January 15, 2013
THE KILLING FIELDS, PART 2, OR, WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO BELOVED CHARACTERS
Without giving away the store, faithful readers, you should know that One Way In isn’t a comedy in the classic sense, that is, with an unambiguously happy ending.
That said, it does succeed, I hope, in providing a number of quite comedic elements in the short-term, more contemporary meaning.
I always hoped this drama would provide a complete spectrum of mood, and now that it’s all written, I am satisfied that it does.
As a successful manufacturer and retailer of comedic goods in both the long and short term, providing both a long term and “just in time” inventory, in various media, I knew I’d be able to provide lots of humorous elements. What I didn’t know was whether I could subject people I’d grown to love and respect to all manner of difficulties and trauma in order to make both them and the story more credible and more deeply linear.
Believe me, folks, if you’ve never done it, acting as the conflicted deity who allows misfortune into these fictional but no less meaningful lives is a tough thing to be (the deity) and to do (bringing the pain). I don’t suffer from writer’s block, but I did find lots of excuses (need to clean up email, take out the trash, watch a show, run three miles, lift weights, clean a room, run another three miles, clean another room, watch another show…you get the idea), more than usual, to prevent me from doing what I had to do to advance the story for maximum effectiveness.
You might think I experienced similar hesitations and choices to parenting. Believe me, superficial similarities may exist, but that’s all. You don’t wish ill health or accidents or deep unhappiness on your children. While you accept the truth that you are limited in protecting them, that doesn’t stop you from helping them whenever you can. And (I know, don’t start a sentence with “And”, but it’s my blog entry, so I’ll do as I like, besides, I just wrote four acts and you like it when I’m conversational, don’t you?), the biggest distinction between author and parent is power, the ability to conceive, do, or prevent. In the first case, it’s only limited by choice conceptions that advance or don’t advance a story. In the second case, the parenting power is much more limited.
That said, in their context, parents have enormous power, and that’s an issue that One Way In certainly grapples with.
Next Time: CONSCRIPT OR VOLUNTEER, Part I
December 15, 2012.
When we talk about “rhythm” in One Way In, what are we talking about?
Well, the musical reference is obvious. The interesting thing I’ve discovered is the range of choice that a song’s basic idea suggests. You might think that a song set in a classical mode, a more traditional mode, or in one without instrumentation, that the rhythm of the song might be slower. Conversely, you might think that a song set in a more modern idiom, like a show tune, jazz, rock ‘n roll, is, by definition, faster.
I’ve discovered that you might be wrong on both counts.
I can tell you, without giving away the store, that One Way In’s only limited by my imagination in terms of the ideas around particular “songs”. And, my imagination, as poor friends, associates, and family members can attest, doesn’t suffer from too many limits. Of course, Lydia is free to reject any and all of my conceptual ideas, but even if she rejects or significantly modifies any of them, the range will still be astonishing. I’m counting on Lydia’s unique portfolio of talent in this regard, plus her sense of challenge and fun, so this show’s possibilities become more and more exciting.
But that’s just the music.
When I talk about rhythm, though, I’m talking about a lot more than the music.
One Way In, like all dramas of any kind, has a pace, at the macro level, the “big picture” level. Where does the action speed up or slow down. Where does character choice speed up or slow down?
Then, there’s the speed of the text and how it’s delivered. Do some characters, by their very nature, speak quickly, putting other characters in a defensive position, simply because they tend to say definitive things, simply because they are the “actors” in terms of driving action? Are other characters more passive with what they say, providing less clues as to how they might act in definitive situations?
If I do my job right, all the characters will find themselves in a mix of situations where they speak quickly or slowly, where they drive the action or are acted on.
Come watch the show, see how I do!
Next Time: THE KILLING FIELDS, Part 1
November 28, 2012
Last time, I used a musical image to talk about creating non-musical content in One Way In.
That worked acceptably well, so I’m going to continue another musical image to talk about creating content, sequential modulation.
Sequential modulation is a musical technique that accomplishes changing keys.
What’s the textual, spoken equivalent of changing keys?
Well, if a key provides a kind of musical “home” for a piece of music, consider the textual/spoken/stage equivalent to be at least three different possibilities:
I Home-Physical Setting
One Way In is set presumably in a kind of quadrant, with two domestic settings and two non-domestic settings.
The first domestic setting is the classic ‘small town’ where the principal characters go to high school together and return to in the middle of the drama and at the end.
The second domestic setting consists of some other non-home US setting that provides a ‘friendly’, but larger, and in some ways more challenging ‘stage’ for the principals to get reacquainted in and interact after time apart but before some climactic happenings take place.
The first foreign setting is a military deployment in a foreign land, with a specific set of external characteristics of setting and people.
The second foreign setting is a subsequent deployment in a different foreign land, with its own physical and human components.
“Changing keys” in terms of using sequential modulation means, in some sort of accessible but provocative pattern (sequential), engaging the audience in the change (modulation) of setting. Obviously, my choices in this regard are gradual and abrupt.
II Home-Human Terrain
In the second depiction of home, the ‘human terrain’ of the principal characters and their individual stories provide a second context for sequential modulation.
Here, too, a quadrant is a useful image, because One Way In features four main characters, two male and two female.
(One hint: In the hierarchy of characters, the two females are at the top, one female at the summit. Just below female number two, the two males are on equal footing.)
Without wanting to “give away the store”, I will tell you that the leading characters are quite distinctive, and the challenge of sequential modulation in changing the ‘human terrain’ is greater for me than changing the physical settings.
How do I set up a possibly recurring progression (sequence) of change (modulation) in engaging the audience to sympathize with one particular character over another at any given point in the drama? Will I be successful in finding ways to make these characters become quickly familiar, complicated, AND sympathetic to the audience? Will the hidden progressions in the hearts of the characters and the hearts of the audience change in some intuitively structured way for both?
Changing keys successfully in these contexts will be “key” in the success of One Way In.
I’m sure you won’t be backward in letting me know how successful I am in this regard!
One of the biggest challenges in advancing a complicated and (I hope!) evocative story is evolving moods, sometimes sharply so. An undifferentiated mood level, regardless of whether the piece is comedy or tragedy, is one of the quickest ways I know to get audiences to lose interest.
How long should a segment, consisting of multiple scenes, keep a particular mood? How do the varying moods of a particular act affect that act’s “arc”? When and how should it the changing “keys” of mood service the overall content needs of the emotional building blocks of the drama?
Sharp and sudden, wave-like and subtle, slow and steady…these are the choices I am fortunate enough to need to make in this terrific opportunity.
So, stay tuned, as next time, we take yet another cue from musical symbolism to investigate the creation of One Way In.
Next time: RHYTHM.
Consonance is a term that describes musical sounds that, by some sort of conventional wisdom, go well together.
So, whoever the powers that be, were, or are (and that august and mysterious body changes composition over time), make decisions in theory and practice about what is “consonant”.
We get pleasure, according to the “canon”, from hearing these familiar and comforting combinations of sounds.
But dissonance? Dissonance means the use, deliberately or not, of sounds that usually DON’T go together, and the unfamiliar also leads to the convention of whether we find such sound combinations startling in a negative way.
Some of the first baroque composers started to work with dissonance because, as they pioneered opera, they wanted the widest range of emotional possibilities they could get, and so, these unexpected and probably initially unpleasant sounds began to find their own niche as accepted “less accepted” forms.
As you’ve figured out (I hope) by now, it’s not my job to write the music that might or might not provide dissonant or consonant choices. Fortunately, I have a world class composer to take care of that for me.
However, it IS my job a book author, librettist, and dialogue author, to create the equivalent of “sound” elements in story, song lyrics, and dialogue that synthesize things in both familiar and unfamiliar ways. In addition, like those early musical dramatists, I will draw on my own creative and contextual skills to make these choices of consonant and dissonant elements to create the widest choice possible of mood evocation, from the wacky to somber, joyous to dark, and all sorts of combinations in between.
While exposing the audience to a series of components of all kinds, I hope to provide the most unique and memorable synthesis of narrative elements I can.
Next time: SEQUENTIALMODULATION.
Lars lost his battle with