Note: I’ve started to notice in retrospect that these late night posts are not particularly sensible beasts in the cold light of day. Please pardon the occasional lapse into obscure parenthetical metaphor.
Between the last post and this one, the story kind of disintegrated. This is almost to be expected. I’m discovering my development workflow as much as I’m developing, this first time around.
Still, it’s off-putting to watch all the bits of a month’s worth of work floating as dissociated crumbs on a soup of thoughts, unable to reconstitute the whole slice of toast you swear you almost had.
I had no idea what to do next, so I watched and took notes on the 2-volume Pixar shorts set. Watching someone else’s stuff can help focus my thinking a bit.
My story didn’t feel at all like their stories – to be honest I feel like I’m being worryingly ambitious. It’d be nice to have better vocabulary to describe the twists and turns of the story as well. Like a good word for that moment where tension peaks and you’re not quite sure where the story’s going to go. High potential, low kinesis. I dunno. I wanted to call it the hang of the story, like someone on a bike or skate halfpipe hanging in the air before coming down onto the ramp again again.
The shorts.. well.. far be it from me to rag on the most successful and acclaimed CG animation company in history as someone who’s stuck in development purgatory on their first animated short film project. Suffice it to say I much preferred the student shorts at the end of Disc 2. I liked Andrew Stanton’s student films a lot; especially that second one. The utter anarchy appealed to me greatly.
Once that was all over, I felt a need to flee word processors and spreadsheets and computers in general for a while. I got out of the house in search of a nice cafe to lurk in. I did the old onion rings and burger trick, writing down ideas in exchange for allowing myself to eat food. Nothing was crossed out. Nothing was judged unworthy. I switched to a chocolateria after a quick walk and kept writing.
By the time I’d left I had six pages of ideas for what could happen. Ideas, of course, are cheap.
I could have started fleshing the idea out this way back at the beginning of the month instead of writing entire treatments first: it’s not like I’d never seen such a technique before. As part of the Double Fine Adventure! documentary series (available to DFA backers only otherwise I’d link it), Double Fine’s Tim Schafer talked about how he uses a technique called free writing as an idea generator. Basically, spew ideas, don’t make corrections, don’t cross anything out. Mark anything cool with an asterisk at some point so it’s easier to get back to.
I guess it’s a classic newbie habit of wanting to jump ahead in the process to get that sense of progression without actually having done the foundation work for the previous stage or stages. To an extent the creativity can follow a causally fuzzy timeline – I’ve been drawing preliminary character and concept art just to get visual ideas down as they come to me, even though the concept art stage doesn’t properly kick in until pre-production once I have a story to make – but the creative process follows a particular workflow for a reason.
So. Spewing ideas onto paper – just ideas, not ordered story beats – works. But it works now that I’ve reinvented the bloody thing for the third time. Would it work from square one? Probably. I’ll let you know for sure the next time I develop something.
So. In amongst the six pages of ideas I think I have everything I need to connect together for a story. I think. There’s an end – a few endings to choose from, actually. There’s a beginning. There’s a quest. Suddenly the comedy is taking on darkly absurdist tones. Some of the ideas are decidedly Gilliamesque and that feels like the right place to be.
Is it another rewrite? Well.. like I was saying to a friend this evening, it’s not rewriting from scratch. Not exactly. Every previous iteration of the story is still floating around in the mental soup in crumb form after each successive disintegration. Some crumbs keep floating up again and again. Sure, the story’s very different to what it was earlier on, but only because I’ve thought about what’ll make for an interesting story and only because it just wasn’t working before because the foundations weren’t laid. On the second iteration, the rot wasn’t obvious and I was confident that this version was the one, when in reality I just wasn’t looking hard enough for holes. Experience has thus taught me not to take it for granted that plot holes and other assorted writing problems can be neatly fixed in the advanced stages of development.
Suddenly I want to rip out another six pages of ideas before I get too attached to the ones I already have. The ideas as they are form something of a quantum maze of uncollapsed waveforms – some are mutually exclusive. I have to choose. I can’t decide right now whether it’s procrastination to want to blast out more ideas or whether there’s potentially better twists in the tale to be discovered, but then again it’s two in the morning as I’m typing this. It is not the ideal time for coherent and lucid forward planning.
– I was sitting writing at an outside table. While I was scrawling down ideas, some drunk dickheads in a second-storey apartment kicked a football (specifically an Aussie Rules football) onto the roof of the abandoned shopping pavilion across the street. They did this twice. The first time, the ball bounced off and landed on the road. After unsuccessfully petitioning passing members of the public to kick the ball back up to them with loud incoherent eyymaaaates, they sent down a female member of their party who managed to kick it back up to the apartment balcony with the wobbliest drunk girl kick of a footy I’ve ever seen. It was a thing of joy and wonder. All who saw it rejoiced. The second time, they kicked it onto the roof of the pavilion and it didn’t bounce back down. Good.
– For what it’s worth, Lifted is my favourite Pixar short and Ratatouille is still my favourite Pixar movie. (And yes I have seen Video Brinquedo’s infamous cash-in Ratatoing. Ouch.)