Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dry Run: Update 7

Dang, I don't think I'm gonna make it.  I believe this post drops on May 30th, which is later than this whole experiment was supposed to go.  I was writing on the darn thing today, and it occurred to me that I have no idea how much more of the story there will be.  That's not a good sign.

Two or three other things have to happen before it ends, and that's fine, except I don't know what else will happen, and I still don't know how the story will end.

All I know is, I won't be finished with this bad boy before June begins.  And that's gonna bode quite ill for my novel.  I figure I have no choice but to not write my novel until this one's done, and the faster I get this done, the faster I can get on with that one.  So I put in a bit of extra work on it today, writing three or four pages, instead of the usual one (or zero).

Still, I NEED to increase my output if I'm gonna write a novel in ninety days, even a short one.  And old habits die hard, as I still am much more willing to write in my notebook than on a computer (or worse, my phone, which Big said I should really try).  I think what I might do is, take my laptop out to the backyard--or better yet, to the park--and write on the story till the battery runs out.*

"Into the Furnace" could easily be a novel.  All I'd have to do is develop somebody other than the main character, or try to have the story be about something other than a sheriff arrives in a new town and discovers a mystery there.  I could even introduce some kind of romantic subplot, either for Will himself, or for his lovely daughter.  Yeah, I probably ought to do that.

But no, what I really ought to do is try and write this thing--with its single primary storyline--through to the end, knowing I can always go back and expand and develop things after I'm finished with the first draft.  That's my plan, for now.

Here we be:

So, around twenty-eight percent done.  If I'd just worked a little harder, I'd be a third of the way through this thing (but I spent my whole day off hacking away at an overdue Dunesteef story, so at least it wasn't just watching reality shows).

Even so, there's no way I'll be done by June 1st, in time to start my novel when I was supposed to. ** Which doesn't mean I get to shrug off my novel-writing commitment--Big already has his idea in mind and has been gathering character names, which is a fun thing I tend to do before starting a project, only to forget I ever did that and end up making up new ones while writing anyway--it just means I will have less than ninety days to finish my book.

Although, between you and me, if it takes a hundred days, or heck, a hundred and ninety days, to write my first novel, as long as I actually write it, I'm gonna consider that a success.

Here's to success.

Rish Outfield, Writing Boy

*Oh, something must be wrong with the laptop I bought because its battery only lasts an hour.  That seems laughably short to me.  Is that typical?  The craptop I had a few years back had a six hour battery, and I called it a "craptop."

**Which I realize I already said, but this is actually two posts stuck together, so try to ignore the redundancy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dry Run: Update 6

I don't often talk to my dad.  He and I do not see eye to eye, and he's the only person (other than myself) who doesn't mind reminding me what a cesspool my life has become.

But he's always been a huge fan of the Western genre, at least as far as movies go, which, let's face it, is all I really care about either.  He has seen hundreds of Westerns, and has either rewatched them all, or has an especial way of remembering them and their casts and details.  I spoke to him the other day, and since my last two stories were Westerns (well, Western-ish), I always try to ask him about some technical detail that he's familiar with.*

In "Into the Furnace," I'm still trying to figure out a way for the hero, Will, to succeed, to defeat evil, to save the day.  I asked Dad about explosives, about dynamite, about lighting a fuse with a gunshot, and what the highly-volatile goo that oozes out of the sticks in the movies is.

I told him my story was about a sheriff who comes to a little Western town only to find that something is taking the livestock and the occasional townsperson.  He said, "What?  Like a grizzly bear?  A mountain lion?"  I didn't want to bring up anything specific, for fear he would criticize me and my frivolous fixation on the fantastic, so I said, "Well, we don't know.  It's a monster, you know?"  I could have just told him it was a dinosaur, or a shark that operates on land, or a giant snake or something, but I didn't.

He chuckled and said, "You know, when I was in tenth grade, I wrote a story about a big monster that was up Praisden Canyon, coming down at night to steal people away."  This was the first time I'd ever heard that he did anything creative, much less wrote anything, and it's kind of shocking because I have written a couple stories about monsters up in the mountains.  In fact, "Unreleased" started out as a story about a bunch of high school kids who go up Praisden Canyon (even named so in the narrative) and stumble upon a secret, ancient evil up there.

So, there's that.

Here is my regular bar-graph update:

That's just over twenty-one percent, says my math.  And that ain't terrible.  This was due mostly to me not allowing myself to go to sleep the other night until I'd reached a round number (five thousand, in this case).  It feels nice to have positive progress every time I post one of these.  Guess that's because I only post when there's progress.  Tell no one.

Rish Outfield

*With the sequel to "Birth of a Sidekick," I asked him about rifles, specifically how accurate they were, how expensive, and how many shells a rifle of that era would hold.  He told me, even giving me a brand that everybody had in the American frontier (I wanna say it was Browning), but I neglected to write any of it down, and since forgot it all, so I guess I talked to him for naught, right?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rish Performs "Caul" on Far-Fetched Fables

Gary Dowell over at Far-Fetched Fables has had me do a couple of stories recently, and one of them, "Caul" by Vajra Chandrasekera, is now up for your wistening peasure.

This is a nice, though strange, little story about a young man who was born with a caul (which he keeps in a jar in his closet), who has never been in the ocean.  The biggest challenge for me was how to say the author's name.

However, I do have to admit that I don't understand the story, especially its ending.  If you care to check it out HERE, and you "get it," please let me know.

Rish "Caul-less" Outfield

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dry Run: Update 5

So, I've just about reached the big turning point in my story, the moment where you discover the other element, the whole reason I wanted to write it in the first place.  If this were a real book, there is no way in Dante's seven circles that my publishers would not use that moment to sell the book, depicting it in no uncertain terms on the cover.

If and when I ever publish it myself, it'll be hard not to give in to temptation and have the cover art reflect that also.  My worry is, that scene comes so late in the story that anybody who bought it because of the cover would be mighty impatient to get to that point, and heartily bored in the meantime.  Guess I have to hope the story is good enough, without that element, that they are carried through to that moment, where, if I have any writing talent at all, I will have hooked them.

But speaking of if and when I ever publish this thing, we just had Mother's Day in America when I started this post, and a couple of days before that, I thought that this ("Into the Furnace") might be the first story I've written in years that might be appropriate to share with my mother.  She was always (and still is) an avid reader, and though it's been twenty years since I had her read one of my stories, she has never actively discouraged me from my filthy habit.

I don't know that she would enjoy "Into the Furnace," but it occurred to me that, with a bit more planning and elbow-grease, I might have given her this story for Mother's Day, instead of the fat empty nothing I did give her.  I wish I could just say, "Well, I'll buckle down and make sure to have the story done in time for her birthday," but my mom's birthday was two days before Mother's Day this year.  I should be a better son, but hell, I should be a better everything.

I have managed a few more words (both in the notebook and on the computer), and I just might take my laptop to work tomorrow, to see if I can type instead of handwrite.  So, that leaves our little word meter at:

By my math, my tale is fourteen percent done (14.72%).  Not bad.  Not great either, but I did take a couple of days this week to edit the audio drama that was my entry for this year's Masters of the Macabre contest.  And though it was a lot of work, I think it turned out way better than the last two did.

That doesn't really get me off the hook for my dry run story, but it makes me feel like I'm not dragging my feet quite as badly as I could be.  Ah well, onward and upward.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Goodbye, Unca Dave

Just like "Saturday Night Live," I first started watching David Letterman because of my Uncle John.  "You need to watch this guy," John told me a shockingly long time ago, "he has people on his show, and then he makes fun of them.  He's really, really mean!"

Unlike the first time I watched "SNL" on my own, I have no idea when I first watched "Late Night with David Letterman," or who the first guest was.  But once NBC took "Friday Night Videos" out of Dave's slot,* I was able to see his show beyond just the summertime, and took pleasure in watching him mock himself and the show he did in a way that really, really attracted me.

Dave was awkward, he always seemed a little ill-at-ease in front of the famous and the beautiful, and he really let the audience know when a joke didn't work or he blew a punchline.  Dave was approachable, he seemed like a regular guy, he made fun of everybody, but mostly, he made fun of himself.  As I said in my recent essay "Comedy Is Hard," David Letterman is one of my heroes, one of the men I most aspire to be like when I'm doing my show(s), and someone I will miss now that he's gone.

For some stretch in the Eighties, he started to refer to himself as "your Unca Dave," and I've called him that ever since.  That's kind of creepy, really, since I really do have an Uncle David, but it's Letterman I think of when I hear those words.  I don't know if that says something about my own uncle, or just that shows that I have mental issues.

I watched the show on weekends, and all through the summers, but 1989 is the year I always associate with Dave, for some reason.  It was the Year of the Batman to us kids, and I stayed up every night to watch Letterman and I'd actually try to write down the Top Ten lists as Dave was reading them.

Before Jeff and I watch "Agents of SHIELD" each week, we have to suffer through a show that rips off one of Dave's old gags, where there's a hidden camera and a dude who approaches strangers and does whatever the host tells them to do.  It sounds stupid when I say it now, or when I see it on ABC in 2015, but it was hilarious twenty years ago when Dave would do it.

"Late Night" was a hallmark of my teenage-hood, and though I watched the show from time to time when it went to CBS (and became "The Late Show"), that show was more expensive, more polished, and more old person respectable, and it never grabbed me quite the same way.  I'd still tune in, from time to time, but it was an almost-religious tradition for me a quarter of a century ago, and that's the Dave I remember most fondly.

Well, "The Late Show" is ending this week, and though I would have liked to start up the tradition again and watched every one of his final shows (as I did with Johnny Carson back in 1992), I'm just too busy or undisciplined or loaded with projects that I ought to work on instead, so it wasn't until tonight that I turned on his show again.

Dave's guests were Oprah Winfrey and Norm MacDonald, and it was the same old Dave, making the same old joke about his terrible "hairpiece" that he made when I was beard-free and about a hundred pounds lighter.  I was enjoying the show, but then, at the end, Norm MacDonald actually got choked up, talking about first seeing Dave at age thirteen (doing stand-up) and what an impression that made on him, wanting to be a stand-up comedian, and cried at the end after telling Dave he loved him.  I too began to cry, and decided I ought to come in here and write a little something about the show.

In 1996, I got this picture taken.  I was too young and/or dumb to realize that if I stood in FRONT of the cardboard cutout of Dave, it might look like we were the same size, but hey, I was young and I was dumb, and I'm still one of those things.

So, since I typed this post, Dave's final show has aired.  It was jam-packed with tributes and clips, and there was never the quiet moment for reflection and tears I sort of expected.  Dave spent most of the show thanking people, including the staff, the band, and even the audience.  Not one for the maudlin, I suppose, the last shot of the night he actually had his back to the camera.

I wish I had been more of a dedicated viewer over the past ten years.  I've sadly only caught the show a handful of times since moving away from Los Angeles (which, in the grand scheme of things, has started to be a less and less significant chunk of my life), but I sure watched a lot of it this week.  YouTube may be a repository for the worthless, banal, wasteful, and unprofessional, but it's a heck of a place to find old clips and, amazingly, entire episodes of the NBC show.  Seeing tons of that stuff, both familiar and new to me, made me feel closer to Dave Letterman, and a bit of a more loyal fan.

Like his own hero, Johnny Carson, my guess is that Dave will disappear completely now from the limelight, enabling us to remember him as he was, young and goofy, or middle-aged and crotchety, or getting old but still vibrant.  It will be easy for me to remember him when he was at his best, because that's how I already remember him.  The man made me laugh, made me think, inspired me, and again, made me laugh.  I love you, Unca Dave.  You will be missed.

Rish Outfield

Okay, one more thing: for some weird reason, my favorite sketch on "Late Night" was a little bit where they showed what Dave and Paul (Shaffer) did after a typical episode.  They walk down the hall of 30 Rock, when they see an Amish man struggling with a handcart with a broken wheel.  Dave and Paul fix the wheel, sending the man on his way, but then realize that the son of a bitch took their wallets.  They run after, and shoot the Amish man, Eighties TV cop style.  If I can find that sketch on YouTube, I'll embed it here.

Whoa, it was there (from the end of a "Late Night" anniversary show).  Love the internet.

*According to the internet, this was in 1987.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

"...but at least the narration was good"

Being a narrator--professional or, whatever I am—is kind of weird.  I guess it’s a little like being an actor.  An actor wants work, wants to express himself artistically, wants to make money.  But sometimes an actor will take a job where there’s no pay involved, because they believe in the project, or because they’re just that dedicated to their art.  Or hey, maybe it beats answering phones for a temp agency, or refilling truckers’ coffee right before closing.

But what if the play’s really, really bad?  Or what if they movie they booked a part in was made by the Asylum, that production company that makes films indistinguishable from what you fertilize your lawn with (or find in a particularly fussy baby’s diaper)?  Hey, work’s work, right?

I narrate (and do voice work) on various podcasts, and for the last couple of years, audiobooks.  I think I’m pretty good at it, and while those folks over at the Facebook Audiobook Narrators group would be sure to disagree (a more humorless bunch you’d have to find planning acts of terrorism), I think I’m pretty good at it.

Right now, I’m just about finished narrating a story that . . . well, it’s just awful.  It . . .

Gee, I don’t wanna come across as a jag-off here, complaining about somebody else’s work, criticizing the art of a person surely more successful than me.  So let me just say that I’m typing this now, with plans to save it, so that when I put out this blogpost, there’ll be no way of knowing what project I’m referring to, since it’s sure to have aired long ago, or heck, maybe it never aired, maybe it’s mid-2017 and I just realized I never published this entry and it was all for naught anyway.  So, there’s no reason not to talk about it, right?

This story is awful.  I did a couple recently where, to be frank, I didn't get the story.  At all.  I read it, then I recorded it, acting out the parts, then I edited it, and eventually they got aired, all without me understanding what it was saying, what the point was, or if it was saying anything or there even was a point.  But I could, with a bit of distance, appreciate the language, or the attempt at symbolism, or at least make a guess as to what might have been the author’s intention or the point of the story.*

Just like an actor in a lousy movie, I've tried to make it my policy never to let it show in my performance if I think a piece is weak or a part is poorly-written.  I try to bring my A-game to everything, so the listener never knows my opinion of the source material, and maybe I can elevate a weak moment or poorly-developed part.  That's what a good actor does, no?

There was one Young Adult novel that I narrated early in my c . . . I nearly said “career,” I guess I should substitute “experiences.”  That Christian Y.A. book was not my cup of Earl Grey, and wow, if I had kept in all the profanity and complaining about the book that had been in my recording, that might have made for an amusing clip, or enough for my next of kin to get me committed.  The book was pretty bad, but I hope it’s not apparent if you’re into that sort of thing, and you bought that book and listened to my reading of it.  I tried to pull it off the same way I would something I had written myself.

But not “getting” something is different, because in many ways, the narrator has to interpret the text in a certain way, in order to deliver a performance.  If there’s a sentence that can be read two different ways, the audiobook narrator has to choose one, in essence deciding which way to go with it, even if it ends up clashing with the author’s intent.  The only way around that is if you contact the writer and ask their opinion on it, and then wait until you hear back to continue with your recording.  And that can be an enormous waste of time and momentum.

I asked some people on Facebook if they thought the narrator had to “get” a story to effectively narrate it.  I got a mixed response, and my own answer is mixed too.  Like I said, it helps to know where the author wanted the story to go, so you can make the narrative choices to back that up, but I can also just read something and make a guess as to how to deliver it and hope everything ends well.**

With the project I’m just finishing up right now, I not only don’t “get” the point of the story, I don’t get what the tone is supposed to be, I don’t understand what the genre is, I don’t even know why the work was given to me and not to someone else, since it certainly doesn't play to my strengths.  But there’s a paycheck involved, and so I've done my best with it, but man oh man, do I hate this one.  Is the story supposed to be fanciful?  After all, there’s a pseudo-Fantasy element to it.  Is it written with little kids in mind?  After all, there’s a little kid who’s a major character in it.  Is the story about death?  After all, there seems to be allusions to it, though they are never overt.  If so, is the story a parable about death, with a cutesy little candy shell around it?  If so, that should paint how I narrate it.  Is it written with angry, man-hating feminists in mind?  If so, am I really the best choice of narrator? 

It's difficult to narrate this piece adequately without any context, if you will, and though I've not phoned in my performance in any way, it sure has been difficult to motivate myself to finish it (after all, Wikipedia has been playing me a siren song even whilst typing up this blogpost).  And it doesn't help that there's something about the tone of the story--whether it's simply badly-written or just overly flowery or trying and failing to achieve some kind of magical realism (or conversely, is trying to remind the reader that this is the real world, the same as you or I trudge through every day)--that frankly pisses me off.

Sometimes I've had to interpret typos or poorly-worded phrases and try to figure out what the author is trying to say, since you can't (usually) read gibberish out loud, but this is the first time that an entire piece feels that way.

Perhaps you’re saying, “Outfield, you clod, if you hate the piece so much, you should turn down the work and let somebody more worthy take it on.  Someone like me, who often poops Twizzlers and Cadbury Crème Eggs.”  To which, I must parrot one of those actors who appears in TRANSMORPHERS or TWO-HEADED SHARK ATTACK or THE DAY THE EARTH STOPPED or AVENGERS GRIMM or AGE OF THE HOBBITS or another one-star art film by the Asylum, when they said, “I needed the money.”  And maybe one of those guys really acts his lil heart out in a movie like that (like ALIEN VERSUS HUNTER: AVH or I AM OMEGA or ATLANTIC RIM . . . they really made a PACIFIC RIM-rip-off called "Atlantic Rim," kids), blowing away everyone who watches, but I wouldn't know, because I wouldn't eat the filthy mother f***er.

Who knows, somebody somewhere may hear my narration and be genuinely moved or entertained or inspired by what I did, and if that happens, I'll certainly be of two minds about it.  I will, however, be pleased if they never caught on that this one was all about the money, like that "art" film you did right out of school with very little dialogue, a heck of a lot of nudity . . . and not much else.  You know the one.

By the time you've read this, that money will have come my way, and been spent (probably on something worthless, like a toy or a book I will never read), so any questions I had with this project are now academic.

But still, I wonder.

Rish Outfield, Boy Narrator

*I've told this tale a time or three, that when I was in Los Angeles, I would go to a writers’ group, and we would read one another’s work, and one of my short stories got shared with the group, and I thought it went well.  But when it came time to discuss the ending, people had gotten WILDLY different impressions of what the ending meant (one understood that the ending was meant to be unhappily grim for our characters, one thought that good had triumphed over evil, and one lady had somehow gotten the impression that there had never been any danger and it was all a silly game the characters had been playing [despite my never setting up or paying off anything of the sort]).  It made me wonder about how subtle I should be in my storytelling, or if I should make a couple of changes to make certain the audience understood that the bad guys hadn't failed after all, or if it’s okay if a certain segment of the audience doesn't get it.  It probably helped me grow as a writer, though I may just be fooling myself.

**I am reminded, though, of the time I narrated the story about the mysterious messages this young man kept getting, from a stranger, in a voice he didn't recognize.  I wanted it to be obvious which character was speaking, so I gave the mystery voice as British accent.  Only at the end of the story did I discover that the mystery voice was the main character from far in the future, sending messages back through a sort of time travel.  Whoooooooooooops.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dry Run: Update 4

One of the writing challenges I've encountered over the last few years (besides the many I have already talked about on my blog and podcasts, such as never finishing what I've started, being afraid/unwilling to share my work with others, and tending to write about the same things over and over again) is the tendency of my stories to spiral out of control, getting longer and longer and longer, until what I initially intended to write about is buried in an avalanche of words.

Now, it may be that that's what creativity is--intending to write about one thing and getting diverted by the muse into a number of unplanned sidetracks and subplots.  But I worry that's what an undisciplined writer does, or somebody who doesn't know what he's doing.

For example, in "Popcorn Movies," I wanted to write about artificial nostalgia, and ended up writing about second chances, feelings of worthlessness, the movie business, the American dream, addiction, and the choice between getting what you want for the wrong reasons or getting nothing for the right ones.  I don't think that any of those subjects got the attention and exploration that they needed, and I pretty consistently worry that that story just isn't very good.*

In this one, my dry run (which I forget I've already started calling "Into the Furnace"), it began with the idea of "What if a Western sheriff encountered _____?"**  But I've been writing on it for weeks now, and I feel like I'm at least at the halfway point, and so far, it's been about grief and second chances, a bit of mystery, and what I fear will be more of a ripoff of JAWS than a homage to it.

But like I said with the Kathy Bates beginning the other day, I'm determined to write what I want to write, and I will keep on forging through, hopefully all the way to the end.  Going into the writing, I didn't have any clue how to let the good guy win, but I decided just to start the story and hope it came to me.  Now that I'm a page away from the protagonist actually meeting the antagonist face to face, I still don't know how the good guy can win.  I hope that inspiration strikes and that it feels earned and organic, but I have very little problem with deus ex machina, and if I can find a good one of those, I will be happy to go for it.

Now, let's take a look at our word count.

That's considerably better than last time, wouldn't you say? Part of the reason is that I went to my friend Jeff's with my new laptop the other day, and he had a conference call he had to take, so I just sat and wrote (actually typing the damned thing) the whole time he was gone. If I could somehow force myself to do that every time I do my writing, I suspect I'd be nearly done by now.

Talk to you soon.

Rish Outfield

*Which is probably why, even though I finished it over two years ago, it still sits, unread by any human eyes, or unheard by any human ears.  Sigh with me, kids.

**A note I jotted on a piece of paper and showed to Big at a convention, which he mentioned this week he still remembered.  Though he didn't clarify whether he thought it was a good idea or bad.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dry Run Update 3

Alright, I'm back.  I'll be brief.

Gino asked me what the story's genre is.  Turns out, this is another Western, but with another element at play.  Unfortunately, it's gonna be a loooooot of Western before we ever hit that second genre.  But ah well.

Okay, "Into the Furnace" sounds fine to me as a title for this tale.  I suppose it's a play on "out of the furnace and into the fire," but that might not even be a saying (I remember in The Hobbit, Tolkein said, "Out of the frying pan and into the fire," which was the first time I'd heard that, but like I said, I dunno).

The story is going well, if slowly.  I have written five or six days of the last week, and though I know I'll need to go through it and add some more details (the description of, well, everything, is pretty sparse, pretty sketchy), I like what I've written so far.  In fact, if I'd typed the damned thing up already, I'd have sent it to Big to see what he thinks.*

But, as I've promised, here's how the writing meter looks right now:

That's not great, only five percent finished, but I rest in the knowledge that I've actually written much more than that (twice or thrice, easily), and I haven't hit any major obstacles, except for misplacing my notebook on one day, and diverting off the path last Sunday by coming up with another story I wanted to write while at work, and then forcing myself to finish that one during my regular "Dry Run" writing time.

If this is how the novel-writing goes this summer, I will be slow (too slow, maybe), but I'll be steady.  And that's who wins the race, right?  That one I know is a saying.

Rish Outfield

*Of course, on the off-chance he didn't like it, I'd be too afraid to read his comments until I'd finished the story, and that would be a waste of his time, wouldn't it?  Guess what I'm really after is somebody reading it and saying, "Golly, Mister Outfield, this story's swell!  I can't wait to find out what happens next!"  I'm a sad little man.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Rish Outcast 23: Ask Me No Questions (There and Back Again)

Continuing from last time, I answer Tom Tancredi's probing questions.  I split the list in two because I worried no one would want to hear me talk about myself for ninety minutes.  I never considered that they wouldn't want to hear me talk about myself for half that either.

Also, if there's time, hear me mangle a Tracy Chapman song.

You're welcome.

Download the file HERE, if you like.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Rish Performs "Kill Game" by Dean Wesley Smith Available at

So, last year, I produced an audiobook for Dean Wesley Smith's "Dead Money." which was a Thriller/Mystery set in the high stakes world of Las Vegas poker tournaments.  In addition to its main characters, it presented a second group of characters that were all retired detectives who got together to play poker and work on various cold cases . . . the Cold Poker Gang.

Well, before I'd even finished "Dead Money," I got a message from D.W.S.'s agent asking if I was interested in producing the audio version of the first of the Cold Poker Gang books, "Kill Game."  Of course I said yes.

The members of the Cold Poker Gang are all, save one, men.  And this story deals with the one female member recruiting the others to investigate the long-past mysterious death of her estranged husband.  They start uncovering rocks and discovering clues, and the more they find, the stranger it all becomes.

Here's the LINK.

This was a short book.  So short, it makes me think I could write one someday (soon?).  It would be nice if these would sell a bunch of copies, but even if they don't, I spoke to Dean recently, and there are at least three books in the series already written.  So, you never know.


Saturday, May 02, 2015

Dry Run Update 2

Okay, first things first:

That is not good.  But as I said before, this is only what I have typed up from my many, many pages handwritten in my notebook.  I will attempt to get more going, so that you're impressed the next time I update.  But I may fail in that (hence this dry run).

Second, I had a conversation with Big the other night about how, in screenwriting, they say you're supposed to start each scene as late as possible and get out of each scene as early as possible.  I know that's supposed to make your writing more dynamic, but it's one of those irritating screenwriter sayings like "Show don't tell" and "Page one is the most important page, followed by page two, and page three, and page four..."

I started writing this story, which I'm currently calling "Into the Furnace," a few days ago, and I knew even before I began it that I wanted to start the tale with a conversation with the mayor, telling the sheriff he needs to leave town.  He's a shell of the man he used to be, and is doing no good as the Law in that place anymore.  I think I even came up with the first line I wanted the story to begin with, but as I thought about it, I decided that it would be the mayor's wife who would be giving the speech (it's that Geena Davis suggestion of arbitrarily changing a male character to female that I can't seem to shake).

But in having the conversation with Big, I realized that, going by screenwriting rules, the story could actually begin with him having left the city and trying to start afresh in a new town (this one, I decided--also arbitrarily--will take place in New Mexico), because that's the real beginning of the story.  That's how I ought to start it, with no mayor's wife (played in my mind by Kathy Bates) telling him how much the people in town appreciate him, but he's got to leave).

Except I'm not going to.  I answer only to myself, and Kathy Bates is gonna be in there, by God.  Nobody may read it, but I'm going to write the story I want to write.  It's the little power I have in a life that usually seems pretty powerless.*

After all, if the story began with the arrival in the new town, I would have exactly zero words in the above meter.  And no one wants that.


*Have you ever seen the way THE AVENGERS originally began?  The Battle of New York has already happened, and Maria Hill is being debriefed, and she begins to tell the story.  Then it starts in flashback with Captain America having come to 2012, trying to process how much the world has changed, discovering everyone he knew before except Peggy Carter has died, and he goes for a walk in New York, taking in the changes, where he meets the pretty waitress he ends up saving at the end of the movie.  It's all character development, those scenes, and Joss Whedon (or it could've been Feige, I dunno) ended up cutting it all, and starting the movie with Fury and Coulson, Iron Man underwater, then we enter Steve Rogers's new life in the gym where he's beating up on punching bags and Nick Fury recruits him into the Avengers.  I understand why it was cut, but I also would've appreciated seeing a version of the movie where all that was edited back in (well, maybe not the Maria Hill bookends, but even that might have worked if we'd seen it the context of how Joss first presented the film).  Just saying.