Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Moving forward

Despite my mother's interference. She doesn't MEAN to interfere; she's just old and needs things moved about in her never-ending shuffle of the junk she has, and then needs to tell me her plans for how she's going to get everything done by Christmas...things she's been planning to get done since she moved back to San Antonio 4 1/2 years ago. And much as I may want to, I can't yell at her to leave me alone. So I deal with it and now get my writing done when she's toddled off to bed. Meaning last night I started writing at 9pm.

And put out another 2000 words. 8 more pages. The beginning of the Houston section of Brendan's life. Initially I'd thought it up as something wild and chaotic; instead, he walked me through it like he's waking from a long deep dream, and I like it that way so much better.

It's fascinating watching this story morph from one of nothing but anger, conflict and pain into one that holds a degree of tenderness, longing and love. At least, I hope it does. It feels that way to me. It could just be that I'm falling in love with Brendan. I do that with my characters, sometimes, and while it can make things difficult -- I do have a tendency to assume everyone loves the character as much as I so I don't need to present his or her story as much as I should for clarity's sake -- it also allows me to go deeper into the character and allow them to do things you just don't do in a screenplay or a book if you're the hero.

For example, I wrote a thriller script about a young Russian soldier, Niko, who sneaks into the US to kill the man he believes ordered his own family to be killed, a guy named Alessandro. Niko learns Alessandro has a daughter named Tani and a troubled son, Gregr, and sets about using both of them to get to the guy...but then begins to fall in love with Tani and feel for Gregr. Typical Hollywood-style story, right (except for the lead not being a red-blooded American boy)? But then Niko decided he wanted to be suicidal and use his own death wish to destroy Alessandro, thus blinding him to the growing evidence he's after the wrong man. And even though he loves Tani, he still calculatingly uses her and Gregr to get to her father. And in the end, he commits a cold-blooded murder then contemplates doing a "suicide-by-cop."

What this did was set up a situation where it seriously looks like he's going to be actually taunting his killers so they'll do it quick. And the story demanded it be told in a style that will work on screen but is confusing on the page. I've had directors, actors and cinematographers read it and love it because it gives them a LOT to work with, and I've even taken it through a workshop to make sure it was sharpened as much as possible, but coverage people DESPISE the script. I've gotten a few copies of some really vicious coverage on it. And their flat-out rejections hurt...until I noticed they had major mistakes in the synopses and commentaries, thus revealing they hadn't read the script but only skimmed it. That or they were illiterate (and considering the grammar and spelling of two of them, I lean towards that explanation).

I think this is when I started wondering if I can write for Hollywood, now. And started shifting my end game to that of novelist. For all that I give up in the idea of making a film from my story -- the look and music and acting and movement -- I get to dig into the characters' hearts and minds in ways you just can't do in filmmaking, these days. Filmmakers USED to do it -- and not just in foreign films like those made by Truffaut and Renoir and Bergman and Bunuel, but William Wyler's "Dodsworth" and "The Heiress", Hitchcock's "Notorious", movies made under the studio system where the eye was on the bottom dollar just as much as today. But nowadays? There aren't many people in the industry capable of putting that kind of story across, and the audience has been trained to be spoon-fed everything. And now we're regressing as a society. on a rant. Think I'll go for a walk, talk some more with Brendan and see what I can get done, today. He had an idea for a moment when he has to fake being a priest and offer up last rites to someone who's dying so they can go in peace. I'm thinking about it...but I'm leery because it leads too neatly into a confrontation with some British Paratroopers on the Craigavon Bridge and I don't want it to be that easy. But we'll see. After all, he's leading me right, so far.

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