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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

some brief nostalgic elongations

I wrote a one man, one act play when I was 19 about a man named Harold, who over the course of the act we find is quite mad. He's a frustrated writer, and in his spiral into the hells of writer's block actually goes on a shooting spree to give the serial killer he's writing about more versimilitude. At the end of the act, we discover that he's in an insane asylum of the old school nature, and he then hangs himself with the strap of the...shasta, I'm blanking on the name...that thing that Houdini used to escape from, with straps tied around you so yr hands are all caught behind yr back. (edited to say: straight jacket)
Anyway, in the drunken haze that was my early twenties, somehow this little gem turned into the kernel of the idea for what I then called The Conversation's Trilogy. The idea's been expanded now into a sextology or possibly a septology, but that's a whole other story. In it's original first reformulation as The ConversTril, Harold witnesses his good friend, the Ned Beatty character, slay another friend of theirs and his own wife as they were en fragante delicto. Harold gets all histerically blind, but in the magical realist vein, he gains the eyesight of our hero, J, and he writes a novel from the bowels of a nuthouse to somehow help J with his own troubles. Harold's story was to be told in a play and J's in a screenplay, and the book was to be actually written. It's to my mind a great novel idea. A kind of admixture of Dashiell Hammett, Elmore Leonard on his good and vibrantly sharp-edged days, and what I have imagined Robert Ludlum to be like from the descriptions my friend Tom used to lay on me.
Again anyway, I had written the first act of the play in one frenzied drunken morning, and was working with my friend, Quintronic, on the screenplay on and off for several months of mostly messing about. Then one day, I just somehow grabbed a book called Mythology by Edith Hamilton to see if there was someway to throw it into the mix. I can't remember why or how it seemed like the thing, but it did. I went down to the Half Shell in Midtown Memphis, and was scanning through the various brief descriptions of the various Greek dieties, when an old man approached me. He gave me a bunch of apples from his farm, and generally talked about how much he missed his wife, who had passed on. It was a strange encounter, but I let him unburden his lonliness as best I could.
In some wierd way that moment unlocked a neural cascade of creativity, and the new story was born. Harold's trials and tribulations were simply a preperation for his being inhabited by the returning Dionysus, who spends half his time in Hades and half on Earth, as he is a shadowed early formation of the Jesus idea, whose worship on Earth gives Dio some still brief time amongst the living. As none of the other Greek Gods are still worshipped, they no longer have the power to exist in this realm, but Hades and all who believed in it still does. Only Dio is connected to this world, and the first act of the play begins at his previous return to Hades and the realization amongst Zeus and other greedy gods that he holds a connective power to the world, and so they trap him and try to draw on it for the lustful expanse that it gives them. Just as he is sacrificed in Hades, he returns to Earth in the form of Harold, and finds that in the preparation process Harold has through his troubles and the eyesight of J written this novel of grim set, hard-boiled, mutated detective fiction. Dio inhabited Harold then escapes the nuthouse to chase down J who is himself about to make the wild mistake of running away from his own problems. All of the three stories end with each character heading to New Orleans.
In the next level reformulation, they all meet there and are confronted with the fact that they are all simply aspects of my own psyche, cognition, volition, and emotion (I was then in the early stages of studying consciousness theory), and they meet a socratic like character who explains how the whole story is simply an attempt to converge psychically on the metaphoric New Orleans, which is intended as the spiritual center of humanity. All heavily wierd stuff, and not a little convoluted now some years past it's sell by date. Still...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

thoughts reactivated

I found a book in the recycle bin outside my apartment building just a few minutes ago, and I'm feeling the synchronicitiousness heavily. The book is called Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, and it's got all kinds of mythical women and their stories and explanations. I'm highly intriqued to say the least, but it also occurred to me that this book may be just what I needed to get the female character of the Darwin Trilogy to a more mythic place, as I was lamenting the need to do just that here on this blog a while back.
It then occurred to me that the whole story itself needed to take on an archetypal significance, as I'm not one to just leave it as simply an action film script. That would not be in keeping with my character. I'm now sure that there are three books specifically that will be required reading and in some cases rereading for a conceptual feasting on myths and archetypes and such. The aforementioned Women Who Run With the Wolves as well as, Gaia and God by Rosemary Radford Ruether and Patterns in Comparative Religion by Mircea Eliade are now going to be the trilogy of touchstones for the project, along with, if at all possible, Joseph Campbell's Mask of God series and maybe some Euripides. Since Euripides and Aeschylus and the other Greek Tragedians are themselves already a heavy influence on a play I've got in mind and made a few tentative stabs at, I won't make them required reading for this project, but I'll try to keep them in the back of my head.
It is not clear to me when I can actually get back to this project, but I'm projecting for maybe taking some time on it this summer. I really want to get Eddie the Grouch done first, and I had wanted to see what I could do with the Celebrity Without a Cause project also, oh and the memoir project. I had also wanted to sit back down with HTML-coding and design stuff this summer so I could snazz up the blogs here a little, but this is all way too much to think about finishing in one summer. I'll give it a crack anyway, and we'll see what shakes out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chayefsky, the mad genius

Paddy Chayefsky, the mad genius of the early days of television, who so wonderfully embodies the values of the Hollywood Renaissance, I just felt I had to say how inspired and inspiring the film Network is; how intense and burrowingly perceptive the whole thing is. I was concerned early on about the portrayal of women, but this transcends gender as does business. It masculinizes everyone involved or scoffs them off to lick their wounds unobtrusively and out of the way. The performances all around are well renowned, but the smaller role of William Holden's wife played by Beatrice Straight is the moment of punctured life in the continued saga of histrionics. It's an important and well-placed moment that gives the film a roundness that I respect greatly. He nails it down with every word, and the actors give breath to those words with astounding dignity. It's just a really good movie, and one that has given me just a moment of inspiration and feeling when I thought films had lost that ability forever. A mild exaggeration, but then I'm prone for such things.
It occurred to me as I was watching the Ecumenical Liberation Army's squabble over distribution costs and anciliary rights or somesuch that there is a powerful tradition of great truth telling in the arts, and one that must be continued and fought for and sought out and delineated. It also occurred to me how much creative will must go into the creation of something like that. I'm struggling to get at my meaning here because as usual I refuse to speak directly. Let me try again. I think that there is so much that is creative and powerful and unique in our artistic history that it's a crying shame that the kinds of remakes we get are things like old sitcoms or cheap cash ins on a once popular or possibly solid artistic product (i.e. Sabrina). It occurs to me that there's this huge wealth of wonderful material that should be drawn from and used as an inspiration point, not just gimickified for a quick dollar bill. Some questions arise: is it art or business that controls the artistic markets, and is there an art to business that isn't a con, especially when it comes down to art? It really feels hollow and plastic when the business end of things gets through with our cultural representations, and it just occurred to me that this is not healthy, is entirely counterproductive, and quite possibly heavily financially restrictive. It's just that artists tend never to take financial considerations into play, and so the business end of things always feels they must find an exploitable element and try to play that up. It's slickness personified: an idea made manifest in our collective consciousness and then realized in individuals who find there ways into positions of control and influence. Perhaps I'm talking beyond my scope and not making much sense, but it just feels like a cheap con sometimes. I just think we can do better.

The Seagull among other things

I started rereading this Chekhov gem this afternoon, and it was instantly clear that this was the play that I was looking for. I had virtually randomly selected it from plays that I have copies of to be the play that the character Lilly from the screenplay Eddie the Grouch is in, and it fits perfectly. In fact, after their first act falling out over Eddie's birthday outburst, he'll be dragged off to see it by Thera and it will inspire him to try for a more abstract novel project. It's also clear to me that I absolutely need to be more careful about leaving ideas just inside my head. I had laid out the major plotpoints of Eddie's novel and how it changes at the end of the second act, but this morning as I was reading The Seagull and thinking about the script for the first time in weeks, it occurred to me that the remnants of those brainstorm sessions are vague and not as solid as they were when I was working on them. This is not uncommon, it's just tough to always do notetaking, but necessary (as he reminds himself yet again) since we work on more than one project at a time and have work and school as well to contend with. You know these things, so keep to them.
Creatively it's been a languid time. I should be working this week, but I can't muster up much energy for the whole thing. Now that I have the play in place with it's relatively large cast, I have to work out who we meet, who plays who, especially whether Lilly plays Arkidina or Masha or Nina. Now that I think about it there would be no solid choice for a typecast, but certainly she would need quite a bit of range to get from her personality to Arkidina, who is clueless and grandiose. I see them as a group, so cohesive and intense about the theatre, quoting lines from their characters and discussing maybe Konstantin's desire to break with trad. theatre or Trigorin's soliloquey on writing. This will all make Eddie terribly jealous and finally set him off, maybe on David, the director or the actor who plays Trigorin or even Lilly herself. Who knows? Just letting it all hang out a little.
Of Trigorin's monologue, I've got to include this qoute:

"They're deluding me into thinking I'm sane, and I'm really not, and someday they'll creep up behind me and drag me off to the crazy house. And when I was young, and could have been out enjoying myself, writing was sheer hell. A beginning writer, unless he's lucky, feels completely out of place- awkward, useless, nervous. He's obsessed with successful writers and people in the arts, he hangs around them, but nobody notices him. And he's afraid to look anyone in the eyes. He's like a compulsive gambler without any money! I never knwe who my readers were, but I had this vision of them: hostile, unimpressed. I was afraid of the public, terrified of it, and whenever a new play of mine opened, I always thought the people with dark hair hated it and the ones with blond hair were bored by it. It's horrible." From the character Trigorin from The Seagull by Anton Chekhov.

Chekhov is such existential deepness, I can't help but love him. Definitely my kind of playwright, but still humorous at times but such meaningful discussions of life, and so universally and timelessly true. The discussion of fame and celebrity has only become more poignant.

Also just quickly, The Seagull is also going to be used for the introductory scene between Sarah and Belle for the Play section of The Coffee Shoppe, so we'll get maximum umph for our buck out of this material. There's just so much there it's unbelievable, and I like the idea of characters from different projects getting to comment on the same material, maybe we'll get a whole different take from Belle and Sarah than we do from the crowd that's putting the play on or from Eddie who's at first bitter and then inspired by the piece. Okay, that's all.

Friday, March 14, 2008

kizmetic ponderings

I noticed that there's been some wierd synchronicity in some of my posts here. The week I posted the idea about a film of celebrity fame as a haunting and an overarching destroyer, Heath Ledger overdosed. The day after I posted the novel idea about someone's destructive behavior building and building until it maybe destroyed their lives, it was revealed that Eliot Spitzer had been caught up in a sting operation for hiring prostitutes. If cartoons start coming to life and attacking us, don't say I didn't warn you before hand. It could already be happening, so be aware.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

jagged stylechanges are my callingcard

I've started a new series of blog entries on my myspace blog called 'reminiscences of Memphis', which is a fun way to go through all that stuff and see what shuffles out. The last entry there was a little pedantic, but in truth I...as of this writing now, which is forward from the time when I started this blog entry, I'm past the pedantic blog entry and have redeemed myself minimally, so we'll leave off on that. I have to say it's an enjoyable process, this reminiscing, and I should do it more often. I should also do some work on the autobio project, but not tonight. Hopefully tomorrow.
It's interesting to see the wierd jagged stylechanges that somehow occurred over at the myspace blog. For some reason I like the blog format, even if I really am not into social networking in any form and find the very word myspace annoying beyond belief. I also find the word blog pretty obnoxious, as I've said once or twice, so I guess we must simply suffer gracefully and endure or just suffer dumbly and eat a whole bag of Syder's of Hanover's Honey Mustard Pretzel Pieces. I couldn't say which way you should go, but I know which way I did. I'm not telling though.
I've been reading a lot of very mildly ironic, semi-sardonic, hugely humurous blogs lately, and as mimicry is the thing that I am most talented at, I've been copping there style just a little bit. It's an enjoyable way to write. I just wish I could pretend I thought of it myself. My own style is so dullingly academic it hurts. I should really work on that. Anyway, just trying to get the blogosphere caught up on all the exciting things going on in my head, so I hope yr feeling satisfied blogosphere, you've just wasted another day of my life that I will not get back no matter how much I complain to the manager. I think I'll have some cabbage.

Monday, March 10, 2008

dream processing

I held it for as long as I could, building it's power and bridging the gap with the vestiges of sleep brought into the strange relief of the conscious field: a kind of tension of magic eye-like vision pattern shifts that allow the explosion of some great view and scene. I barely breathe as I try to hold the idea and it's meanings and explications in my head without losing the sense or the robustness of the idea.
The winds of the Santa Ana, the wierd winds of the Eiger, all of these strange winds that contain maybe positive ions, expand or elaborate (see Eiger Dreams), are capable of bringing to life when combined with the power of the collective consciousness the fantasies of comics and animation/ starting in the 1920's or earlier with the earliest of comics somehow imbued with the collective power of children's imaginings brings whisps of these creatures into a kind of holographic expression in the very places where these winds blow, seen and unbelieved, unacknowledged at first, but then grudgingly acknowledged and reported, building the collective sense of the reality of these visions which then pushes their reality farther, into the forties and fifties as the characters and creatures begin to fill in, they become more than hollow, to become ambulatory, to move farther afield. This gives them greater power and imbues them with more life from the collective consciusness. No one understands how or why our fantasies are being writ large across the sky. As the sixties and seventies dawn these characters both good and evil (in all their as written manichean glory) begin to take on wild and highly effecting life, begin to battle, to take out whole towns and cities, to be saved by Mighty Mouse, or destroyed by Bluto. Perhaps their manicheanistic tendencies get blurred, good becomes bad becomes good, characters shift and fight with each other and themselves: all kinds of maddening possibilities.
Somehow wild hard-boiled scientists of the modern times manage to isolate and interpret the data of the process and begin to understand what it is that's happening (clearly referencing Ghostbusters in their explanations to unbelieving politicians or military men [explore more non-cliched possibilities {possibly somehow The Rolling Stones, who are then a part of the process whereby the world is saved}]). Then in someway the zietgiest of collective consciousness must be brought back to earth in order to save humanity from ultimately their own collectivized insanity. Implications for social commentary on the memeticisim of pop-culture, on the process of furtherance of the formerly insane and out of bounds into the completely accepted, all kinds of wild implications.
I still see the dream slightly, the manic little man as he tries to build up the steam of his conviction that the wall holds the potential for Voltronesque robotic might, as the wall breaks apart with his intense convictions and becomes this crazy robot, swooping down into the Mall of America, against the mounted military defences which are so helpless to this oversized cartoon. Then clearly not asleep but with the image holding power, in that between state, not awake not asleep. The idea's building; it's enfolding itself, gaining momentum, adding to itself. Then trying to hold both the image and the ideas as they begin to snowball. Now the rush to the computer as I try to maintain it all, as the image is fading and what is left is my report here. I love you Haruki Marukami, Jon Krakauer, and Jennifer Hochschild. You are the birth of this great and fraught with potential novel idea. You and the Ghostbusters.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The slow descent

I had a story idea the other day that I wanted to catalogue somewhere because it's not something I'm going to use any time soon. It's actually more of a character idea than much in the way of story, but it has implications for story that could be interesting. Essentially the idea is watching a character slowly fall apart as he's trying to keep it together on some front. Not a particularly original thought there, but how it's done makes all the difference. My idea was this would make good novel material since film tends to reduce so much of the subtleties of character in it's condensation process. So much of the meat of the story would be the internal struggle against the continuing poor choices that it would be very difficult to get that on screen.
Initially I thought just the ever so instantaneously molecule of a moment that this would be a interesting to see someone's descent into pedophilia, but in the end I just couldn't even begin to think about writing that character. Still it gives you the idea of what I'm talking about, the slow descent through the poor momentary choices that lead us to making a horribly awful decision about something: murder, abuse, armed robbery, whatever. The point of the story would be watching this happen to the character, and watching him or possibly her struggle against there own seeming inevitability. That would be a key psychological trait, that they see this awful possibility looming in their future, and every little thing they do wrong leads them to believe that they are incapable of stopping the process by which they move towards this possibility. They struggle against it, but the slightest moment of distraction leads them closer.
This kind of thing interests me greatly. How someone gets to a place where they might consider killing someone or abusing a child or even simply (within the context of this sentence) cheating on their spouse or significant other. It's a gradual process whereby they move farther along the continum of destructive behavior until at some stage you reach a kind of sudden and momentous moment when you are faced with a really messed up possibility, and you are actually considering it. I think it would be really compelling, if well written, to look at this process in depth, and see someone go through it, especially someone who was themself self aware of the fact that this process was ongoing in their life. Whether or not they give into the temptation or not, I don't know. Maybe, and this I would love but would be horribly problematic in terms of actual publishing, it's unresolved; the book ends right at the moment when the decision is about to be made, and the readers have to decide for themselves based on the whole thing what the outcome is.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Notes on MishMash

So I thought I would include some notes here that I made during a brainstorm session for MishMash just to give a little bit of a better access to the process of conceptualization. Here we go:

MishMash- A kitchen sink approach
Start-work backward w/ jumpstarts and wanderings in The Two Hospitals Chapters-
Move through them & into the last year around Sept. to Sept. in a forward move then
1st year in the 'phis (forward)
thematic movements through next 7 years-
1. girls 2. academics 3. creative 4. friendships 5. drugs, etc.
>Africa>1st year back before phis
>high school & Comm. College-?Break thematically again? How?
/Maybe as character, not self-How far? Third person Omniscient?
Childhood as early Black Boy style-see doggeared pages-use a stylistic dreamlike approach and broad reminiscences, sentimental flavor, etc.
3rd level MishMash intro-is about airing out maybe good creative material that might otherwise not get a chance to see the light of day.

Those were just some quick notes I made one day while trying to figure out how I was going to shift the way MM was being set up as strictly moving backwards through time. As I was writing, I realized that although I love the idea of telling the story backwards and will maybe revisit the notion fictionally someday. It was just unsuccessful for my own story. Their was too much context necessary for some of the material. Although this may seem like a bit more complicated of a structure, it actually makes the writing process easier, as the backwards progression presents all kinds of complications with when to bring in characters, how to talk about the end of relationships before the beginnings, what kind of time-chunks to use for the movement. Just lots of complications that I didn't need for an already complicated storyline.
As a quick note, I do like very much the idea of talking about a certain period of my life as if it were fictional. The idea that I would use the very real life experiences and actions, but express them in a less straightforward, memoiristic way seems like it'll be fun. That'll also lead into the more surrealistic way I intend to write about the idyll of childhood, as I feel that's more accurate than trying to pretend like I really remember that stuff by going and talking to family members and dredging other's memories. Think the beginning of Joyce's Potrait of an Artist as a Young Man Parliament Funkadelic style. That's gonna be what I'll be going for. So, maybe now would be a good time to get back to the Skattershot (I've accidentally written Shattershot in some places, and I can't decide if I like that better) Backstory stuff, which I've still got about thirty or forty pages of to get through. I've been slacking on that hard-core what with...Oh forget the excuses just work the move already(note to self).

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Conceptualization and idol play

So I thought I'd try to talk a little bit about the process of building story ideas. It's a complicated and mostly intuitive process, so it's hard to really explicate, but I'll give it the old college try. Story ideas, at least for me, can come from anywhere: the newspaper, a film, something I overhear in the subway, a book, the way a certain building reminds me of something. It's all fodder, so the best advice for finding story ideas is cast the net wide, absorb as much as you can, keep yr peepers open, and just be generally receptive to the possibility of ideation in the general living process. The truth is it usually hits me when I least expect it, and the stuff that really sticks and gets elongated and worked on is generally the out of left field, where did that notion come from kind of stuff. In that way, I am not the colonel of my artistic process, just a tailgunner. I just try to keep the enemy in my sights. And by enemy, of course, I mean creativity and only in a inverted metaphoric way. I don't really consider creativity to be my enemy, I was just drawing out the metaphor farther than it was really capable of going.

Anyway, the meat of the conceptual process is as Einstein is credited as saying one part inspiration and 99 parts perspiration. It's a lot of work at honing in on the characters and plot because somehow it's in yr brain, and you just have to draw it out. You or as I really mean I work in a kind of dualing internal spitball process whereby I will throw out stream of consciousness ideas about the story or people in it, and then react to that stream by suggesting variation or alternatives. It's a pretty strange all around thing, and physically it manifests itself as wandering around my apartment muttering to myself. In that vein, it's good to live by yrself or have understanding or mostly absent roommates. I've never been able to work satisfactorily when other people are anywhere near my process, but I'm an admitted eccentric.

So, it's a winnowing process, a kind of fun battle as the characters struggle to get themselves right. I really believe that the characters I work on have their own sort of existence and selfhood, and I think that gives the process a very serious and delicate tone. It's still the most enjoyable thing to do, but I do take it all very seriously in a convivial way. Essentially, it's like wandering through the wilderness trying to find yr way back to civilization; panic and hopelessness are your enemies (for real this time), you gotta have confidence, pick a direction, charge ahead, and don't look back. Something like that.