Owning a Story Is Such Drama, Composing, 05/11/2015

I had a conversation tonight with my director Lee, who's helping me develop the Alice script. We still don't have a name. I hope this isn't a bad sign.

The basic storyline is that Elias, an unrepentant, bullying, manipulative, middle-aged creep, at minimum has some redeeming characteristics. Not that many, though. Since he's in almost every scene of the script, I made him an intriguing villain to watch. 

Yeah, I never thought he was a villain. But the
camera sure seemed to think so.
Maybe having seen an episode of Gormenghast again this weekend was appropriate. There are fewer more intriguing villains to watch than Steerpike. 

The first long sequence sets him loose. He bullies his work colleague, manipulates him into delivering an insult to their boss, and humiliates his girlfriend to break her spirit. He’s in total control of his world. 

Until he meets Alice. For an update on the concept, just come back to this post. I think I’ll link it from now on whenever I talk about the character. At least if I don’t feel like writing out the conception of her character again. Essentially, Alice is my vision of a utopia with science-fictional trappings. 

I enjoy stories where you watch one character steal the story from another. It’s a narrative structure, not necessarily anything literal. A story that actually wrote it out literally would be horrifyingly pretentious. 

I remember reading Donald Barthelme’s The Dead Father last year, which was basically the same kind of writing. It was very good because it was filled with so many intriguing images. But its abstraction was so horrifyingly pretentious.

Watching stories with this setup is like a story about a battle. But there aren’t any casualties (usually), as it’s a character drama. One person exercises great control over the narrative. What they do determines what everyone around them is doing. The entire world of the story reacts to them.

And some other character appears who isn’t a reactor. In some stories, the new character influences others to react to them instead of our first hero. The two would battle to control their world, stealing and losing relationships from each other.

Things work differently in my own project, because of the narrative’s ethical arc. Alice doesn’t become a new centre for the other characters in the story to revolve around. Instead, she sets other characters free from their relationships with the hero, and lets them act on their own. 

Not only does she take control of the story from Elias, but Alice also changes the story from a starring vehicle to an ensemble cast. There’s no more narrative rank.

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