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.”
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Martin Scorsese’s Pretend It’s a City features Fran Lebowitz declaiming on her writerly life, stating that no writer enjoys writing. Which makes me think that I am no writer because I do, enjoy writing that is. And then there is Raymond Carver, who exposed the secrets of his life with honesty and makes me realize that I’ve never come close to that.
My modus operandi has been the sensational subjects – prostitutes, 9/11 and outer space – which I’ve consumed through the media. I feel unglued and half done. I want to think again and write something that people will read and think, “What a guy!” Yes, I need to get a grip
Davis and Baz bag up in the pre-dawn light; the horizon is purple and green. They both ingest mushrooms and take a long drink of water before going up to plant the burned ground together. Clouds of ash rise up as they begin to work. A montage series offers close-ups of the shovel blades going into the ground, the trees gripped in their hands, boots tramping over the burned-out ground, interspersed with helicopter shots of them, tiny figures in the massive dominating landscape of mountains and valleys.
DAVIS (Not stopping): Feeling it?
BAZ: Feeling it.
DAVIS: It’s good.
Montage of close-ups continues, including extreme close-up of the bright blue tape tied off on a branch, beetles scampering along the edge of a burn-out twisted stump, an abandoned chainsaw blade twisted among the weeds, a woodpecker perched on a tree at the edge of the block, sweat dripping off the nose and chin of Davis, a mosquito landing and stinging Baz on the shoulder, ending with a hard slap. They stop, look at each other, drink water, move their trees from the back bag to the side, and continue planting.
Davis and Baz continue to plant. The sound of their heavy breathing, scuffing boots and cicadas are the only sounds. They reach the back edge of the block and a band of shade, planting the very edge of the road like experts, the trees rapidly dropped in. They pause in the shadows, each eating nuts and dried fruit, drinking in heavy gulps that spill down their necks.
DAVIS: I almost like this.
DAVIS: There’s something….
BAZ: Being an animal.
DAVIS: A burrowing creature, like a…badger.
BAZ: At 11 cents a tree.
They both laugh stupidly,
looking at each other, and then go back to planting.
BAZ: I could never work at a desk.
DAVIS: Why would anyone do that? Insane.
BAZ: Look at my arm.
DAVIS (Looking at his dirty, ash-stained arm): I see it.
BAZ: Why is that part of me?
DAVIS: It’s crooked.
BAZ (Examining it): No, it isn’t.
DAVIS: I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing.
BAZ: It isn’t crooked.
DAVIS (Holding his arm out): Mine is too!
BAZ: You’re right. Your arm’s fucked up.
DAVIS: It isn’t fucked up.
BAZ (Taking a tree, rubbing the needles gently through his hand): My point is that this arm is mine. It’s
a part of who I am supposed to be.
BAZ: My brain commands, the electric impulses obey.
DAVIS: You’re just in your head? The master commander.
BAZ: Not even that. It’s a tiny point in the back. Or just outside, floating in the darkness.
DAVIS: That’s you?
BAZ (Planting again): Yes.
DAVIS (Following him, planting too): What about your nose?
BAZ: I don’t have a problem with my nose.
BAZ (Throwing his shovel in hard): That makes sense to me.
DAVIS: Your nipples.
BAZ: Nipples. Yeah.
DAVIS: What the fuck are you doing with nipples?
BAZ: I like nipples.
DAVIS: Your nipples?
DAVIS: You find that erotic.
BAZ: And my throat.
DAVIS: I don’t like that word.
BAZ: Throat. Man, I love a chick’s throat.
DAVIS: You mean her neck.
BAZ: No. Throat. That’s erotic.
They plant in silence, the sound of their shovels pronounced against the stillness of the day.
DAVIS (Reciting Hamlet, II, II, 228-331):What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in… Something or other. I forget… in apprehension how like a god… and yet to me, this quintessence of dust.
There is a long pause, the
shovels once again the only sound.
BAZ (Reciting lines from Ginsberg’s Howl in a deep and booming voice):Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch in whom I dream angels!Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! Invincible mad houses! Granite cocks!
There is another long pause.
DAVIS (Unwrapping packets of trees): Granite cocks?
Davis starts planting again
and joins in the chant, done in chorus with their boot steps, the shovels in
the ground, the tree dropped in. They suddenly hear another noise, almost the
same grunting, but deeper and louder. They look up together and see a Grizzly Bear
standing right in front of them, massive, only 30 feet away. The giant creature
considers them, chewing on something methodically. Baz and Davis notice a bear
cub on the other side of her. They waver and then, in unison, continue to plant,
Baz makes a grunting noise that almost sounds like he is continuing the chant. They
plant a number of trees in succession and look up again. The bear and cub have both
DAVIS: Jesus. We just had a fucking vision.
BAZ: Both of us? At the same time?
DAVIS: What did you see?
The Grizzly and cub come out
from behind the slash, walking away, and crashing into the forest.
BAZ: I saw that.
Davis goes back to planting.
DAVIS (Looking back up): What?
BAZ: I think I just saw your cat. (Pause) Riding the cub’s back, guiding it by the ears.
DAVIS: What was that noise you were making?
BAZ: What noise?
DAVIS: You were grunting or something.
BAZ: I was asserting my presence.
DAVIS: You sounded like you were having a seizure.
BAZ: It’s what the mountain gorillas do.
DAVIS: When’s the last time you think this bear ran into a fucking mountain gorilla?
BAZ: That stuff’s universal.
DAVIS (Laughing to himself): Joint. (Pause) Universal joint, remember? The van?
They continue to plant toward
DAVIS (Planting his last tree): Last one. How many you got?
BAZ (Looking in his bag): Same, man. The exact same.
Baz plants his last tree and
they walk slowly, languidly down.
DAVIS: What are your numbers?
They walk for a few moments in
BAZ: I don’t know.
DAVIS: Me either.
BAZ: Oh, shit. One more. (Pulling a tree out and planting it)