Friday, February 4, 2011

The Secrets of Scriptwriting

A brief section from Dr. Herpetophilius's post on the relationship between prose and scriptwriting.

I have sold cartoon scripts that were broadcast on BBC and the Warner Brothers’ website. It takes me twice as long to write a page of script as a page of prose. Which means I spend about eight times as much effort on a word of script as a word of prose. If fewer words meant easier work, then poetry would be the easiest thing in the world to write. It ain’t. It’s the hardest. Get me?

Now for the good stuff.

Scenes are one of the basic units of dramatic fiction – a story is made up of a series of scenes, and in fact a scene is a small story in itself, with a beginning, middle, end, and central conflict. However, many times writers will use exposition in place of scenes. By this I mean that instead of a fully-described set of actions occurring in a fully-described setting, we are given a synopsis of the events in question –

The Detective rubbed his chin and gazed into the gas jets of the fake fireplace. “So, how did you come to realize that someone had modified the scrimshaw work on your sister’s false leg?” (scene)

The Lawyer’s reply was halting and difficult to understand. (exposition)

For the full post, click here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nine Kinds of Crazy

So, don't take this post to heart and assume that I'm going to go plunging over the balcony or anything. I'm in good hands, and so on and so forth.

But I have just had a real crazy person wakeup call. I have been planning a trip to a writer's workshop in mid-February for months now. And the workshop is taking place now, and I'm not there.

I could curse myself, and claim idiocy, and throw myself on the mercy of the court, but fuck it. This is the product of a brain gone wrong. I have been having more and more of these kinds of incidents over the past two or three years, and I need to bring this up the next time I talk to the doctor, which will be in a week or so.

This is a lovely capper to my recent bout of worry concerning my mental health. Right now I'm trying to get a mix of two anti-depressants and an anti-psychotic right, and the result is that I am perpetually feeling as if I'm on speed. I'm tapping my teeth, pushing at them with my tongue to the point where my whole mouth feels weird.

But I am sleeping, and if I give myself a half pill over the prescription of the anti-psychotic, I sleep eight sound hours, just like a real boy. It actually kind of weirds me out -- I'm used to a few hours of vivid dreaming interspersed with desperate writhing.

Holy smokes, though. One of the doctors I spoke to described me as 'perfectly complex,' and that ain't the half of it.

Let's see. Every grandparent. That's four. And both parents were drunks, and one was a writer and the other an artist. So that counts for at least one more there, I reckon.

Fetal alcohol syndrome. Brain damage from a fever in infancy. And, for that matter, who are we trying to kid here, more than likely some kind of head trauma. I have been shown the stars more than once.

Post-traumatic stress disorder. When I mentioned to my dad that this was one diagnosis, he responded, "Well, I'm not surprised." And a deep lack of surprise was conveyed by his tone. Entirely too deep for my tastes -- he should have done an interpretive dance explaining how helpless we all are in the face of our upbringings.

So let's call it a nice round nine kinds of crazy.

I have spent my entire life trying and failing to act normal. It's as if I've been walking around saying, "I can walk it off, I can walk it off," when the problem is a missing foot.

But it isn't as if my life is over and I'm an incapable idiot. I'm just a periodic idiot, and most of the time I cover for it pretty well. But there is a real deficit here, one that's larger than I've let myself see before.

I'm not going to freak out over this. But it's close. This is a hard one to face. But in the end, it's a detail. It's not the important part.


A Thick, Greasy Stew

This is the banner for a group blog with which I'm affiliated.
Why not go check it out?

Okay, okay, okay, okay.

(deep breath)

So I'm thinking that my experiment in avoiding casual posts in favor of well-thought-out and carefully pre-written posts is a washout, so it's back to business as usual.

That doesn't mean that I'm not going to put more polished material on the web, though. If you'd care to read the first post done under my nom du blog Dr. Herpetophilious ...

Pataphysics, the science of imaginary solutions, was initially developed by the drinker, piscator, cyclist, and pistolero Alfred Jarry, who on the side was a puppeteer and man of letters whose work paved the way for Dada. In this context, the concept of pataphysics has been lifted from its absurdist roots and brought into the larger world of fantastic literature, where it may prove of practical use.

Allow me to introduce myself; for the purposes of these writings, I will be referred to as Dr. Herpetophilious. In personal life, I’m one of those sad artists trembling on the edge of nonexistence – but the nervous, hesitant wretch whose pathetic struggles are charted elsewhere is an entirely different beast from the one who now writes for you.

In the realm of imaginary solutions, I speak with sure knowledge and unassailable authority. While my doctorate, like its field, is imaginary, that is the mark by which you may be assured of its authenticity. You may be asking yourself – is Dr. Herpetophilious a pataphysicist, or a pataphysician?

Both, of course, and here is an example. For those of you still in a state of quandary, here is an example of applied pataphysics.

For the rest, click here.

My art has been getting a lot of very interesting interest lately, and among other things, I have a couple of pieces currently featured at the online journal Corium, one here and one here.

So what the hell is going on with me? Well. I'm nine kinds of funky. I'm past the emotional shock of finding out that there's stuff wrong with my brain, and am on to the emotional shock of having my studio torn apart. This is the first time I've been able to sit at my machine for days. My recliner is broken and I'm waiting on parts from the factory, and those people are slow in a way that leads me to envy people like Stalin or Vlad the Impaler who could compel those lazy wretches to fulfill their obligations in a timely fashion.

The old recording system the hon. Richard Talleywhacker and I have been using has been taken away, and the studio is now a smoking mass of rubble. I am having a hell of a time figuring out how to get things organized... This is the main reason I've been off the computer. I am trying to get the studio really organized, really functional, and I've just passed the point where I have to make things worse before I make them better.

If I can get the racks loaded and wired today, that will be plenty good enough.

Of course, this is all just to keep me away from the novel...

Meme Day Five

Day One: Ten things you want to say to
ten different people right now.

Day Two: Nine things about yourself.
Day Three: Eight ways to win your heart.
Day Four: Seven things that cross your mind a lot.

Day Five: Six things you wish you’d never done.

Day Six: Five people who mean a lot (in no order whatsoever)
Day Seven: Four turn-offs.
Day Eight: Three turn-ons.
Day Nine: Two images that describe your life right now, and why.
Day Ten: One confession.

Okay. Six things I wish I'd never done.

1. Cough syrup with Deirdre. She was high for three weeks after that and wished she was dead the whole time. I felt terrible.

2. Held Sasha while she was being bred. I'm sorry, but when you need thorazine and three handlers to breed a dog, that's rape.

3. Sided with the missus when she and her younger daughter and I were horsing around one night early in our relationship. Sometimes a little thing is the wrong thing.

4. Continued to work after beginning to experience chronic pain.

5. Finished high school rather than getting a GED and going to Junior College.

6. Bought into that damned recording system. Had it for ten years, almost recorded one song, and basically used a low-end pro system as a pedal effect. We just used it for the reverb, distortion, cabinet modeling -- but it was too much work to record with the damned thing.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Meme Day Four

Day One: Ten things you want to say to
ten different people right now.

(Day Two: Nine things about yourself.
Day Three: Eight ways to win your heart.
Day Four: Seven things that cross your mind a lot.

Day Five: Six things you wish you’d never done.
Day Six: Five people who mean a lot (in no order whatsoever)
Day Seven: Four turn-offs.
Day Eight: Three turn-ons.
Day Nine: Two images that describe your life right now, and why.
Day Ten: One confession.)

1) Our culture here in the US -- and by extension, much of world culture -- has totally failed to understand the importance of the arts, and as a result it has failed the arts, the arts are failing the culture, and we're all going into the toilet together. By making art such a prohibitively expensive pursuit in terms of the costs to one's life, we've made it so that virtually every artist to present their works to the public does so with a vicious load of resentment, misery, and depression.

Folks, read a little bit on propaganda, and how our environment affects the function of our minds. We give our artists miserable lives, and they give us art that is either a desperate and facile attempt at denying reality, or a disturbingly convincing argument that misery is the essential mark of the authentic.

I'm trying hard to avoid falling into this trap. I want to create art that acts as a tool for life, and in order to do so I need to be able to view my life honestly and positively. In order to be the kind of artist I think the world needs, I have to become a better person. If you think I'm going to the trouble of getting my shit together out of self-interest, you really don't know me.

2) I still haven't gotten over my trip to the MOMA when I was coming down with the swine flu last fall. Both realizing on a gut level that you can't judge art based on reproductions, and understanding that part of the reason for that is the presence of the display space.

Usually I find myself crushed by the institutional nature of museums -- as a member of the working class, I cannot see all that polished marble without thinking about polishing it, and thinking about the paychecks, which leads to the infrastructure, which leads to the question -- is this how our culture should treat the arts?

The religious experiencing of another's art in a sacred space is powerful. I'd rather see funding in school arts programs.

The tendency toward specialization in our culture has taken away our personal investment in the arts. More, by removing that element of familiarity with the process of creation, we have been denied greater levels of appreciation.

So I say hurray for YouTube and Etsy! All hail the return of the Sunday painter and the porch band!

3. I'm realizing that while I tend not to be very demanding of those around me (demanding and needy are very different, thank you), I'm actually very controlling in a way -- I control through withdrawal and denial. I've done this so as to limit my world to what's manageable.

I recently read a definition of success as being the ability to live outside the company of fools. This, unconsciously, has been one of my main goals in life. The world is conveniently divided into those on the inside and those on the outside.

But as I'm expanding my world, I'm finding that I don't really have the option of only associating with people I'd let onto the lifeboat, if you get me. I need to find ways of dealing with people I do not trust, or do not fully respect. And they are going to have to leave those people willing to do business with me in the future. This is going to be very difficult for me, but it's either that or retreat to my room for the rest of my life. Sometimes this grownup stuff is tricky.

4. Complex feedback systems in life feel particularly unconquerable -- I can't sleep because I didn't eat because I didn't sleep last night, for instance.

But these systems are subject to manipulation from more angles than simpler problems. In the above, the eating could be messed with, just a slice of toast, some sleep-aids could be considered, and hey! How about a little exercise? It's funny how often a complex problem can collapse completely if you can find a vulnerable point of access.

5. I have no means of testing this, and shy of a ridiculous fossil find it will never be verifiable. But I bet you anything Tyrannosaurus rex used its tiny-but-powerful arms for nest-building. I'm sorry, they were some mighty little guns but you ain't holding no Edmontosaur with an arm like that.

6. Humanity is fucked for one very simple reason. Power is more attractive to scumbuckets than decent human beings. It's a simple sentence, but I can spend days reflecting on the implications.

7. I have been contemplating a return to the practice of magic. Yes, I'm still a materialist, still reject the idea of supernatural forces. It's just that science has done so much to reinforce many of the basic modes of thought I've picked up over my years of creepy study.

The logo on a can of Coke makes the soda taste better. They can take someone into a lab, wire them up, and measure the difference. So try and tell me that glyphs, logos, veves, runes, and sigils are nonsense. Then tell it to the Coca-Cola people. Austin Osmond Spare smirks from the grave.

Or to use another example, the self is an illusion. We rely on others to do big chunks of thinking for us, our moods and behaviors are affected by everything around us, color, music, everything, our decisions are made unconsciously and then rationalized in the cortex, and so on, and so on. We think of ourselves as solid little units but we're clouds, we're tendencies.

And so on. And so forth. While the explanations for the way magic works are always nonsensical, the acceptance of the malleability of subjective reality is the real heart of things. And that has been verified over and over again.

Many of my activities are modeled on spells or rituals, and have results beyond their overt intent. The novel is not about the novel; it is about transforming my life, just as an example. And it works. If you were to simply look at me before and after I started writing it, you could tell that I'm healthier and happier now just from my appearance. Guided intuitive responses to complex situations are frequently more effective than consciously rationalized and planned assaults.

That is the secret of magic; mutual manipulation of the internal and external worlds. I'm not interested in the spectacular visions and wonders that first sent me out into the world of the occult, but what I learned there turns out to have included any number of valuable thought-tools. Now that I've begun finding materialist rationalizations for much of magic, I'm much more comfortable using it.

And there we go. Another contradiction, and a lovely one indeed. A materialist wizard. Hoo-boy, that's a good one.