Logline

After an early sexual experience, Nellie Clark is destined to be enslaved by the men who surround her, leading to her ultimate demise. 


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