The Prism Effect by Nevada McPherson

The Prism Effect by Nevada McPherson Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Nevada McPherson as she shares with us “The Prism Effect.” Enjoy!


Hope your summer is going well and that you’re getting plenty of writing done in between having fun and relaxing at the beach, park, lake, or wherever you go to recreate and rejuvenate!

Research for a New Screenplay

I’ve begun research for a new screenplay, but I’m taking it rather slowly as I spend some time this summer to do rewrites on other screenplays.

I’ve written some biographical screenplays before, always fairly straightforward, based on people from earlier eras (Jack Kerouac and Erich von Stroheim) and those in their circles.

The script about a real-life person I’m planning now may be the most difficult yet since this person is somewhat well-known but not particularly famous with an outsize personality like the ones I’ve researched before.

Nonetheless her story is interesting and the backdrop of her life and the people around her have the potential to be quite interesting as well. (I’m still in the very early stages of this project and so not ready to reveal too much about it yet. Bear with me, please.)

Life Events

Events during a certain point in this person’s life will provide the narrative through line for my story, and the surrounding milieu of people and places will provide much conflict and intrigue.

Since this involves to some degree a backstage view of a world with which I am familiar, there are a few windows that provide insight for me.

As I’m getting started, however, I still feel a bit distant from my main subject and unsure how the important elements of the story will eventually fit together as a whole.

I had no idea how I would approach this but the other day an idea came to me.

I will create a brand new character who will help connect the different parts of this story, and this character, the “prism” through which other characters and situations are seen, will be my guide.

I’ve thought of using this approach before…

…but have never really tried it.

Usually my stories either involve all totally made-up characters (though some may be very loosely based on people I’ve known in the past or composites thereof) or real-life characters with minor side characters created as needed.

This new character however will provide the central point of view for the overall story about real-life people, and it is through her perception that readers/viewers will experience the events that unfold.

Since there are fiercely competing forces at work in this story, as well as possible secrets, lies and cover-ups, it’s hard to know exactly what the truth is. This new completely fictional character will provide an anchor in the storm, both for me as writer and for readers/viewers.

If this were a novel she would be a reliable narrator. Since this is a screenplay, she will become a trustworthy character with a unique perspective on the action.

I believe that this character will be an important truth-seeker in the story. Even if she doesn’t discover the whole truth about the fate of my main subject, she will come close.

Prism Character Inspiration

I’m grateful for the inspiration to create this “prism” character, and I look forward to seeing her become fully-realized.

While I’ve written biopics before, I believe this project represents something new for me.

Do you have any new methods or techniques that you’re implementing in your writing this summer?

If so, great—this is a fine time to experiment!

If not, go ahead and be bold—you never know what might happen when you step out of that literary comfort zone.

I’ll let you know later how my “prism character” experiment turns out. In the meantime, happy writing!



Nevada McPhersonNevada McPherson lives with her husband Bill and rescue Chihuahua, Mitzi in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is an associate professor of Humanities at Georgia Military College. Nevada received a BA in English/Creative Writing and an MFA in Screenwriting from Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge. She has written over a dozen feature-length screenplays, plays, short stories and the graphic novels, Uptowners and Piano Lessons. Queensgate, the sequel to Uptowners, is her third graphic novel. For more information, visit

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