There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills
I’m working on the next manuscript again today. Again. Today. I spent three-ish months in the spring drafting the story, and it was okay. Unfortunately, it was a better story than it was good storytelling. When I started work on the house, I began to re-imagine how I might improve that storytelling. I’ve since cut probably a third of the text, overhauled the structure, strengthened the motives and operations of the Bad Guys. It hurts a little bit, it’s so much better than the first version. I made some good discoveries.
The thing: just because it’s better than the first version does not make it good storytelling. Now I’m wondering if I’ve overplayed my hand in terms of narrative devices, even as I work through the new story parameters I’ve created by making the changes I’ve made. I’ve sent out the first 48 pages to a reader who’s completely unfamiliar with the first manuscript (very important not to have inside information), and while the narrative devices should be okay (the non-linearity in particular), I’m not sure that it makes sense. Stupid non-linearity. Whose idea was that? I’m not sure if it’s clear who’s the main character. But I believe I’m on the right track.
I’m not a fan of this guy (wait for the connection, it’ll come).
1) Imagine the piece, i.e. a balloon dog! But huge! Made out of steel!
2) Contract with fabricators
3) Pick up huge steel balloon dog
4) install in museum
5) collect wealth and plaudits; feed off naysayers’ naysaying. mmm, tasty.
Based on talking with a couple of “conceptual sculptors” (their words, not mine), I believe Jeff Koons is one of them. He’s an IDEA MAN. He’s commenting on art and on the idea of art while creating “art.” Part of me wonders why there’s still a market for this after Dada, Duchamp, and Warhol, but that’s the free market for you. Invincible and evaluating things at their proper worth (that’s a joke, son). For Koons, there is simply the IDEA. There is no discovery.
When I was contracted to build a costume that looked like a guy in a giant powerball (the lottery, doncha know), I had to figure out how to make him look like this (note: I had nothing to do with the locker room):
Red arms and legs. Yellow hands and feet. Giant red ball body. Yellow starburst head. Human face. BALL text. Those were my instructions. Someone else had the IDEA, and I was just the fabricator. I made many, many phone calls. I hired specialists who wouldn’t have my learning curve with fabric (we had to dye the gloves and shoes) and who were faster than I am at sign application and painting (the text letters). I made a couple of discoveries. It was a lot of fun to build.
When the Spouse produces commercials and films, it’s a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle with moving pieces that keep changing their shape. The challenge and the delight in the better jobs is the juggle, keeping it all together. That’s not to say that discovery is a necessary and sufficient quality to the artistic process, but at least that process is made more delightful when there are discoveries to be had, like you just came across a bit of gold.
Of course, the actual excavating can be a drag. And as I slog my way through my next round of edits to create a readable, understandable, captivating, and page-turning first act, I keep reminding myself to look for the discoveries of gold.
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