The Voice in Cuckoo’s Nest

The crazy-not-crazy voice of Chief Bowden in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest shunts straight into a place we forget about because we’re scared: That ain’t me, that ain’t my face. It wasn’t even really my face then; it was just being the way I looked, the way people wanted. It don’t seem like I ever been me. I was seeing me do things that didn’t fit my face or hands, thinks like painting a picture or writing letters to somebody in a beautiful flowing hand. (140)

And defines happiness as best as any: We’d just shared the last beer and slung the empty can out the window at the stop sign and were leaning back to get the feel of the day, swimming in that kind of tasty drowsiness that comes over you after a day of going hard at something you enjoy doing – half sunburned and half drunk and keeping awake only because you wanted to savor the taste as long as you could. I noticed vaguely that I was getting so’s I could see some good in the life around me. I was feeling better than I’d remembered feeling since I was a kid, when everything was good and the land was singing kids’ poetry in me. (202)

Ken Kesey’s Cuckoo’s Nest

The magic of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is in the point of view, Chief Bromden sharing his thoughts on the insanity of life.

The Big Nurse is able to set the wall clock at whatever speed she wants by just turning one of those dials in the steel door; she take a notion to hurry things up, she turns the speed up, and those hands whip around that disk like spokes in a wheel. The scene in the picture-screen windows goes through rapid changes of light to show morning, noon and night – throb off and on furiously with day and dark, and everyone is driven like mad to keep with the passing of that fake time.

But generally it’s the other way, the slow way. She’ll turn the dial to a dead stop and freeze the sun there on the screen so it don’t move a scant hair for weeks, so not a leaf on a tree or a blade of grass in the pasture shimmers. The clock hands hang at two minutes to three and she’s liable to hang them there till we rust. (71-2)

Writing Process: No More Speechifying

I have a tendency towards giving my characters speeches, or speechifying, as Tommy calls it. And it’s no good. It slows the narrative and, in the end, offers very little about the character. It’s really just me using them for my soapbox.

“To the mighty and fine Apollo.” Fitz raised his glass. “I look out at that river of ice out your backyard and think about those giants of millennials ago pushed off into the Davis Strait and into the great Atlantic, some of them the size of city blocks, whole towns, buildings and all, tankers, battleships, luxury liners, the works. They’re an impressive fleet, an impenetrable flotilla at the outset, only to gradually break apart, one from the other, going out into the bay, the strait, the ocean, down past Twillin’. But then they all come apart, not just one from the other, but the thing from itself. These mighty giants go out on their quest, out into the great unknown, just to dissolve, become bits and pieces, and then the water, gone like that. Seems to me that they might have a fate more suitable than that.” He opened another beer. “We’ll have another drink with you, and then we’ll be off.”

Writing Process: Knowing the Story

You think you know something and then you don’t. All stories are only that. He wakes up to some party or hands held out and then he has to do something alone not because he believes in life or strength but because he was lost.

It is as simple as sitting on the fire escape or the corner that he knows and remembering that no one was there for him but paid for her mistakes. She tried. Or she didn’t. But he just has to carry on and become something new from that.

That Awkward Topic of Self Abuse

I recently received this email from Jessica Howard:

Your wank was filmed using my application. I’m not going to explain in details how that occurred. I’m going to give you a tip – steer clear of questionable websites. Do not attempt to reach law-enforcement agencies, they will not be able to fix the situation. I am an alien. If you defy these requirements, I’m going to send your disgraceful vid to your buddies and loved ones, screwing up your public image for the rest of your life!

Rhythmic gymnast Jessica Howard

Within 48 h pay me for my silence, and I will destroy all dirty laundry. It’s useless to beseech me. It is not for me to criticize your predilection, even though it’s a sin in any religion.

I clearly don’t know Jessica Howard. Nor to even what she is referring. Perhaps it’s my inconsistent dedication to writing? My lack of focus in this blog? It’s all so confusing. Let me know if you receive this disgraceful vid, and I can go from there.

Editing the Gangly Bits: Writing Process

I had a scene with some real problems. The background information was heavily front-loaded, and it was repetitious and awkward and gangly and sputtering and bad.

And so I hacked it up, rendered it down, patched it to another equally sputtering bad thing, did some cauterizing and cutting again and thought I was on the way to something new.

Silhouetted rocks on Oregon coast

But it had become a bald thing, nothing in it, the description and progression and dialogue trimmed to nothing, the conclusion non-existent. And so I started to write it all over again.

Good Ole Death

I left, half expecting her to be beside me, but she wasn’t and I found myself alone on a darkened path going toward the harbor. I listened to the sound of my shoes on the cement, sharp and clear and then gone.

There was always death, an expiring, a no longer. The world as only I know it – my memories – all of that done. Then nothing, a stone, dead and gone. Whatever I did, good or bad, it was just some story.

Killing Character: Writing Process

Killing characters in a story needs to be a random thing. As godlike as it seems, it isn’t. Unless it seems so, and then it is. Yes, killing someone is an senseless act, leading one to wonder why create them at all. A character is not flesh and blood. It’s just words, if that.

To get to the point: Tragedy occurs at the midpoint of Anori, a spaceship crash, and a personal connection is needed to Dee. Initially, I made this Saarva, the sole Greenlandic character Dee had come to know. And then I realized the stupidity of that, to kill off my only decent Greenlandic character! It was lazy and a cliché.

More powerful and relevant was the death of Val, Dee’s closest friend. They were connected as individuals and character types. Losing Val is highly affecting. But how is that random? The death I need is of someone Dee knows. No more. And I thought of Nico, the founder of the enterprise. Why not him? Impactful for sure. And random. Calculatedly so.

Rising Fjords

A pair of snowboarders, Macro and Vartex, went into the record store, a relic from those long ago days, after the fire. They found a pigeon – and an actor portraying the same – which had been stomped with iron-studded boots, brutalized, all but murdered and maybe even that.

Messed-up bird

They took a couple of pictures that they would post when they got home and slid a couple of records, warped by the heat, into their backpacks. I stood with them by the garbage reviewing my footage of their excursion, thinking it might be a good film if only because of the carnage.

Effective Montage: Writing Process

Effective montage moves the story with a series of poignant moments. One only has to think of the Rocky montage to appreciate the potential: Mr. Balboa going from drinking raw eggs to surmounting the steps of the Philadelphia Arts Museum in the final iconic shot.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Montage has become so commonplace that a more sophisticated approach is needed, perhaps with a gag and non-sequiturs or two; otherwise the audience gets bored.

Such is my current issue in Anori. Dee Sinclair spends a year aboard a ship, collecting animals from across the world with a group of biologists. The montage of eight locations – moving from Lisbon to the Galapagos – is there to emphasize the power of the expedition along with Dee’s isolation from others.

Lonely sea lion pup on Fernadina Island, Galapagos

Army escorts appear, pirates attack, and Dee observes oddly from a distance throughout, not because she isn’t affected by the dramatics but more so that she doesn’t feel connected to any of it. But does it work? I don’t know.