Tuesday, 22 May 2007

A Return to Innocence

Robert McKee observes that there are people who can tell stories well and people who can't. He points to those work colleagues upon whose words everyone hangs, and then those other folks who fail to make the most interesting of subjects ... interesting.
A friend of mine - gonna call him Juan - was relating a story of a night out. He had met with some friends and friends of friends for a few drinks. An obnoxious fellow at the table managed to offend people whilst also taking offence at remarks about his beard (which looked to all to be a fake). Turned out that nobody knew who this guy was. Anyhoo, at last orders, this guy invited everyone to a club he knew. Some went with him, including Juan, and some decided to go home. At the club, this false-bearded malingerer shouted abuse at a group of skinheads. At this point, Juan hid in a corner with some goths. As luck would have it, Juan and Beardy bumped into each other on the way out, and Beardy offered to drive Juan home. Juan, perhaps reluctantly, agreed. You can imagine, Beardy was more than likely over the legal alcohol limit, and he took speed bumps with little regard. On the way back, Beardy explained that he had to pop into his flat briefly to send an email. Brilliant! So, some time around 3.00am, Beardy pulls up at some Godforsaken flats and Juan follows. Beardy's accommodation is a single lounge/kitchen/bedroom space with a closet bathroom. Juan notices that Beardy has two fridges and both fridge doors are open. The food is stinking and rotten. Juan asks why the doors are open, and Beardy shrugs the question off: 'Must've forgotten to close them this morning.' Beardy taps away at his keyboard leaving Juan to contemplate his predicament.

I'll leave off there.
So, the other night I was watching Little Miss Sunshine. It struck me that it was a series of predicaments not at all unlike Juan's, all wrapped up in a quest: To get Olive to the beauty pageant on time.
Could it be that the writer of Little Miss Sunshine had simply glued a series of predicaments together, offering direction by way of the time limited goal?
What would prevent an author from doing this?
Well, in a way, that was how Little Miss Sunshine appeared to have been constructed. The key, however, was to use these stories to further any given character arc. However, I don't think the movie had much success here; certainly the only arc that I felt worked was the father's as his obssessive faith in self-confidence breeds winners is tested and his attitudes are changed in degrees.

When I read Ricardo's embarrassing transvestite adventures, I laugh - often, I enjoy his relaxed storytelling more than I enjoy his convoluted (intricate) novel or short-story writing.
I am quite sure too that the same accusation can often be thrown at me!
So I got to thinking: What would happen if I took Juan's adventure, opened The Commuters with it, and fiddled with it such that it served as an introduction to the protagonist, Corus?
A good feeling began to grow inside me and the words trickled into my notebook (thereby filling my second moleskine - a lovely little milestone!).
I found that my opening was fun and exciting.
I found that Corus does not have to be introduced as an oddball: moreover, I am better off saving his oddball moments for later.
I found that by placing Corus alongside a weird, unpleasant, unpredictable character, Corus becomes more acceptable anyway!
I lose a number of things such as my brilliantly crafted themes and allusions and subtexts. But who cares? (Well, I do a bit, but I'm darned sure that nobody else does and I can live with that.)
(Note that Juan's story hits a number of senses; in particular, the multiple open fridges and rotten foodstuffs are the kind of details that an author would typically create himself.)

Which turns my thoughts back to David Mitchell's Ghostwritten: A series of unrelated short-stories made to work together with thin recurring themes here and there.
But a cracking read for all that!

So many things seem obvious after the event.
I've been thinking about death-bed Solvey since I introduced him a few posts back. It occurs to me that he will tell me a different thing depending on the moment of death-bedness. In that way, it is of no benefit to imagine what his words of wisdom might be.
So here's looking forward to the next revelation, about turn, rebirth and change of heart!


R1X said...

Argh! You make it sound like I have lots of transvestite adventures! This will all come out in the papers some day, I just know it.

solv said...

Oh, it'd be so easy to edit that comment to read 'I have lots of transvestite adventures!'
Actually, thinking about it, it's transexuals you have a thing for isn't it?

R1X said...

Aiye - you put your whole life into building it up, and someone tears it down with a few well chosen... er... I mean a few ill chosen words. kuh!

solv said...

Like a house of cards eh. :o)