Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Script Frenzy: Ah, Decisions Again

So, I've decided to throw in the towel – for the time being, anyway – on my former Frenzy script and strike out in a bold, new direction (I figure I can always come back to it, if I want to, and that some time and distance off to think through some of the snaggles I've hit will do it some good. I'm not just wadding it up and throwing it away – if you include my outline documents and notes along with the 5k of pure text, I'm at about 17k total, nearly enough to have won the Frenzy already. Even though some of it was written before and, thus, doesn't count.). One I might, you know, actually like to write. So, once again, I'm left with a dilemma as to which story to write. Again, I've narrowed the field down to three choices.

The first is the idea which prompted me to shift gears in the first place. It came to me – as if in a dream – while I was looking through an old sketch book. I came across some character designs for an idea I had one of those times I was thinking about starting a webcomic. I can only describe it as “8-Bit Theater done straight.” You know, knock off all the NES nostalgia, inside geekese and lighthearted humor and, at least at the time, I felt there were some interesting dynamics between those characters that could be explored in a more straightforward fantasy setting. Especially with regards to the whole Fighter/Black Mage relationship. I dropped the webcomic idea some time ago, but I think there's a movie there. This idea has a few advantages. First, I can crib from my old notes for the characters and potential plotlines. I don't need to start over and develop a brand new outline because I've already got one. A twist here, a tweak there, and some updates to some badly dated characters and idea and I'm ready to go. The value of that is not to be underestimated. Second, this is an idea for a webcomic I never got around to writing. You know what else was? My successful(ish) NaNo novel. If that's not a sign, I don't know what is.

My second idea would be to use one of my original trio of ideas. Namely, the one I groan inducingly titled “Inherit the World”. It's a slight twist on the whole superhero genre. I'd basically be adding some elements of tragedy and mythology by following a hero's journey. It's nothing major or really innovative, but I think adding the ideas of permanence to the standard superheroics pays a lot of dividends. And this story would be about a young, inexperienced, undeserving girl inheriting the powers of her mother, one of that world's greatest heroes – even greater than most realize – following her death. Unlike the previous story, I don't have a lot of preplanning done on this one. I have a bit of preparation but not nearly as much as I put into “First Kiss”. What I do have, however, is that opening scene just imprinted on my imagination. The one where the main character's mother goes out fighting in one last blaze of glory to kick the whole plot into motion. That's not exactly a detriment, if you ask me at the moment, because I think all the outline work I did for my first Frenzy script was part of the problem. I had too much going on and too much to cram into the script with very little idea what to do about it. This story, I know where it starts and where it ends (Sorta. The biggest problem I have with the script is that I don't know who the villain is and the end, of course, would be defeating that villain and establishing a new status quo somehow. So, knowing who the villain is would be kind of important, don't you think?), I just have to fill in the details in the middle. It might actually do me some good to start at that beginning and just work from there, bulling my way through the problems as they arise, and head towards that end point. It's not how I usually work but how I usually work is something like “First Kiss” and that hasn't exactly been working for me. But by working in a more linear, focused manner on an uncomplicated plotline, I might just get away from some bad habits and concentrate on what's working for me. Plus, you know, actually finish.

The third idea is probably the most controversial. Basically, in May, I decided to write a few practice scripts to get me in the mood for script writing. I'd never done it before and I wanted to work out the deal with scene shifting and sluglines and stepping off the director's shoes beforehand. So, I wrote practice scenes and a comic book script or two. But I also decided to make a dry run at the frenzied state. It only lasted a few days and I did it mostly to get what I saw as an overly ambitious idea out of my system. But, man, I think it's an awesome idea. It sprang out of reading Imperial Life in the Emerald City (Which is a great book to read if you think you're going to have some trouble slitting your wrists, by the way.). And it's all about war and occupation and culture clash while being completely unabout Iraq. It's ever so slightly sci-fi as it takes place in what I call my “Imperial Timeline” which is an alternative world where some strange things happen. It's an idea I've had in the back of my mind for a long time now, so it's very well developed even though I haven't written down a tenth of my ideas about it yet. So, it's a wide-reaching, ambitious story with a lot to juggle, exactly what I was looking to avoid writing. But, you know, it's the sort of thing I like to write and I've managed to find an angle that tells the story in a very “below decks” kind of way – channeling all the high drama and rise and fall of empire into the very personal lives of a few, very humanized, characters. And the sci-fi elements are largely background, in establishing the setting and backstory for the world – characters aren't running around with phasers and replicators or anything – once you get past the fact that it's set in a very, very different world with a very different culture, there's not much that couldn't be going on outside our windows (The only thing I think is somewhat advanced tech has to do with genetically engineering biological weaponry. But even there, the characters are dealing with the fallout from the use of those weapons in the last war, not running around modifying alleles and figuring out infectious vectors. It's, you know, the good kind of sci-fi.). I call the thing “Swamp Opera” because unlike the sprawling space opera the Imperial Timeline promises, it's very grounded and profoundly mundane – it's down in the muck, not floating around in space.

I'm really keen on the whole thing. Unfortunately, I went ahead and wrote some of it before June 1st so using it for the Frenzy would be cheating. I got about 5k into the script – which is part of the reason I set that as an early goalpost for my frenzy script – in only a few days. I can't use that. But what I could do is tear it up and start over. Consider what I've done as a first draft and make a new attempt. Keep all the notes I've written but delete all the pre-written scenes and do them all over. I'm not sure if that's entirely kosher according to Script Frenzy by laws but I am sure that the only one who has to be satisfied it is, in fact, is myself. I think if I don't reuse anything that I'd be okay with it.

At the moment I don't have a clear-cut favorite. I'm not even leaning towards one option or another. Each approach has something to recommend it and something to recommend against it, as far as I'm concerned.

Ah, what to do, what to do. Maybe work on something else until the spirit moves me again.

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