I’m about halfway through my new screenplay Shh…, which is a good place to be. It means that my tone and basic direction is fairly set in stone, and that I can partake in some of the more recent fare being released. Doing so earlier can sometimes put me off of some of my ideas, or worse, force me to over-complicate them to set them apart as there will undoubtedly be something in every story that feels vaguely familiar. I’ve always been told to avoid editing your story until you’re well into the it, as you can end up running in sand and never get to what might be original about your take on the idea. All storytellers operate from roughly the same repeated myths, so it’s very likely our impetus to begin is closely related, but just like a beam of light shot at one degree of difference in latitude, the further you get along, the further away your idea will find itself in the universe of tales. If you’re lucky, and your idea is directed at the more intimate independent market like this one is, you’ll fall in love with a few characters and they will direct you. That’s happened, and while I’m pleased with how it’s going, I’m still looking forward to getting the first draft in the can. I’ve also set a deadline of March 5th. So the heat under my arse has just been raised a few degrees, too.
Well, I finally got around to seeing Cloverfield. And I must say, J.J., all is forgiven. It was riveting, fresh, and did well to create a sense of helplessness without losing the fun. The creature was impressive, as was all the little creaturelings, and the writing did a tidy job of answering any of the more obvious questions the audience might be asking such as “Where did it come from, and why continue to shoot footage when you’re in danger of being caught between the toes of a giant sea spider?” As a writer, you do need to determine how much of your arse you need to cover in any given story because there will undoubtedly be enough holes in your conceit to strain sandy lettuce. Again, I sometimes insist on writing my way around every piece of backwards logic and thereby muddying up the narrative, so it’s important to patch over only those that slow things down. If you’re doing your job of entertaining them, they’ll stop trying to find the gaps.
And that’s precisely what Abrams has pulled off with his monster flick. So many pictures describe themselves as an white-knuckle ride, but this is the first in a long time that actually made me feel like I was on one. It wasn’t that I was very scared, because while we know these characters in that intimate way the reality-based P.O.V. allows, we also see them as a vehicle for our amusement. However, the little that we root for our main characters is quite an achievement given the sort of film Cloverfield represents. The information on our leads is scant and rather petty in the larger scheme of things, much like the concerns of most teen-angst and twenty-something horror dramas. But they carry us, literally, and we want them to stay on their feet. I must say I’m really looking forward to the DVD and the extra featurettes, especially the director’s commentary. That should be as good as the film itself.
I’m debating on reporting a running commentary of my new story, serially leaking the narrative to give any curious readers out there the opportunity to follow along. I think it would be fun, more so if I managed to receive some feedback. Maybe I’ll consider writing a story that way, from scratch. Pick a few ideas, lay them out, and have you all choose which you like the most, suggest characters, and perhaps even direction. I’ve heard of something similar done before, but this would be more along the lines of an online, creative think tank. I’ll have a think on all that.
Back to it, then. My main character is trying to recruit the help of the town drug addict to help him find who took his daughter. The thing is, it all happens in a strange afterlife where our dirty secrets must never be revealed for reasons still unknown. Unfortunately, for an annoying telemarketing salesperson who once took his job very seriously, keeping your mouth shut doesn’t exactly come easy.