When you finish a screenplay and you realize you have no idea in hell what genre it is.
Could be worse. In publishing it makes your life much harder (unless you’re established). In filmland it just means you can enter it in more competitions. It’s horror! It’s comedy! It’s fantasy! It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping!
Just a quick and sobering thought that has been making my brain hurt: for a writer, the Trump campaign demonstrates a basic truth about storytelling.
The more you engage someone emotionally, the less they will care about details like logical consistency or empirical evidence.
This truth is why religion, fiction and confidence games work, though I will refrain from commenting on the degree of overlap between them, or how this makes me in any way like Paul Ryan.
It’s also why most people will forgive lapses of logic in a movie easier than they will a novel. The visual is visceral, if done right. That, and fridge logic has more time to creep in when you’re reading.
I was taking one the last week of May and the first two weeks of June. It was by turns epic, lovely, frustrating (one day soon, Edinburgh. One day soon…) and then pretty much epic again. Some places required cineramicpanomascope treatments:
I got to meet some cool people IRL, reconnect with old friends, learn fascinating things and drive a right-hand RV with a stick. I even got to write, not just on the flight there and back again, but while eating breakfast overlooking Loch Ness (if you must write a synopsis of an unfinished work in a hurry, there are worse places to do so).
What I didn’t do was blog. And then I got back and got busy writing and not blogging, until a combination of guilt and dental pain (do crowns know it’s a holiday weekend? I bet they do, the bastards) brought me here to play catch up.
Which I have now done. Now to run tests on which single malt performs best as a topical anesthetic…
…I need to pick a better name for this supporting character than “Dr. Frenchname.”
Which touches on what’s actually a serious issue for the creative process: when does a decision become a distraction…and are all distractions bad things? I’m thinking of similar tangents in past projects, and at what point I realized the decision had tendrils that ran deeper into the rest of the plot or theme or whatever than I thought at first.
The only criterion I think works for me is annoyance level: if I really, really feel like I need to decide on a detail before I write any more, I do, whether I’m doing true pantsing or sketching out the story or (heavens forfend) outlining. Otherwise NOT dealing the distraction becomes a distraction in itself.
So far I don’t feel that way about this one, but then, the character hasn’t actually appeared yet. It will be interesting to see whether I start getting the itch to name him when he starts interacting with the protagonist et al.
a) my agent reading my middle-grade novel
b) the screenplay version of that novel entered in a number of contests, after winning or being a finalist in a dozen or so.
c) another screenplay entered in more contests
d) a TV pilot entered in a contest
e) a screenplay ready to go to a mentor I’ll be working with for six months
f) other projects in other places
So it’s not like I’m slacking off. Except I have been feeling like I am, in fact, slacking off, because all of the above are versions of existing work, anywhere from a year to five years old, that I either rewrote, repackaged, or otherwise reconstrued.
I didn’t have a new idea in the works, and that bothered me.
It evidently bothered me a lot, because right before I woke up this morning I had a Grade-A cinematic nightmare. We’re talking full-fledged horror plot with five ironic reversals, four well-defined characters, three supremely creepy visuals, two zombie French Hens and a partridge being eaten by a combination pear tree and Venus Flytrap.
Okay, I made the last two up. But still. I recall enough to outline it. I could probably write a half-dozen scenes from it right now.
So, fellow writers and other creative types, if you ever feel like you’re running on empty, eat something vile, or turn the heat up a little too high, or do whatever it takes to make your brain go apeshit in REM. What’s the worst that can happen?*
*–Note: the author assumes no liability for nor implies any warranty against something much worse happening.
I really, really wanted a grain elevator explosion in the screenplay. But it’s hard to justify when a crucial plot point revolves around the atmosphere having about two percent oxygen.
*writes in superfluous liquid oxygen tanks at grain elevator*
In other news: for all its travails and rage-inducing injustice, a world where This Is Spinal Tap has 8 out of 11 stars at IMDB can’t be all bad.
It’s hard to concentrate. That is all.