Thursday, March 2, 2017

Where Were You in the Big Bang, Daddy?

Whenever you're confronted with a concept that has potential for developing into a story, you find yourself drenched in the energy and enthusiasm of a process you've spent much of your life pursuing. 

In some ways, the feeling is like the extreme limits of your experience with cocaine, your greater experiences with LSD, and those frequent non-substance-related times when reading someone else's work, hearing someone else's music, or seeing someone else's art sends you into the equivalent of another Reality.

The big bang theory or concept stands today as the leading explanation for the birth of the universe and its subsequent, incident-by-incident development. You find yourself probing "news" or discussions in real time or computer-generated models, in much the same curiosity with which you scan the newspapers, magazines, and online commentary about world and local news.

When a Reality-changing event from any source collides with you, The temptation to think of it as a mini big bang takes over. You head for your nearest notebook, note pad, or computer surrogate, eager to embark on the process of discovery. What will this event prove itself to be? 

At the beginning of the process, you're fueled by a combination of the curiosity that comes when presented with a personal problem, the gratitude for having yet another possibility to work something through to some sort of outcome, and the energy you associate with a sense of weightless freedom of the sort you associate with those times when the free-teen-aged you were found his way into the back yards of single-dwelling homes between Fairfax Avenue and Crescent Heights Boulevard, west central Los Angeles, on your way home from school, your goal climbing to the top of a garage, then jumping to the lawn below.

You still carry that sense of being aloft rather than falling, of being simultaneously airborne and answerable only to such awareness of the characteristics of gravity you had at the time. Although you are not at present challenged by a fear of heights, you are perhaps more aware of the consequences of falling than you were then. 

For any number of reasons, including the fact of two titanium hip joints as replacements for the ones you were issued at birth, you've foresworn jumping from that ten- or twelve-foot height to the grassy cushion below. Yet you recall with great joy those moments aloft and in commemoration of them have earlier this year purchased a photo of a boy of your then age, in the air, having jumped from a balcony to a snowbank below.

Your major pause is for selection of a single character through whose verbal and emotional vocabulary the concept will be filtered, thus an immediate awareness for you of the vicarious nature of the process. What this invented character feels and discovers, you hope to feel and discover. The more you can remove the subsequent experience from you, then place it within your chosen character, the greater your chance of some emotional profit from the outcome of these invented activities.

At first, your goal is to describe the new Reality with as much detail as possible, not pausing to distinguish your version of the details from those of the character you've begun to create. In time, you'll have to attend to this matter, the so-called "tells" coming from the details you've put in to help the character orient himself or herself. Your character may notice the nearby river, but may not have to know it is the Mississippi or that, indeed, Mr. Mark Twain once plied it as the captain of many a steam-driven stern-wheeler afloat on the mighty river.

Your lead character, the filter point into this new Reality you're creating, must want something to the point of being driven to activity because of it. The desire trumps the rational purpose behind it. Margo Epson, early-to-mid forties, wants Phyllis, a cat who belongs to her friend? client? former client? Mitch.

Margo is able to afford a comfortable apartment in the East Beach section of Santa Barbara, meaning she can readily afford the seventy-five-dollar adoption fee at the animal shelter or, indeed, pay even more to a breeder, or perhaps pick up an entirely free kitten from Craig's list. She wants Phyllis to the point where she has determined to steal the cat, then live with the need to disguise the theft and such attacks on her conscience the theft is bound to inflict.

You have already set Matt Bender, another character, in motion who wants Phyllis to the point where he is contemplating her theft. Even as you write these notes, you understand that Mitch will not appear on stage; he is the Godot of this drama. Phyllis more than likely will appear, if only to become the cat Margo, most likely, cannot get into the cat carrier she comes on stage with. Never mind that you have somewhat of a history of not being able to get either of two cats into a cat carrier. 

To effect this version of the big bang in dramatic terms, your work is a daunting presence before you. There is the onion of your Reality to be peeled, meanwhile fitting the layers of Margo Epson's into place. There are questions to be raised and answered, motives to be revealed, attitudes to explore.

Mitch, the owner of the cat, must be seen even though he is only a shadowy presence. Margo and Matt are clearly envious of him and his possession. Why? And earlier, when your thoughts turned to defining Phyllis, you need to know, then be able to pass along to any who might read this narrative, why Margo and Matt want this cat as opposed to any other, and you need to be aware--without telling--what the cat's preferences in the matter are.

You are mindful of Phyllis to the degree at least of being aware of Bulls-Eye, the dog of Bill Sykes in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. Bulls-Eye is every bit as mean spirited as his master, but the dog has the saving grace of turning in Sykes to the police after Sykes, in a fit of drunken rage, killed his girlfriend, Nancy. When Sykes is trapped by the police, he jumps to his death. In severe poetic and dramatic justice, Bulls-Eye follows his master to death.

Phyllis is by no means Bulls-Eye, but you must find out who she is, then be able to demonstrate herself and her agenda through her actions. No telling allowed.

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