Friday, 3 October 2008

Comics Script - Shifting Scenes

Well, what has happened in the last week or so?
looking to my little diary I can see that most of the time has been spent around THE SHIFT (and it sure feels like it). Typing some of the scenes that were handwritten, dabbling quite a bit with it's structure and, especially, revising the whole thing.
I always find it fascinating how things come into being. Even if I've been there since the onset. Perhaps, especially if I've been there since the onset.

In a way there's a part of me that never believes that it can be done. Another that knows that it can. And somewhere in there there's another bit of me that simply does it. The thing I always have to keep reminding myself is that I just need to keep adding stuff. The Joycean technique. Don't bother erasing. Just add more. Put it into perspective. if you play enough with something it will become meaningful. It will. Trust me on this. And, mainly, trust the story. That's probably the biggest lesson I've learned so far.

The story is always right.

Writers often aren't.

We want to make things pretty or nice, or sad and horrible, but the story truly has a life of its own. And it wants to be heard as clearly as possible. The characters want to be listened to. Not told what to say.
So that's what I've been trying to do: learn how to listen to stories before I go out and tell them. THE SHIFT was a bit like that. In actual fact, most of the stories that I have been writing of late, have had that characteristic. There's a couple of ideas to them but I really never know where they're going to get to that place. Sometimes they seem too daft to ever become something worthwhile reading. And then I get surprised. Because they do. So, the moral is, learn to trust your stories. Let them do the telling. Not you. It's less work if you're not in the way.

With THE SHIFT I was having a few problems with the structure and some of the scenes. When it's something visual that I'm having trouble in writing I just try to visualize myself in the scene and merely describe what I'm seeing the way I'm seeing. If it's not right, then the second or third time I'm reviewing the script, a better visual device will come through and I'll alter whatever's necessary.
If it's a character that I'm having trouble with, again a kind of visualization is needed. But it's more like going into an internal listening mode just for that character. I try to shut all other input and merely listen. Eventually they start chatting. Characters can also be shy in the beginning. Don't forget that. But, as time passes, and they get to know you, communication will become much easier.
If it's the plot, then the case is a bit different. Here I have multiple techniques. This is perhaps because this is still the most challenging part for me. But also one of the most rewarding. Sometimes I try to sit and merely watch the whole story (or, at least, bits of it) play in my wide screen brain. Not always does this work. So I sometimes try the rational approach. What is the story about? What does it need to become more palpable? What is it lacking in terms of scenes, structure, etc to give it more cohesion? Or the emotional approach. How does the story feel so far? Am I engaged with it? In what sense and why? What do I think or feel about it when I'm reading? What fills me or drains me when going through the script?

With THE SHIFT it was a bit of all of this but never any clear answers. And you know why? Because I was lacking some scenes. That was why. But I didn't know it then. But feeling that structure wasn't working as well as I wanted, as I knew it could feel, I was somehow doubting the story, doubting what I was helping create.
At some point I decided to make a list with all the different scenes. Then I made another list organising everything chronologically. Then I made another list with the opening and ending scenes and started working my way towards the centre of the story. Then I made another list in which I divided the whole thing in three acts, three major zones of influence (to know, from Shahidah's rescue up to her first meeting with American soldiers, Shahidah's life in the factory up to her death and Shahidah's experiences whilst trapped underneath the remains of her house), ordering them in chronological order. I started realising that I had some problems with time frames and locations. So I then had to do some research and more clearly organize the story. But, by doing this, I started thinking that I needed to add a couple more scenes. To round up the story more.

I was on 100 comics pages by then.

And then, when I was reading a bit more on Fallujah and Baghdad I wrote something like "If I were to expand this story a little bit more I would add this scene and that scene and..." And suddenly the "eventual scenes" were so visual and clear that about the second or third time I thought about them I knew they had to be in the story. So I wrote them down. I added them. And Lo and Behold! The whole structure actually benefited from them. The script actually feels rounded and (to me at least) meaningful.

The big test obviously, is other people reading it and enjoy it and feel affected in a positive way by it, obviously...

Sunday was this day. I worked on the structure and revise it for most of the day. This is what happens when I stay home and actually manage to focus. I move between my computer and my bed and add stuff and revise all a bit at the same time. I've realised that it's very rare that I can stay focussed on one thing for too long, so I simply try to shift between various themes within the same story. So, I shift between revising the script and revising the stucture and typing up alterations or new scenes. This way I don't get tired of things as quickly.
And if I do get tired I simply pick up my guitar, plug it in and play for half an hour or so. I completely change the inner setting. From words to sounds. The great thing is that the thing you train the most when playing is hearing. You have to listen to what's coming out so, in a way, it's also closely related to writing. What I have found is that the two processes enhance one another. I play better when I'm writing and I write better if I play.

It's all meditation, really...

In any case, sunday was also very full of ideas. I wrote a couple of new things for THE IMMORTALISTS and ALIENATION, had an idea for a BIOGRAPHY and for another series (don't ask me what it's about 'cause I can't remember...) called BLACK MARK.

Monday was a day that I thought was going spent entirely indoors, had to go and deal with lots of paperwork instead (and buy a new pair of cycling gloves - fundamental goods in winter!), felt it wasn't going to be that great for the writing and, in actual fact turned out pretty well. THE SHIFT kept me company and wrote some more for ALIENATION.

Tuesday I went to work but still kept working on THE SHIFT.

(I was going to finish it goddammit!)

Wednesday - home at last! - PC heaven!
Guess which script I worked on?! You're correct! I spent like 10 hours solid on that day on it. Wednesday and sunday were the crucial days to really tip this boat up.

Then yesterday I finally managed to add the last couple of scenes, redo the structure and feel that the thing is finished.
In actual fact, only after I posted yesterday and got home, did I realise that I had forgotten to erase some stuff of the script. There were some bits of monologue that I felt weren't working so well and I decided to redo the scenes. I remembered to type them down but then forgot to edit the old ones...
Guess I'll have to do it today.
And print out the whole thing again.

Actually yesterday, when I was tearing the two older versions of this script, I felt for the first time that getting rid of all that paper wasn't fun anymore. I remember the first few times that I started tearing the pages into bits - to give room for the completed draft - it felt good. There was some accomplishment in that. Now, after 30 seconds of doing it I was thinking for the first time in my life that buying a paper shredder was a good idea...

Anyway. Amidst it all I still wrote (can't remember the day 'cause I forgot to write it down on my diary... actually, I remembered that I had written an email about it... wednesday the 30th of september) a draft for the TEATRO DO FRIO story. It's about a girl that goes on a coach to spend her holidays with her grandparents. The story is quite funny and charming and I'm planning on keeping all that and add a bit of fantasy to it. A kind of fable feel to it. I think it can work quite. Only 8 comics pages. Which I still have to know if it can be done. 'Cause I think they were expecting me to write an illustrated short story... only 6 pages long...

We'll see...


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