Archive for August, 2007

Looks like the silent type: the story plays coy

August 31, 2007

I haven’t done a lick of writing since my return from Emeryville. I don’t believe that it is related to the events of that week. From what I can figure, it’s just not been there. By ‘it’ I mean drive, focus, determination. Before the trip I was a machine. I wrote for hours, often nodding off, and rousing to find that I’d continued to type. During these brief somnambulist dictations, I would continue to write the passage or scene on which I had been working. Some of it was cool, as if I’d just extended a blink. Other times I’d find crazy sentences, creepy stuff. I didn’t keep that stuff, too weird.

Crazy, weird stuff aside, the point being, I was jammin’ towards my October 1 deadline. I was hitting my mark nightly. It was terriffic. Then I went out of town and my forward progress came to a screeching halt. I actually watched television tonight for the first time in, what, six weeks. Crappy, summertime television. It was awful.

This is, I know, part of the process of writing the book. The ebbs and flows. I like the flows much better. So here’s to Labor Day weekend; let the story shine on.

On a side note, I’m working on an old Dell C400, with 256k RAM. So on nights like tonight, with my Blink security software running along side Firefox, the poor old notebook – it’s like typing in molasses.

38 days remaining (888:50:41)

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The benefits of betrayal

August 27, 2007

Got into a discussion with Janet about the merits of betrayal and deception to create more conflict in a script. My playwriting professors Marley, Turgeon, and McCleod, I believe, would advise to look to the root to determine the motivation of those characters involved to see if the motivation is honest. Without conflict there is no action, but conflict for conflict’s sake is an Eric von Lustbader-written Jason Bourne novel. (Not that I’m opposed to that.)

Ms. Marley is fond of saying there is no motivation other than money or love. To extrapolate, find which way a character’s ego is led – love of money or love of power. Either way, it comes down to self-interest.

The absolute best piece of staging advice I can remember (three of my four years as an undergraduate were often under the table. Not a boast, but an atonement. I was an immature little dork, and wasted many hours of my time and, regrettably others, in my self-serving wake) was this: you can’t stage a negative. On stage, an actor is stranded for motivation if the goal is to cause another actor to “not” do something. The actor, and therefore the character, needs to influence an action that leads away from the undesired towards a desired result. Stated simply, an actor is screwed if the character doesn’t want another character to walk out the door. There is no way to play that. The character needs to find distractions, alternatives, or detours to encourage the friend not to “not leave” but to stay. What’s the motivation? The character wants the friend to be safe, no matter the cost. Why?  Who cares – that’s the actor’s job to figure out. The character, ultimately, is worried about how the friend leaving could affect her; she wants to remain happy, sad, whatever; self interest/love. It’s the difference between an exceptional and an excruciating Waiting for Godot. It’s semantics, but it has worked for me.

The same thing, I opine, is true for characters in the book, but with a certain element of trepidation. Am I searching for betrayal for the sake of show, or is it a plausible plot path? Is it better to have a character that serves a purpose, but only for convenience?

I’m at a point in the book, 3/4 of the way towards completion, and things are moving, albeit slowly. If I continue the course I’m on, in which I force the character to behave, things are pretty tidy. If I let the character do the unexpected, to betray the group, it would really, really screw things up. At what point does the character exert his or her own will?

Let’s look at one of my favorite movies, The Matrix, and compare Cypher and Epoch. Cypher is a character on the periphery who betrays the others, while Epoch is…Epoch, he, um…ooh, now I remember: he drives a car and dies. Epoch is the stylized equivalent of a Red Shirt on a Star Trek Away Team.

One path (sans betrayal) would be easy and, admittedly a little dull. The other (avec betrayal) would be challenging and unpredictable. From writing this post, it seems pretty clear which direction I’m leaning. If you have a bouquet helium filled balloons, the one you’ll notice most will more likely be the deflated one, eh? Time to find some gas.

43 days remaining (1023:54:04).

An Emeryville welcome

August 25, 2007

Back from a big business trip to Emeryville, California. Northeast of Oakland, it is home to our new client. We flew down Monday for a meet and greet/project launch. Stayed at the Four Points Sheraton; huge room spacious enough to fit two tables, a couch, and a coffee table, and a ridiculously small bathroom. When I mean small, I mean 1/4-inch clearance between arc of the bathroom door and the toilet seat. I was told the room I had was scheduled for renovation.

The concierge recommended the Townhouse for dinner. It was before 5:00 and beautiful, so we chose to walk the five or so blocks. There is a pedestrian walkway to cross the train tracks at Powell and Hollis. Then things got a little less sunny.

As we started climbing the steps, a trio of teens a half block behind us started calling out. It was enough racket for me to turn and see that we were the focus of their attention.

Great.

There are four of us: two of our tech/programming experts, my boss (principal of the agency), and me. The two tech gurus are in front, my boss and I are in back as we start climbing the stairs to the walkway. Median age of our group: 36. Median age of the three kids running to catch up with us: 14.

We get to the top and start across the walkway. The kids have sprinted up the stairs and caught up with us. They’re shouting, “Give us your wallets.” Yeah, whatever. Easy enough to ignore.

“I’ve got a gun.” Not so easy to ignore.

Still none of our group turns, stops, or gives any outward indication we’re being assaulted. Yup, we’re just walking down the stairs. We don’t change our pace. The two tech gurus in front don’t appear to hear or comprehend what the mealymouthed hooligans are getting at.

My mind is racing. I carry plastic, not cash. I don’t have a dollar on me. I know I’m not about to hand over my wallet, because…actually I have no idea why not, I just knew I wasn’t going to hand over my wallet unless someone got shot.

I glanced back to see the tallest of the kids with his hand at his waistband. They’re shouting about “having a banger. I’ve got the banger in front.” I’m not sure if a banger is a gun or a reference to our short haired tech guru. We’ve reached the first landing. Now they’re shouting threats about how soon they’ll shoot/kill us for our wallets.

I distinctly remember thinking “I wonder how much it’ll hurt? Is it a piercing pain, or a shooting pain.” The pun nearly made me gag. We get to the bottom of the steps and all I want to do is teleport home to hug my children.

Turning out from the pedestrian walkway, the boys are still on the steps, but the turn takes us directly past them. The three little punks are leaning over the side to give us–high-fives. No joke. They’re giving us accolades “for not never turning around.” And “you m——s f—–s are hard. I respect that.”

We walked one way, they walked another. My boss and my two co-workers were all giddy with bravado; “four-on-three,” “they’re boys, we’re men,” “I was trying not to laugh…”

Bullshit. It phucking sucked. We had no idea if they had guns, were serious, or were willing to take us down in broad daylight. “Pretend mugging” is a really messed up form of afternoon/after school entertainment. I cannot believe how lucky we were.

So, if you go to Emeryville, take my advice: don’t walk to dinner at Townhouse. But definitely go to Townhouse. Order the calamari and the prawns for appetizers and the flat iron steak, medium-rare, for your entree.

Fell behind on my word quota. So, I’m giving my ego and conscience a break. Call it a post attempted assault vacation and recovery. Tonight I add a 7-day deadline bump.

44 days remaining (10:32:32:40)

Spontaneous Contest – Legal Strategy or PR Disaster

August 9, 2007

Time for another Spontaneous Contest. Here’s how the Spontaneous Contest works:

Step 1 – Create contest

Step 2 – Select unwitting winner

Step 3 – Post link

And the winner of the second Tap: Spontaneous Contest – Legal Strategy or PR Disaster is:

Johnson & Johnson Sues Red Cross Over Symbol

Judge’s comments:

Majority judge (Me): There was no contest. A colossal blunder perpetrated by a boardroom lawyers.

[UPDATE: Well I couldn’t have predicted there would be another possible entry, but this might bring some heat: Widow told husband’s not dead, she owes $90K 

We now return to our regularly scheduled book writing…]
Dissenting judge (Kimble): I wanted to name the contest: Lawyers or a Kick in the Jimmies.

August 5: Happy Birthday, Joe Wagner

August 5, 2007

I’m going to try a little test. I’ve an old friend from Upper Arlington with whom I’ve lost touch. His parents have moved, so sending a card to the old Essex Rd. address won’t do. Perhaps someone who knows Joe and is in touch with him will pass along a hello. Goodness knows having a character named “Rachel Wiggins” has driven traffic to Tap. Perhaps hanging a post with Joe’s name in the headline will work some magic.

(Note to Rachel Wiggins searchers – When the name popped into the story, I had no idea there was an actual Rachel Wiggins, soccer phenom at George Washington University. I apologize to any for misleading you from an earnest search for information on an athlete to my little piece of fiction. I believe I’ll change the name of the character. I’m just waiting for her to tell me what her name should be.)

Last time I saw Joe was in Boulder, Colorado. I ran into him at an organic market. This was so long ago that the organic market was still termed a health food store.

At the time, I was in the middle of a grueling, five-week camping trip across country with two women. Up to that point, the trip had been a disaster. Joe had a great apartment off Pearl that he shared with his wife, Lucinda. I got to shower. I guess I looked a little wild. Frazzled. Joe and Lucinda were very kind.

We shared cards back and forth at the holidays for a couple of years, but, to my regret, I was too self-absorbed to put any more effort into keeping up than that.

Joe is on my mind quite regularly. I skipped our 20-year high school reunion this summer. I bet he did, too. I hope he and Lucinda are well. I think of him every year on his birthday. It’s easy to remember, he’s exactly a year younger than my wife.

Happy Birthday Joe and Janet. [Edit: and I’m just informed by my wife, her yoga instructor’s girlfriend is celebrating her birthday, too. If you want your name added to the August 5 birthday list, put your name in the comments, and I’ll add your name to the board.]

56 days remaining (1329:22:54).