Art Morphs Into Whatever Shape It Requires, Composing, 4/12/2013

Most of the creative work that I completed yesterday was assembling the script for the public readings of my novella Under the Trees, Eaten. We’re in a last blitz of logistics at Blank Space to prepare the book to be available for download before Xmas, and I hope to do at least one promotional performance in Hamilton, and maybe a couple in St. John’s when I’m there over the holiday season proper. 

However, this isn’t going to be a normal promotional reading of a novella. I’ve been to those. The author mingles, reads some selections from the novel on stage so the audience gets a hint of the tone and style, then mingles some more and presumably sells some books to the audience. Now, that chronology of events is what I hope to do, basically. But the actual show is going to be very different.

First, I’m trying to adapt a musical background for my reading. My friend Huren is an independent musician currently based out of Toronto, but originally from Hamilton where I first got to know him over the last couple of years. I’m talking with him later this week about musical ideas for a 40-minute reading performance. Because Under the Trees, Eaten is a horror story, it includes some very strange, terrifying images, and disturbing events. After all, one of the key plot elements is the literal destruction of a man’s mind by exposure to 11-dimensional space in an extraterrestrial cave under a twisted Quebec forest populated by hybrid and mutant creatures. I’m glad Huren makes some very dark electronic music.
Unfortunately, my public reading won't have quite the budget of a Tool
concert, but it's important to have goals for future work.
But what counts is what I’ve done with the manuscript for the sake of the performance. I’m not just performing selections; I’ve changed the order of some of the events. The book Under the Trees, Eaten is 38,000 words long, and is intended to be read in one to four sessions in your living room on a dark winter night. The script for my promotional readings of Under the Trees, Eaten is about long enough to be read in 40 minutes. Instead of simply reading selections, I wanted to make the performances a live trailer. 

One purpose of a trailer is to actually to tell prospective viewers the story of your narrative in short form. It doesn’t literally spoil particular plot twists and developments, but there are some things a trailer can reveal that don’t really count as spoilers. A trailer can introduce the protagonists, their motivations, the setting, the premise of the story, and suggest a moment of crisis and conflict, usually ending on some kind of cliffhanger. A successful trailer makes you care enough about that cliffhanger to check out the complete narrative. Basically, a trailer tells a shorter version of the main narrative that’s necessarily incomplete to hook you into spending some money on discovering the full story.

That’s why I rearranged the story of Under the Trees, Eaten. I still begin at the beginning, but cut an 8,000 word first chapter down to 1,500 words, just long enough to introduce the two protagonists and the motives that drive the central narrator. Further selections move through the plot points quickly, building tension much more quickly than the book. Again, you’re in a bookstore or an art gallery watching performance art, not relaxing with a cup of tea under your favourite lamp. Some moments of strangeness, comedy, and terror later, and we’re back at the prologue.

What’s that? The prologue? Yes, the performance ends with the prologue. The prologue was written as the most terrifying hook to begin the story, a point just shy of its climax, but slotted at the physical beginning of the novella. It’s the moment in the story where the main narrator herself is at risk of having her mind destroyed by the 11-dimensional space. The first pages of a book are often the samples given when considering an online download. I wrote them to intrigue and frighten a reader, suck them into reading the whole book. Given that I’m crafting a live trailer, of course I’m emphasizing the biggest hook. 

You’ll want to read Under the Trees, Eaten. I definitely think you will.

No comments:

Post a Comment