Two words. American Hustle. I don’t know…but this past week over Christmas had me watching it. And what I do know is I like movies with vintage soundtracks, one like this movie had with some saturated 50s, 60s, and 70s, probably since some of my favorite music is included in the movie. But what I also liked was the excellent philosophical dialogue narratives, which means some great screenwriting…important, however, almost at the same time you’re able to listen to a character’s reality universally, simultaneously there’s retrospect in their narratives that is just about as authentic as it gets. The nature of the times that the story dealt with, the creativity and reinvention with characters succeeding and not succeeding are just a few compelling features of the film. I thought. You get a look at many of their worlds. Up. Down. Back Again. Up. And the full circle that inevitably perpetuates characters’ life circumstances. The ending was just as good, too. These people (characters) created their own family dynamic–not just the undertones from it that are mostly loosely lit. But it’s music whose own story exceeds itself. Good music. Good story. And great performances from some favorite actors.
So the next step…an opening scene for my play. And for the entire play, I’m thinking five characters, two female and three male. And this week I’ll be building their character biographies for the scenes. A main idea: Creativity. Subtexts I’m thinking of are configuring economics and politics. I’ve been researching and drafting ideas for the play I’m thinking of, mostly notes right now and seeing where they take me. But the plan is drafting between five to ten pages for the first scene and seeing what I have. I’m not sure yet if I want it to be a one act or a full play. Uncertainty is good. Muddy waters are good…for now…as I think I’m going to enjoy writing, like most, this one.
Let the season ring. And for this time of the year, food rules. And, at the same time, curiosity beckons with having a section I’m working on in my novel dealing with a few characters’ social lives and how their social interaction with one another depends on a weathering successful and not so successful potluck gatherings. I’m currently researching potlucks as part of a community social gig connected to characters’ lives–not so much a gig-venue, although many of them have been held at certain venues, but for a few of these characters in my novel and for different reasons, these potlucks are the lifeblood for them, their social make-up. Potlucks have their own political and economical value to them and the lives that they help preserve. It’s kind of like an East meets West with those that like other people’s cooking and not their own, a source for a community fix, or simply a way to communicate or sustain some semblance of human contact. Researching potlucks from the 1960s and 1970s has me sifting through many photos and dated cookbooks of that era. Those unencumbered jello molds, wondering what mystery is inside of them, dried cherry fruitcake, Watergate salad, of course…fondue, jet puffs, the seven layered dip, or coconut ambrosia salad (with an art display on top of it all its own). It’s been comical and cryptic going back in time because I remember seeing some of these foods on people’s tables and some, perhaps, not even giving them a second thought as I do now…comical…cryptic.
My next playwriting assignment has me working from one of my passions, which is art; and the good thing about art is that it can be seen in so many different contexts and dimensions, comedy/drama that work with characters who agree and don’t agree with one another, hand-in-hand with clashes of opinions–that they argue over aesthetics keeps it real, whether it’s the life of a painter, the artistic creations between a parent and child, or a profession that helps develop characters’ involvement in shaping/reshaping his/her life. This also questions art and its role. So the outline I’m currently working on is my subject, a mission statement, a list of characters, a brief story, time, and event–hence the accelerator pedal of my play. I’m ready.
I had the good fortune of movie day today. And convenient is a misty morning with early bird specials. Fall is finally here. Late. Somewhat a surprise. Frosty overtones. No rain. No slush from a heavier spray of white. But in an eagerness to look and learn more about the theme of family dynamics, the movie Out of the Furnace finally made its first day at a local theater; and I’d been wanting to see it for a couple months now. Not only because of wanting to look at another diverse way families cope with situations and life events but always encouraging are some favorite actors working together in the same movie. The gritty setting of the rustbelt and the tragic profiles of characters and how families deal with such loss not only shows a comparison, perhaps, to some other film-family portraits, but a compelling look into the every day need of wanting to see a goal materialize or even think about a goal materializing or just simply surviving and hanging on to sustaining a comfort zone. Cultures of violence and psychological foreplay aren’t just the fabric of that family’s culture (i.e., characters in the film) but a look into wondering how to deal with an immediate reality and characters’ reactions and actions of responding to what’s in front them and behind them–past vs future. I liked the film and the realistic look it took in showing two different cultures that bend and don’t bend. Lessons learned as they, or even we, walk or race whatever the path… That sometimes life is just what it is. Sometimes with an understanding of that next direction and sometimes not. I’m looking forward to seeing another perspective of family dynamics in August: Osage County based on Tracy Letts’ play.
One of the things that makes characters real for me is working and not really working at a unique and integral view of the world; however, what works for me is having a unique view of the world with a novel, one synthesized in subtext or not, but definitely organic-driven–meaning all of a novel’s points, so I’ve learned in my own drafting, go back to what’s organic, especially if a character’s motivation and interactions are with his/her city because what’s considered home and yet the unknown or somewhat familiar forces a character to contemplate himself/herself sometimes to the point of disassociating until organizing his/her experience. A novel is like covering hundreds of square feet where your numbers are in place and with a pattern that gives you synchronicity. It’s interesting how something so general and simple such as a city can make or break the direction of a character’s life. I guess my point here is really thinking enough about how utilizing geography manifests a sense of dignity with a character or characters or dignity minimized to explore what a character’s native city means to him/her and where the author delivers more the direction of the character to the reader. Atlases. Geography. I’ve always found both are cool things, not necessarily frightening things as they may seem. At least not on and in paper. It’s a bit easier for me to start, say, with a location or a city, and let it mentor the character.