My first day of work is finished. I took a two-hour lunch and went for a long walk in the sun with Jiyoung. A guy could really get used to this.
I spent today covering my bedroom wall with Post-it notes, trying to lay out the basic story arc. Things started off quite well -- I blew through the first half of the story before lunch. Things started to bog down a bit through the afternoon. That's at least partly attributable to my getting physically worn out, since I pace in a circle when I'm thinking. I must have logged at least five tiny, circular miles today.
Jiyoung and I had dinner with our friends Matt and Melinda, both of whom went to USC film school. I asked them about story structure, and Matt explained how all Western stories since Aristotle have had a four-act structure (or, more precisely, a first act, two middle acts, and a final act), that in films these acts are usually each thirty minutes long, and that the third act is where most screenwriters drop the ball.
That sounds strangely familiar. Returning home and looking at my wall, I saw that I'd charged through two gangbuster acts and fizzled out on act three. So it looks like some actual work is going to have to happen now.
I also began reading Story, which is a little blowhardy, but probably still useful. Perhaps it's so florid because it's trying to be inspirational. I'm ready for all the frilly stuff to wrap up and for the real under-the-hood explanations to begin. I have gotten two useful nuggets from it so far:
- A story becomes flat when characters are never revealed to be more than they seem.
- What the novice mistakes for craft is simply his unconscious absorption of story elements from every novel, film, or play he's ever encountered... the haphazard groping toward or revolt against the sum of unconsciously ingrained repetitions in not, in any sense, technique, and leads to screenplays clogged with cliches...
That second bullet is a bitter pill. I hope that the story I'm starting off with isn't just a Frankenstein monster made from all the stories I've admired in the past -- parts of it sure do look familiar (I mean, is there any sci-fi plot development that DOESN'T somehow resemble Star Wars?).
Hey, that's why I've given myself a year. Tomorrow, it's back up the mountain.