Monday, December 19, 2016

The Buried Hope or Dream, Emerging, Blinking

In looking for places where story--any story--begins, you often forget to look at the individuals involved, their buried dreams, their secret hopes they may never have shared or, indeed, have only shared with complete strangers.

In Real Time, such buried dreams remain static, neither deliberately hidden nor often called to mind until a particular degree of nostalgia, coupled with the right number of drinks, spills over the edges of reserve. At such moments, the buried dream bursts into a life reminiscent of the first day or two after the yearly Santa Barbara ritual of self-congratulation, Old Fiesta Days.

The entire downtown area seems to be covered with an unruly skin of confetti, mixed with spilled beer, dropped shaved ice cones, and even the contents of too many tourists tummies, gorged with too many street tacos and easily come by Margaritas.

This is not to suggest that persons living in Real Time do not have dreams in which they achieve longed-for goals or that they can have no hand in restoring a lost status or balance, rather that they may have yet to achieve the awareness of their desire to do so, then formulate a plan to act on it, causing a story equivalent to begin.

This is to suggest how story often begins when a buried dream is surfaced, producing consequences. At one point, years back when serial killers was still fresh in TV drama, you were in a conversation with a producer you'd met to pitch an idea you thought he liked, that is, until he said, "What I'd really like to do is a mini-series that put the detection of serial killers to bed."

"Why not," you said, "a serial killer who had buyer's remorse about confiding his or her goals to a number of complete strangers, all of whom he or she met under apparently random circumstances, removing one of the first things a competent homicide detective would wish to investigate." 

You said this with the knowledge of having spent time with the homicide detective who'd brought the notorious Hillside Strangler to bay and who considered most one-off murders child's play. "Kinderspeil, Lowenkopf," he'd say when talking about one-off killings.

The TV Producer wasn't sure if you were pulling his leg or not, allowed he'd need a day to think your suggestion through, and left, promising to call you "tomorrow, for sure. Don't be making plans, 'cause we'll be meeting."  

Of course you never saw or heard from him again; this wouldn't be an account of you, pitching a story to a Hollywood producer at your particular level in the food chain and--you say this without rancor--at the producer's level in the food chain as well.

Story begins when a throughline is established as a result of something the protagonist has done, not something an ancillary character has not done. For a long while, because you liked the three witches in Macbeth, especially the one who couldn't find her cat familiar, you thought the story began with them. But that was all artful setup; the story began when Macbeth brought his most hidden secret to the surface, which caused him to consider killing King Duncan.

Your take on the TV producer encounter takes into consideration the possibility the producer grew to realize you were having him on, not that you actively were, but by no means because you weren't having him on. You were like that at the time, payment for things never coming from where you expected nor when you expected, even during those days when you were a dues-paying member of Writers' Guild, west, and in fact financing a Sahara tan VW Bug through the Credit Union. 

What you truly wanted at that time was to write a novel that would trigger the story of you being able to stay away from TV, which even then you realized was a conflicted position because you knew so many novelists who were keen on getting TV assignments.

After a few shifts of gears, you were heading the Los Angeles office of a book publisher, one of your primary assignments having you in contact with men and some women who were writing for TV and who thought to restore some internal balance by being able instead to write novels which you would arrange to have published, making your look good and getting them back to the work for which they were intended, in the process being able to balance out the difference between a TV writer's income and a novelist's from the screen rights to their novel.

You remember sitting in the living room with a man, then offering him a twenty-five thousand-dollar advance on his novel, thinking his outburst of tears was, at first, gratitude. "Do you have any idea," he said, "how quickly I can go through twenty-five-thousand dollars? For starters, there's the rent. And then the therapy sessions, and--"

"Do you have any idea how many copies you novel has to sell to earn back that advance?" you asked him, always with the sobering questions. 

"If you're going to put it that way--"

That way; the buried hope or dream emerging, blinking in the harsh glare of Real Time, looking for a beginning traction from which story emerges.

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