Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Thing You Love Most

     Editing and rewriting the sequel to Those That Wake recently has left me thinking about M. Night Shyamalan.  A case can be made that, after early and resounding artistic success, Mr. Shyamalan trapped himself in a bizarre loop of egotism and creative lunacy.  However you feel about him, I will always value his endeavors and creative thinking for two things.  Number one, his best movie: Unbreakable.  (Yes, I came right out and said it; its explication of the "becoming what you are meant to be" theme resonated more powerfully for me than the way it was handled in the Sixth Sense).  Number two, however, goes deeper.
     In discussing the deleted scenes on the Sixth Sense DVD, he explains that one of the segments toward the end of the movie was a scene he was in love with, maybe his favorite in the whole film.  It was, if I recall correctly, the scene he had initially envisioned, which the entire movie eventually sprang from.  Naturally, it wound up on the cutting room floor.  When you create something, he said, find the part of it that you love the very most.  That's the thing that you're going to have to get rid of. 
     I'm still working on why that is, exactly.  Maybe it's because the thing you love the most is too personal to you, that it muddles an essential accessibility.  Maybe.  Whatever the case, I am finding it to be as true a thing as I've ever heard about the process of crafting a story.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Red and the White and the Blue Come Through

     A brief comment on behalf of a subject near to my heart: Captain America; more specifically, the recently released Captain America: the First Avenger, which could easily have been missed (or scorned) amidst the field of so many superhero movies this season.  Rather than the shrill, jingoistic propaganda they could have turned out, the movie is a great, old-fashioned pulpy adventure with a surprising amount of heart, thanks mainly to star Chris Evans and director Joe Johnston.  They've fashioned an excllent hero cut from classic cloth, a guileless man with a good heart and a stubborn streak that won't quit.  Nobody is going to be left gasping at the gritty realism, but a more enjoyable two hours in a movie theater would be hard to find this summer. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Editing, Stage 2

     Notes have come back for the second draft (discussed here) of the sequel to Those That Wake and they boil down to this: it’s still too confusing.  The trouble appears to be an element carried over from Those That Wake, which was apparently the cause of some confusion there, as well.  The villain of Those That Wake, Man in Suit, was going to return in a very different form in the sequel (still, at least for the time being, tilted the Unmade Man).  Man in Suit’s new form was going to serve as a glue that would hold many pieces of the second book together, not just in a narrative sense, but also thematically. 
            Jason is convinced, however, that the concept is too confusing and he has convinced me, as well.  So, the problem: how to hold the narrative together and support the pertinent themes without having to rewrite the book from chapter one?  A fantasy element is required to do this heavy narrative lifting, but simply adding another fantasy element  into the sequel that is not already established may be one fantasy element too many.  I am, after all, trying to maintain a certain level of realism.  I am looking, then, for a fantasy element that already exists in the sequel that can be stretched and slightly reshaped to accommodate the new narrative responsibilities.
            Clearly, we are not at the nitty-gritty stages of editing yet and large, sweeping issues must be addressed.  I do not have the answer yet, but a few ideas are pinging around my head.  Once I’ve got a solid shape for them, I will write a detailed outline and give it to Jason for more comments.  Only after we’ve hashed that out will I begin on a third draft, which will hopefully lead us out of the large, sweeping issues and into the nitty gritty.  While it's not tapping its foot impatiently yet, my deadline is on its way down the street to knock politely at the door.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011


     Shopping for a new refrigerator, my wife and I found that the one with the smaller dimensions we need (we have a very narrow kitchen) is nearly a thousand dollars more expensive than larger models.  We ask why this is.
     "Well," says the salesman, with quiet sympathy, "the companies always charge more for non-standard sizes."
     "Yes," we say, "but the one we need is smaller."  This means, unless my understanding of physics is quite off, that it requires less material to construct and that there is less room inside it, thus it is actually less useful.
     "Doesn't matter," the salesmen replies.  He's explained this before.  "It's non-standard."
      In thinking long and hard about this, I am left with two possibilities: 1) the companies mass produce standard size pieces from which they construct most of their refrigerators, thus using non-standard pieces (whether they are smaller or larger) actually costs them more.  2) Companies can call anything they want "non-standard" and charge more for it.
     One choice is obviously more heinous than the other and, of course, there could be another reason I'm overlooking.  In any case, practically speaking, we (and you and everyone) must pay more (way, way more) to get less.
     This cannot possibly be the only instance of "non-standard" price difference discrepancies in all of manufacturing.  I'm almost scared to find out.