Monday, January 30, 2012

The Weekend

Not half bad.
Friday: I made progress on my office--the hallway is full of more candidates for the garage sale.

Saturday: The afore mentioned animated gif class and lunch with friends too long neglected. Game night at our neighbors'. We played Dune, a pretty involved game, which thankfully only took three hours--it can take much longer! I don't spend as much time as Paul gaming, but when I do, I realize why games might appeal to so many writers--how playing games can make you more aware in terms of twists and turns and strategies.

I was interested to find that Dune has an element where the circular board is divided into section, and a storm moves around these sections in a not entirely randomized manner. It immediate made me think of a similar device used in The Hunger Games trilogy. Obviously, the book is about a "game" as well, but I have a feeling that more examples could be found. Strategy games are about maneuvering yourself out of bad situations and into better ones by pursuing resources and alliances and fighting battles etc. What else is about those things? Stories, of course. And also life.

Sunday, I rode the 105 bus for the first time to a friend's book signing in West Hollywood. The bus travels north and south on La Cienega, which is a fairly major street with many shops that it would be good to have access to without having to park, so that was a cool discovery.

And, over the course of the three days, I read Gideon's Law. (If you follow the link, you can download a PDF.) It's the story of a cop who gets assigned a ride-along from hell. It has elements of movie Collateral and the series 24. I found it easy to read because the writing was so fluid though some of the logistics became confusing or incredible here and there. I thought the writer did good work adding complications, ratcheting up the stakes. I was tense and engaged for much of the read.

Reading this script made me think about the costs and benefits of ramping up action quickly. There were just a couple of quick scenes at the beginning with the protagonist (Shane Gideon) and his girlfriend/partner before she is taken hostage and his whole world changes, which isn't a lot of time to establish relationships and the essence of a character. But it's good, especially for the genre, to get right into the action and the main conflict. I thought the writer did a nice job of short-handing the the Shane's "problem" of having--at least in the perception of others--screwed up on the job so that he is being ostracized by the other cops. There is an arc whereby the opinions of those people do change by the end. But I'm not sure there was a clear character arc for Shane himself. I don't necessarily believe that every main character has to change--but I think the readers/audience usually know whether that should happen. In the cases where it should, we hope or fear that the main character will change. Not always. We don't really hope for James Bond to change. We do, however, hope that Jamie Foxx's character in Collateral can change. We enjoy seeing him become less passive and more active in his own life. In order to do this he's set up at the beginning as more a dreamer than a do-er. This is where I wasn't entirely clear about Shane. Does he agree with everyone else that he messed up, and it's eating away at him? Or does he believe he made the right call somehow? And I wonder what he would have done if his life had followed its normal course. Was he hoping to to win back favor somehow? Or just ignore the animosity? Or was he considering quitting his job or requesting a transfer?

Especially in early drafts of Children of Others, I've fielded similar questions--what is it that Skylar wants? I've always wanted her to have some ambivalence about having a child--but that's a hard picture to paint without the colors getting muddy. Even now, as I prepare to go into a rewrite, I'm trying to add to the specifics of her situation and her character. Was she someone who was fun and adventurous before she got embroiled in years of infertility treatments and lost a pregnancy and became so fearful of loss? I'm also thinking about here husband, Dillon, and now--new and exciting!-- I'm thinking about the background of the "doctors" who create the hybrid baby inside her, because I think they will need to play a bigger part in the new draft.

I'm probably thinking of all of this even more right now because I'm reading a book called The Art of Dramatic Writing, by Lagos Egri, which is really excellent so far, but perhaps a subject better for another post.

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