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Circumstantial flummery from a would-be spoonbean hustler.

Getting uncomfortable.

I think when I’m really honest, I am a lazy person. It’s not just putting off laundry or my car inspection or having my brake pads changed; all of which I do in spectacular fashion. Sometimes, most of the time I guess, I just prefer to stay comfortable. This is not conducive to improvement, but I stay sane and I laugh a lot and I appreciate the people I know and the things I enjoy to the best of human ability.

But there’s always a need for more, and in that vein I took notice of Mystery Man’s challenge to the writing bloggers to step up and treat the craft in a somewhat more open and collaborative fashion. A lot of what he said in justifying the call made sense to me and he has seemed like a pretty on the ball kinda guy, so where I usually lurk, I’m starting to comment and chat more, and dedicate myself to this idea because I think it may be a good strategy for improving my writing- which, laziness aside, I do certainly want to improve.

However, I’m starting to suspect this is a lot harder than it seems. With a fair-to-middling grasp on the fundamentals, commenting on examples, doing character analysis and scene deconstruction isn’t all that uncomfortable to me. These exercises are very helpful and I always fall back on examples when I run into trouble. I watch a shitload of DVDs. I read and reread a crapload of scripts with an eye toward whatever it is I’m working on. It’s all very comfortable, and a good way to blow a weekend, but it’s not always helpful. A lot of time it’s just a distraction. Which I honestly need from time to time, don’t get me wrong.

I’m beginning to think it’s gonna take more than just shrugging off the lurkerdom. It’s going to take more than reading more insightful writing blogs and doing more analysis. Mystery Man’s revolution talks about destroying the secretive mindset and me getting a little bit more active ain’t gonna cut the mustard. I’m gonna have to go out and get downright uncomfortable.

For me that’s not gonna be revealing my mystical action verb (which I am, in fact, hiding). I’m not soaking up the sun and writing pool side on my next blockbuster, I don’t know how many secrets I’ve got in my arsenal that are worth the salt and I’m likely not wielding them with badass nunchuck master ability that will provide any insight to my fellow larvae-scribes. I mean, that’s why I want to improve.

What then can I do to actively pursue improvement? Well I suppose I could ask for help. Not talking like, big coverage level script analysis- or even workshopping a set of pages I’ve already written. Those have been done. What if I were to lay down the theories, ideas and logic I use when I’m designing a scene? What if I were to throw out specifics for examination in the hopes someone would come along and indicate yes/no, good/bad, obvious/indirect methods for accomplishing what I want to accomplish?

Personally, that would be damned terrifying, and it’s not so much because it’s a secret process that I don’t want people to know to keep them down. Writing is, in essence, figuring out those things yourself. Very personally, very internally and very alone. If you reveal a little of that mystery, if you don’t cling to it, it can honestly feel like you’re not the one doing the writing, someone else is doing it for you. That’s where it starts getting uncomfortable. I think a lot of fear in the process is linked to ‘if the idea doesn’t come from you’ then you can’t control it, or someone else will take credit or you’re just riding someone else’s coat tails and at that point why even try? I’m supposed to be the one writing, I should be self sufficient and it should be wholly from within me that I find answers.

Which sounds completely insane. But then crazy-ass paranoia is crazy-ass for a reason. Think about it though, at what point does the assistant Jacopo l’Indaco and the ‘cartoonists’ get credit for the Sistine Chapel? I’m already being collaborative by looking at scripts and movies I love that have come before. Is there that much difference between homage and advice?

So why shouldn’t I just throw it out and see where it falls? To hell with my level of comfort, this is supposed to be about getting to the point where I can tell an awesome story.

So maybe I’ll just see how it goes:

On page 44 of a script, Nickel & Dime, that I am reworking, my main two characters have yet to come to an equilibrium. Edison doesn’t trust Max and Max doesn’t trust Edison. They need to come to some sort of working agreement so that they can pull off a heist. So far Edison, the protagonist, has the most urgency because Max is going to have to kill her if they don’t pull this off.

In the first draft this manifests as Edison trying to ditch Max while achieving some important reconnaissance, but ends with Max bailing Edison out of trouble when she ends up trapped.

This kind of nicely puts Edison in Max’s debt and subtly indicates Max would prefer the heist go off successfully, rather than just capping Edison.

Unfortunately I’m changing the heist entirely, so this recon scenario no longer exists. But I still need a scene where they come to this same end- Edison still somehow in Max’s debt after she’s tried to manipulate him, linked back to the big heist- such as getting supplies, making trades or eluding discovery or some such.

Because I have written the hell and back out of this thing, I have a few ideas that would accomplish different parts of this, but none as suitably as I think the original scene did. It’s an important character moment which facilitates their whole execution of the heist.

So, trying to design a scene in which all these needs are served. The problem needs to come out of the surroundings- which should be relevant to the heist; the characters- Edison exerting control or Max addressing what he’s willing to do or not do; or something else, which is why I’m posting to see if it’s obvious to anyone else, who might be willing to share.

And it is still damned uncomfortable. So have at me, I welcome the input, but honestly say that if things get particularly vicious do not be surprised if this post disappears. I am not completely without fear. Also, I swear to god this made sense when I typed it.

3 Comments

  • Unk on Oct 13, 2006

    It actually sounds like you have a good handle on it… My recommendation? Just write it… LOL. Worry about it afterwards.

    Good luck!

    Unk

  • nicolle on Oct 12, 2006

    Thanks Unk. You’re a deadeye- “Maybe one of the characters is only involved in this heist so he can pay something off or help somebody out…” is actually how Edison is even involved in the first place (sort of)

    The whole HEIST genre is perilously close to cliché country, and I have looked at it ad nauseum- which is why I mention that sometimes it’s not helpful. A lot however, is good for identifying what to try and avoid.

    It’s hard to get into specifics without laying out the whole plot as I have it concieved, which would take so very many posts, but I wanted to take a stab at it this way to see if something jumps out. Honestly my best way to solve problems is talking them out to people, but I am woefully short of people I can talk things out with in person currently.

    With regards to the story here, there is a big wrench I’m throwing in by the end of it all that the heist isn’t as important as it seems- but for general explanation purposes, heist is kinda what it has to be identified with genre-wise. THE STING is a good example, except that it’s not by any means how things play out, just sorta similar, double-take-ness going on.

    And Max and Edison would certainly hedge their bets. I kinda think I’ve done so much with their characters and they’re so sharp they wouldn’t ever be doing what I want them to do. Max isn’t going to let Edison run off and do what she needs to do at this point and Edison can’t bring herself to trust Max- and really she has no reason to just yet so she’s not going to fill him in on some of the intricacies.

    The SWITCH device is coming and I’m fairly happy with how it occurs and a lot of the problem I’m having is I’m locked in from earlier draft- it’s a rewrite, but almost a completely distinct story from my frist draft, so sure, I have cable laid- scenes and dialogue written – that are holding me back because I covered the ground before and now I’m going back and digging it all up and trying to improve it.

    Which may indicate I need to go back to blank page one and outline but that’s scarier than anything else.

  • Unk on Oct 12, 2006

    Nicolle…

    Secrets and lies… LOL.

    Very hard to suggest anything in particular without knowing the story but seeing how Max and Edison don’t trust each other, I would think that both of these characters (assuming they are professionals) are going to HEDGE their bets with the other person.

    In other words, no… They are NOT going to trust each other… EVER. Which means that each might end up with some kind of ulterior plan to keep the loot from the heist from the other person.

    Which means you are now in “Cliché Country” so tread carefully…

    Again, I don’t know what your story is about but if it IS about the impending heist, then you might consider coming up with ways for these two characters to pull some kind of a switch on each other that we’ve never seen before… I know, easier said that done.

    Take the films in your genre and see how they did it and then come up with a way to basically do the same thing but in a way that we’ve not yet seen.

    In fact, take HEIST and THE SCORE and approach the SWITCH differently… Maybe make the switch happen in the future by having one of the characters set that up beforehand and SHOW us at the end how the character did it.

    Another idea could be that one of the characters know that the other might kill him so he takes those precautions ahead of time but it does look like he is killed…

    Maybe one of the characters is only involved in this heist so he can pay something off or help somebody out…

    The trick being to show us something that we haven’t seen before but I know you know that already…

    Good luck with it!

    Unk