I had a desire to re-read this oldie but goodie recently, not because I forgot the story, it’s one of my favorites for many reasons and will stick with me always.
I could easily write… at the bottom of page 10 Malcolm folds over after being shot and at the head of page 11 we are into 2 years later where he meets Cole… and be done with it.
But lets get just a little anal…
In the 1st 10 pages of THE SIXTH SENSE we learn so much about Malcolm (and his wife and their relationship) we feel like he’s family. We know his tastes, his quirks, his thought process and most importantly we know how his profession consumes his life and we’re okay with that.
What to me, is worth discussion — is that even though we love Malcolm, or at least are concerned about his well being, he is not our protagonist. Cole is. Cole is the one who sees dead people. Cole is the one that needs curing. I believe Malcolm is the antagonist, which is why the twist at the end is so good. Some argue that Malcolm is a co-protagonist – and death itself is the bad guy, but really Malcolm is the one that forces Cole to change. From a purely analytical p.o.v., it is my opinion that this story is so effective because we are rooting for the antagonist just as much as the protagonist and the twist is we don’t even know it. I’d love to hear other thoughts on this, so fire away.
Regardless, by the bottom of page 10, there is no way we aren’t going to turn to page 11.
I have to call out one line, at the bottom of page 7, that really encapsulates the quick yet picture perfect action lines in M.’s writing style…
Tears jump into the strangers eyes.
Six perfect words for the 6th sense!
The other thing that is so striking [to me] about M. Night’s writing here, is that even though he knew he’d be directing it, he left out all directorial writing. This is pure screenwriting for story sake – and there is no doubt as to why this writing not only broke him in, it gave him carte blanche [for the next 12 years] to do whatever he wants – gambling he could once again capture that pure lightening in a bottle. It’s worth noting that this isn’t an early draft, so even when this was greenlit, he was keeping his directorial instructions out of the story.
BTW, I had someone off-handedly point out that my sign-off (stay tooned) was misspelled, I use this in reference to my many years in the animation industry – if you’ve never considered writing for cartoons an art, I beg to differ. Animation writing depicts character, story, imagery and action in the most economical and entertaining way of any genre. If you want to avoid stale dialogue, watch how animators say so much with their actions. Ursula from THE LITTLE MERMAID says it best… ‘never underestimate the importance of body language’… That and the fact that it was WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT that made me decide to be a filmmaker. I never thought I’d have to clarify this but there you go.