A sometimes half-arsed record of the process of writing in its' variegated many forms.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ye' Olde Coffee Shoppe

So I just printed out the first draft of The Coffee shoppe (yeah, it's just the working title), and the thing is a behemoth. This is going to be a frustrating editorial process. I wrote the thing so that I could excise the first draft of Darwin's Child and get with the editorial process on that thing, and I've essentially given myself twice as much work. Now I've got to try and figure out if I can really split the whole thing into a play and a screenplay. The idea is to break off the read through of DC into a play, and just have a cursory one in the film in which Robinson tells Sal that he's full of shiite and he's written a really verbose action film with dialogue that would be better suited to the theatre with the re reversed from our American style if you get my drift. Well, I'm down in the dungeon of Umass's library, and the place is eight hundred degress, so I'm gonna get on. First day of classes-yeah, oh yeah!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The structure of success

So, it occurred to me that I want to sit down with one of the two new screenplay ideas, and try and hack into them. I'm not in a place where I can work on the Darwin Trilogy or Willful Tragedy, as I've said I need a more solid mythic grounding for that, and I don't have the time to develop it right now. I'm also in a delicate place with regards to the memoir, so I'm a little stalled out on that for the moment. I'll work through that, it's just a thing. Clearly, I don't want to get into it.
Anyway, I was napping a little bit this afternoon, and I was thinking that instead of the process by which I've written the various screenplays and pieces in the past, that is to take a loose outline of the story as broken down into the trad. three acts, it would make more sense this time to try to really work the structure to a finer honed web than I have in the past. Usually I'll just sit down at the typer with that loose structure and see where we get to. This time I want to be more prepared before I sit down with the idea. I want to really work out all the characters, the specific scenes, get the whole thing sorted a little better than I have traditionally beforehand. It also occurred to me that I've been much to welded to the page as a way of writing. Character creation should be a much more live process than just dialogue and some slight action descriptions. In that vein I really need to get a tape recorder or a video camera to work through characters in a more live way. Cassavettes worked completely with a tape recorder. Just a reminder.

Ideational progression

I had an idea for a screenplay yesterday about a guy whose megalo-paranoid personality gets so out of control that he thinks the local book and film critics are somehow reading his novel as he writes it and criticizing it in their articles about other books or films. He draws out their analyses to mean something about his writing, and it is driving him insane. Actually, that's the middle part of the story, while he's living in his former boss's basement trying to write a novel. He hides out because he thinks everyone hates him, when in fact they find him endearing if often frustrating for his paranoia and gruffness. He'll be a kind of Harvey Pekar, but slightly delusional.
The idea actually grew from an initial thought about a character that gets totally disillusioned by reading critics of other people's writings while I was reading some seriously harsh film reviews in the Globe on Friday. The movie's they were reviewing undoubtedly deserved the drubbing they got, but man, Burr and Morris were in slash and burn mode. I can feel for them. I mean having to go see every movie that comes out and try to come up with something intelligent to say about it, forget about it. Anyway, then I thought I might try to incorporate the idea into the Rebel W/out a Cause storyline, but that story's just too full as it is, so the idea was just kind of hanging around.
Then I was at home dancing in my living room to the Dennis Brown Anthology that I just got, and the kernel of the story hit me as this character idea. I then spent the next hour or so flushing it out a little bit to a slight 3 act structure. I want it to end with him finally pushing beyond the paranoia and writing his book, which is maybe rejected by editors or poorly received. Maybe he goes on a book tour and has to defend himself against the kind of criticism he was afraid of, but because he actually wrote the book he doesn't care anymore. Something along those lines. Not a totally happy ending, but he comes out with his own unique brand of success, which gives him a dignity.

Open-sourced possibilities

I had an interesting thought the other day. I was thinking about the wikipedia and what a phenom that whole thing is, and it occurred to me that it would be an interesting project to try an open-source screenplay. I'm not exactly sure how the whole thing would work, but I like the idea of an unlimited number of interested people getting in on some core idea. Again, how to set it up is not entirely clear, but the idea bears some consideration.
Lego just built a whole line of toys through an open-source process, and, of course, there's the whole mozilla, linux, and apache successes. Admittedly, these are all totally different fields than what I'm talking about, but again, I think it could work.
I've seen there's some kind of open-source fiction writing going on somewhere out there, but it was just offhanded. I'll have to investigate further, and maybe try and work up a structure or something. Just an thought I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The edges of dreamlife

That a dream was the starting point of a trilogy of sci-fi films I've got in my head and just a little more than slightly down on paper, is, to me, kind of crazy. That a whole series of movies could come out of not wanting to get out of bed would be pretty rad, and the honest truth is if I can finish writing the thing. Well, if I can get the dialogue to a place that isn't shitty, the possibilities are infinitely skewered. By that I mean it might have a shot. Obviously, it's much too early to get any kind of hopefulness about it, but the basic outline is solid. It's just filling in the details.
On that note, I've been reworking the original draft of the script offhandedly over the past few weeks, and I really feel that I need to steep myself in traditional myths a little more if I want to successfully get the characters and the plot to a mythic place. I really feel like the story could take on mythic porportions, but I'm just in to much of a straightforward place right now to successfully write those types of characters.
It also occurred to me that The Darwin trilogy is an interesting counter-point to a screenplay I wrote a couple of years ago called Willful Tragedy. The story ultimately takes on a really Greek tragic tone, and it fits well as a kind of our world mythic tragedy in opposition to this slightly altered future world I've been working with in Darwin.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Just so there's no misunderstanding

I wanted to say this here and now, so that there's no misunderstandings or hard feelings later on down the road. I've started two new blogs, and yes I have become a full blown bloggaddict in less than a month. That's beside the current point. I started a team blog called Cross Referenced Modulates, but the team members are all characters from my head. I thought it would be interesting to look various books from the perspectives of various characters, so I've created a place to do that. It all actually springs from an idea I had in 2000 for creating a imaginary thinktank, and having a roundtable discussion with various caricatures of the various political viewpoints. The roundtable was going to be discussing the lost tapes of Murkinson and Burr, who were themselves characters that I had created and recorded on an old tape recorder that had a feature which would let you slow down or speed up the tape as you recorded, so yr voice would sound either really deep and low or whinny and high pitched. Well, I recorded a bunch of philosophizing in a very abstract and then a very specific way, and would slow down and speed up the tape accordingly. The Burr character, who was the one raging on about progressive political stuff and had the really whiny voice, came out really hilarious, but I lost the tapes somewhere along the way. Anyway, this blog gives me the chance to bring back that idea in looking at some specific artistic expression through the lense of multiple characterizations.
I've also created a blog for one of the characters, who has a really crazy story. It's not entirely clear to me how the idea came about. I was reading the living arts section of the paper, I think, and had a clear idea for a blog about a kind of kooky character. That is basically how the idea for the crazed-junkie fad diet came about. So, just for the record, that stuff is made up. It will be treated as real within the bubble of the two blogs, but over here on the other side, I'll state clearly that that stuff is just imaginary.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Wild New Ideas come forrowing out of the ground

So, I spent my afternoon on Thursday in wild contemplations just trying to keep up with myself, which when I'm in that kind of manic mood is a virtual impossibility. While I was at work I had a few one off ideas that seemed interesting, so I when I got home I figured I'd have a cocktail and try and work some stuff out.
One idea was for a film that is mildly inspired by the whole Spears debacle that is that poor girl's life. Actually, it's more of a film about generalized celebrity culture than specifically inspired by Britney, but she's just the most shockingly obvious example of how virulent the cult of celebrity gossip has become. I highly suggest you immunize yr children immediately (exactly what that means or entails I could not say). The idea is also to draw from both the film, Rebel Without a Cause, and the real lives of the actors that starred: Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood, and James Dean.
Anyway, I don't want to give to much away here in this most public of places. I have to admit I have trouble getting over being just a little secretive about my material, which is kind of understandable, but in the end probably a useless precaution against nothing, since who would want my ideas anyway?
Regardless, I also spent Thursday building a better structural house for the memorial conjurings for MishMash, which if I haven't mentioned is the tentative title for my autobiography. I had initially tried to work a reverse chronology, but I wasn't really feeling that, so I had to lay down a slightly more complicated structure that starts moving backward, but then moves through the central years I spent in Memphis thematically: girls, academics, creative work, friendships, drugs. You get the idea. I also think I'm going to tell the most sensitive and raw stuff from my adolescence when I was in and out of mental institutions as a story that's happening to someone else, and make my experiences into a character. I haven't figured out how exactly that's gonna work or how it will fit in with the rest of the more straightforward material, but we'll see what's the what when it all comes out in the wash.
Okay, so there's more stuff to talk about from Thursday, but I'm going to leave it for another post.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A moment of celebration

I have to take a moment to celebrate a victory, even if that victory is tempered by the realization that I now have to try to go back through and edit sucessfully this monstrous screenplay that I've finally churned out. It is the first real project that I've seen to completion, and that in itself deserves a few moments of self-masturbatory adulation. In the many years I've been writing now, I have yet until this very moment managed to see any of my novel, play, or screenplay ideas all the way to completion. While I have started more writing projects than I can even catalogue, it is rare for me not to be distracted by some other project. There were several years when I had to be working on at least four or five different writing projects at the same time, and that's in addition to working and going to school. My life has required a high level of semi-successful yet highly necceary multi-tasking for years now, and I think a lot of the work suffered because of it. At the same time there are some aspects of this current screenplay that couldn't exist without the approach I've taken. I'll get into that more in a minute, I just wanted to shout a brief halleluiah for the completion of my first screenplay. Of course, the thing is like forty pages too long, and would be a four hour movie as it stands, so now to the editing.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

On the straightforward tip

I have claimed that this blog is supposed to be about the process of writing, ergo the title: access the process. So far we've been short of the mark on that front, but I'm getting to it. I wanted to get in a little background on what the progression has been for me, and how I've come to this place that I am now, which is no where in particular to be precise. Regardless, in keeping with the feel of the blogform, I've been a little discordant in my approach.
So, I just wanted to get down to it for a quick minute on a project that I was was moving on this weekend a little bit. I'm working on two projects right now. One is a memoir and the other is a screenplay. I think I mentioned that in an earlier post, but whatever. Moving forward, last night I was reading a bunch of screenplays. Actually I was reading American Splendor, Boogie Nights, and The Kingdom. A seemingly pretty random grouping, but the connecting factor is that they all can be found at the Internet Movie Script DataBase, which is a wonderful, if highly incomplete companion to the IMDB. One really interesting aspect of the imsdb is that many times you find early drafts of scripts, so you can see how the script was reworked if you watch the movie. Just as a quick example because I'm totally getting away from myself here, the script for American Splendor that's up there has some substantial rearranging in the final film. Check it out for yrself. Anyway, the point of all that was that I was trying to get some mojo going on my own screenplay. It has been stalled essentially since I saw Juno a couple of weeks ago and found it so ridiculously witty that my own writing seemed dull and lifeless: a truism, no doubt.
I'm trying to get some juice for the second act, which in my screenplay is a kind of mini-movie in the sense that it's the only act that has much in the way of a structured narrative plot. I'll explain this all in great detail at some later date. For now, let it suffice to say that my screenplay is a little wierd. Here again we're getting sidetracked, and I do have a writing proficiency exam tomorrow, so I'll try and get to the heart of it. The problem in essence was that I had a vague narrative outline, but I didn't have the specific scenes set up. The whole plot moves forward through conversation, but I needed to establish beforehand who had conversations with whom and when in order to move forward. So I had a few cocktails, and the whole thing got away from me. It was a little more complicated than that, and I actually did get some slightly useful stuff. Still I haven't really got a handle on this middle act since the first act was really a kind of Slacker-like wandering through the lives of people who habit this coffee shop.
I'll try and sit down this week with it and flush the thing out because I'm actually very immersed in this project, and I'm not totally unsatisfied either, although there is some editorial work to be done for sure. Anyway, that was all still pretty vague and useless. I'll try and get down to The Show at some near future moment, but for right now, it's just all too much.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Can I get a little meta?

The whole idea of writing about writing is in itself pretty tricky. I spent several years working on art theory focused specifically on the writtten forms, but getting the theories into the practice was highly problematic. The problems being that characters and plots run away from you no matter where you start. You may start with a great story that has all kind of allegorical or metaphorical meanings, and by the end yr no where near the horizon line you were scoping from the starting block. It's a real trick to input those things in a conscious way, and probably for good reason. The films, plays, or works of fiction that have a clearly definable point many times come off as pointy and one dimensional, so I guess in the end it's good to just go with the flow. Still I want to get some kind of handle on what it is I've been trying to do for the past fifteen years. What is the drive, and what is the point? I can't even imagine. I'll try again later. Maybe it'll come to me while I'm sleeping.

Astrogeny and my own humble beginnings

I wrote my first short story when I was about fifteen. I was a devotee of Kerouac at the time, so it was a kind of stream-of-consciousness semi-nonsensical story about an all american family's run in with opium smoking law enforcement officers. It was highly wierd but read well. I kept up in that vein for a while, but, at that time, I was more drawn to the poem than to structured story writing. Although it would be hard to argue there was much structure to the early nonsense that I called short stories.
I first tried my hand at a longer form novel a few years later with what was meant to be a novel about the process of achieving enlightenment through the discussion and description of the place itself, Avalon. I was hugely into Eastern philosophy and Buddhism, so it just came from that place. I think I got about twenty pages into it when I ran off the tracks and gave it up. Seeing as I was only sixteen or seventeen at the time, I can't really fault myself too much for it, but it was the beginning of a rather frustrating habit of conceding defeat at the earliest convenience.
My process is one of being hit by a wave of inspiration at the original notion of a story, which then translates into some manic hours or days or weeks at a clip, then gets snagged on some lowlying branch of plot, character, structure, or somesuch, and finally explodes into a void of depression that the idea is so hopelessly useless.
At least, the preceding years have been filled with many different iterations of this basic outline, but I think I'm slightly free of the grip of that pattern for the moment. I've been working steadily on a screenplay for several months in between work, school, and all the rest, and I'm not totally unsatisfied with where I'm at. It's good to be making progress; I think.