Writing Choices

I realized something this morning, or at least noticed it happening again.

I was going over in my head some of the things I’m planning to do with the story contained in my first novel, and what I’m toying with having some of the characters do. One in particular is bothering me more than I’d realized at first, because it’s the one loosely based on moi.

Now, don’t get me wrong – our lives are not at all the same. I have a brother not sisters, I am the oldest not the youngest, and I am nearly a decade older than the character is in the book. I’m not with a Sarah, both my parents are still alive, I didn’t grow up in that house, or have Trick for a dog. I don’t think I’ve ever even carved a pumpkin for Halloween. Not on my own, at least.

So really, I guess that character is just more like how I think I’d react in the situation I wrote her into. Though I guess that could be said for everyone I write, in a way, because there’s part of me in all of my creations, to a certain extent. But that one in particular was written to give myself an alternate story to exist in, just as Sarah was written to give the person she was inspired by a different imaginary path to tread upon. Neither of them are more or less real to me than the others in their story, though. I just have I guess more of an emotional attachment to one in particular. I don’t want her to do anything I don’t think I would do.

But since the screenwriting conference, I’ve been considering doing just that. I’ve been struggling with a reason for it – a believeable reason, something that felt true – and haven’t come up with one as of yet. I did come up with a plausible yet similar act for which there would be justification (at least in her mind and kind of mine), so I might very well go with that. I’m not certain it’ll make the story stronger, but I’m not sure that it won’t, either, so I am betting on at least keeping the sense of truth to it all, instead. Because truth can do wonders for the power in a story, and for real life.

The crazy thing I realized or noticed again this morning was how much it was actually bothering me to try and come up for a reason for my character to do something against my own inner traits. I felt a little nauseous, and distracted, headachey and sadder than usual. When I say it was depressing to think about – to imagine possible scenes that would lead the character down the path to making that choice – I don’t mean it in a flippant or surface way. I mean that it affected me on every level – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I felt horrible just thinking about it in detail and trying to make it work.

My imagination can be pretty strong sometimes.

I felt worse about that than I have about many actual things that have happened.

So I’ve decided that – whether it works in theory or not – it won’t work for me. As in, I won’t be able to make it work, not for that character. I could easily have a different character in the story perform the act as it started out in my head, but that would have been more believable and far less powerful than having this particular character do this particular thing, but have the scenario leading up to it be a little different from what I had originally considered. Which means I get to add power to my story, while not making myself sick, or at least not in that way.

It’s amazing how much better I felt as soon as I realized the effect even thinking about it was having on me and made the decision to literally change my story. Even just a tiny alteration made all the difference.

Communication and Juggling

I started making a few notes for the two writing projects I am most excited about last night before bed. It was late, of course, because I had to see how the Raptors game turned out! And I was super tired as it was, but wanted to get a couple of things down so I wouldn’t forget them once real life started back up again this morning.

Even as I made my notes, though, I could already feel myself talking myself out of trying to work on either one. The spec script for the old TV series I love was the first to back away, followed closely by the screenplay for my first novel. I could sense how much work either one would take just to do at all, let alone do well, and as tired as I was/am, I’m not sure I have the energy I’d need to bother. My mind was still asking questions and coming up with answers, but my excitement was already waning. Part of me wondered if it was really just that I was so tired, but another part of me knew the problem had more to it than that.

I’m just not good at communicating.

I have always been more of a writer than a speaker. I’m aware that, when I talk, I either can’t get my point across at all, or I take forever to get around to it. I never liked speaking as a kid, and I guess I still don’t, but now it’s more because I am just so painfully certain I am not being understood. Or I’m boring. Or I have nothing useful to say so I babble. Or I struggle to sort out what I should say versus what should be held back. I always think about it before I say it out loud, and when I then screw that up, I wonder how I managed to suck so much that I couldn’t have anticipated such suckage.

Writing has always been easier in a way, because even though I can’t write as fast as my brain processes things, I can at least go back and correct something, or read over it again to ensure it makes some kind of sense, prior to sharing it. I mean, there are reasons why this is a blog and not a vlog, you know? Still, I am also painfully aware that even all of that preparation for thought-sharing doesn’t make much difference when I can’t string together the words I need to in order for another individual to absorb and understand whatever it is I’ve written. And when I share it and get any kind of feedback, it usually lets me know that I was not successful in expressing myself with the written word, either.

I mean, there are some things – I think I do slightly better with one-on-one conversations, because when the person is right in front of me, I can gauge whether or not we are understanding one another by how the conversation goes. I can take my time, and alter my wording to say the same thing a different way. My therapist usually repeats back to me what she’s heard, but in her own words, so that we can both check to make sure we are on the same page before we move on. I don’t really expect conversations with others to go that way, of course – therapy is pretty one-sided, after all – but you can still tell if the basics are being received on both sides of the conversation.

Adding even one more person to the scenario, though, increases the chances that I won’t feel understood. It’s hard enough checking in with one person to see if we are still connecting, let alone two or more. Everyone’s focus is split that much more when more voices and minds are included, too.

Which makes trying to get something across via a blog kind of difficult, too, really, because I can’t even look a reader in the face to see if what I’m saying is being received the way I want it to be. I mean, I know it’s never exactly as I intend, because we all come from different places with different experiences under our belts. But it’s very one-sided, as well, in that you put something out there, and either get no feedback, or feedback that let’s you know your efforts didn’t work. Sometimes you spark a longer conversation, which helps, but essentially, it’s just throwing things at a wall to see what sticks, and whether it does or doesn’t, you only find out after the fact. You’ve already posted it, so if it’s misunderstood or misinterpreted, it’s already done, and can’t really be redone with any sort of effectiveness. You can go back and say, “I meant blah dee bloo” but it’s ridiculous to think you can have one-on-one written comments with everyone who read the initial post. You have to accept that putting something out into the world in writing does not in any way guarantee that everyone – or anyone – will understand what you were trying to say. It’s just not possible.

Same with writing in general. Like, I think a couple of people have read my short film script, but I haven’t requested any feedback, and for the most part, the whole thing exists in my head. I guarantee that no one who has read it can see it the way I do, because there’s much more in my head than was written down, and I don’t have the words to make that all apparent. I felt a visual medium would be a better way for me to communicate, and while it’s early yet, it may well be better, but that doesn’t make it great. It doesn’t mean I’m even capable of being an effective communicator; not to my own satisfaction, at least.

Which is also part of the problem, I’m sure. If I don’t really feel like I am being heard or understood, I get frustrated, and end up closing myself off all the more. I live inside my head, and when I occasionally try to communicate and fail, back in I go. Maybe practice makes perfect, so this blog might help, and writing might help, and talking might help. It might not, but it can’t hurt to try.

Okay, it can hurt to try, and often does hurt to try, but there’s no real point in not trying. Because as frustrating as it is when other people don’t quite get what I’m trying to say, I recognize that the issue is really just with me. The frustration is with myself, really, and I definitely can’t expect to be more effective at communicating by not communicating, so I write to be less frustrated with myself in general.

Still, I already have a lot on my plate, and I am not sure adding two more is a great idea.

Maybe one more, though. I may yet focus on the screenplay adaptation of my novel and see if I can get around to giving those characters a better story than the one they currently have. Not that anyone else needs to think it’s better, but I definitely want to. It’s still on my mind all these years later, so at some point I do need to address it.

The spec script would maybe be fun to write and post online as I do so – it could be kind of a cool exercise. No idea when I’d have the time, but you never know. I’ve never really gotten a lot of feedback while writing. It’s usually after the fact. It might be interesting to see what would happen if people were weighing in throughout the whole first draft process. It might make it feel less like it exists solely in my own head, at least. I don’t know. We’ll see.

When you’re already juggling a billion things, does one more really make much of a difference?

Breaking Ideas

And that’s a wrap for the Toronto Screenwriting Conference 2016!  I’m not sure if any other event gets me so jazzed up and yet completely drained at the same time.  My body is exhausted, but my mind is full and wired and churning.  I have so many seeds of so many ideas, and very much want to make time to work on, like, all of them.  Definitely some more than others, though.  From ways to revamp things I’ve already written, to some brand new concepts and possibilities I want to try out.  At the moment, I have no idea if anything will happen with any of it, but at the same time, I can’t stop thinking about it, and am so excited to try.

In no particular order:

  • a screenplay to turn my first novel into a feature-length film.  Same characters, same general scenario, but vastly different plot points which would hopefully make it less gentle and far less predictable.
  • develop my Ellie Skye book for young readers into an animated series (far less expensive to produce, and endless possibilities to work with in that world)
  • I haven’t quite settled on what to do with Ebon Black – I originally conceived it as a middle grade chapter book, a one-off fractured fairytale that could possibly be turned into an animated feature, or possibly an animated short…maybe a comic book.  Something visual, but I don’t know which medium would suit it best, or even if it should be animated or if live action would work.  I think it’s almost always been animated in my head, but I haven’t completely ruled out live action just yet, either.
  • Suffer The Fury could definitely be developed for a series, definitely live action, but first the whole plot would need to be re-vamped and … I don’t know.  Made better.  Stronger. Faster.  Haha
  • one new project idea that I am giddy-excited about is that I want to try writing a spec script for one of my favourite shows of all time.  It’s no longer on the air, so in a way it’d be more like fan fic, but I am okay with that because I’ve never written anything like that before, either.  However, I’d also be writing it as though it were taking place now, like re-booting the series, but 30-odd years after the original series took place.  If it were still going on, what would be happening with those characters now?  What would the world in which they existed look like after all these years?

There are some far less realized seeds germinating, too, but those are the main ones that came out of this weekend.  The two I am most focused on right now are the Carving The Light screenplay, and the spec script/ fan fic script for a new episode of an old show that I love.  I’ve been wrestling with them both for the past two days, and have broken a few obstacles on each wide open, and I’m excited by the direction each seems to be going.  There would be a boatload of work to realize even a first draft of either one, but one step at a time, right?  First I’d need to  brainstorm ideas, especially for the spec script, because I only have the barest bones of an idea for it.  A plot would be handy.  Carving The Light at least has a plot, however basic.  I just need to turn it on its head and add some more meat to it.  A lot more, but I at least know where the characters are going, as opposed to the spec script.  Right now, it’s still at the “what if” stage.

In both cases, I am thrilled at the idea of living with those characters again, though, and that’s really what’s generating my excitement and drive in their directions.  I can’t even say which I am more drawn to yet.  My mind keeps flipping back and forth between the two, asking questions and trying to answer them.

I should really write down what I have breaking thus far, but I am way too tired, I think.  Maybe tomorrow.  Or after I walk Brody and brush my teeth.

I can’t believe the weekend is over already.

Trigger Event

I love talking to writers, talking about writing, and creating things in general.  So the fact that Tim and I get to cover the Toronto Screenwriting Conference each year is kind of amazing.  It seems to get even more incredible every year, too.  Today, my brain was full by lunch!

During one session, we were challenged to come up with a pilot sequence of events for our own lives.  This process included the need for a trigger event, also known as an inciting incident, for our protagonist.  For ourselves.

One jumped immediately to mind, probably because it’s recently come to the forefront in another post.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a slightly closer look at it.

Back in, like, 2002 or so, I acquired a strange kind of confidence somehow.  I wasn’t happy, exactly, but I felt in control of my life, I guess.  I believed I could choose my own path.  I got off the phone at work one day after etting a client know his order was in stock and would be shipping out to him shortly.  He was a teacher, and was so thrilled at the thought of how excited the kids in his class would be once they product arrived.

When I hung up the phone, I marvelled at how incredible it would be to be that passionate about your job.  I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be excited about work.

That was the day I decided to go to teacher’s college.

I didn’t think in terms of trying to get into teacher’s college.  I simply believed I would.

I started doing research – which programs I would apply to, which area of focus, what kind of criteria I needed on my application, etc.  I planned it all out, completely confident in my abilities.  I knew what kind of teacher I would be, and was certain that my years of life experience contributed to my future success in ways that wouldn’t have worked out the same way if I’d applied when I was younger and in school the first time around.

When I met Tane, I told her I was planning to go to teacher’s college.  I was even pretty sure we’d start dating.  I felt like I could have my pick, and I chose her.  As our relationship grew, that factored into our plans the whole time.  It was never a question or in any way uncertain. I planned it as though it was a foregone conclusion.  I got my application together, I went to the interview.  I took all the required steps, and worked with my partner to prepare for all the big changes that were coming our way.

As predicted, I got into school.  I’d only applied to one, so confident was I.  I quit smoking, which I was also certain I could do.  I worked out a scenario with my employer to keep me on part time, but in a different position.  A new one, which I would help create and define.

I was the shit, everything was coming up Sue, and I was on top of the world.

Then the cheating started, and the lying, and everything I thought I knew was turned upsidedown.   Self-doubt came roaring in, and suddenly everything I had been certain of began crumbling down around me.  I moved out of the home I’d made, I started drinking more in lieu of smoking, I started school but couldn’t focus.  Forgot to even take a pen it’s me the first day.  I froze up inside and couldn’t find my footing.  Everything was uncertain.  I didn’t know who I was anymore.  All I knew was that I had been wrong.

I was not the shit.

And if I could be wrong about some basic qualities of my perceived self, then it seemed possible that I could be wrong about all of it.  My sense of value and self-worth was destroyed; my confidence irreparably shattered.  I became a different person, and the only thing I was certain of was that I’d been so wrong, about everything.  I was not a good partner, I was not a good friend, I would not make a good teacher, and the fact that I barely graduated only seemed further proof of that fact.

Wherever that odd sense of confidence had come from, it was gone.  Even now, I can’t remember what it felt like.  My sense of certainty and self-assurance feels like I watched it happen to someone else, yet the sense of worthlessness exists in some form or another to this day.  That loss of believing in myself changed everything.  Changed me.  I’m hidden away now, not to protect myself from the world, but to protect the world from me – from my arrogance, from my misplaced confidence, from my complete presence.  I walk upon the earth much more softly now, as though I carry an apology I can never truly make.

I’m sorry.  I was wrong.