Sunday, January 25, 2009

too close, too far away

I'm having this problem with my writing. It's not a recent problem, but it's a problem nonetheless.

I can't seem to write subtext.

Chekov I ain't, that's for sure.

Actually, I wasn't even going to call it subtext. But I think that's what it is.

When I'm working on a play, I often have very explosive emotions I'm dealing with. I often have very personal, private, emotional issues. Children coming out of the closet. Lovers cheating. Love revealed. Pain, happiness. But how do I do it without saying 'i don't support you', i support you', 'i hate you for cheating', 'leave your lover', 'i've loved you always'. How do I get there without using a regular map, the well beaten path?

On the playwrights' forum (, I had posted about this problem. And I felt like a total moron doing this. I mean, I should know how to do this, right?

Wrong. I'm the 'heart on the sleeve' kind of person, and not everyone is. So, it's hard when you're dealing with characters who aren't, and plus I think it's more interesting when there's things that are unsaid.

So now I'm dealing with the subtext of the plays I'm working on, especially 'Grace Kelly'. I'm trying to get this one revised, because I want to get it ready to be read by my friend, Terry. He said he would help me with it, so, I'm working on it.

I'm just too close to the characters, but too far away to actually make the play work. I guess it just needs more time.

I hate dealing with this sort of blockage...thankfully i don't usually have to deal with this. But I need to deal with this, or I'm not getting any further with my work.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

here's your warning

It's not easy to read the type below the caution box on the bag: "YOU COULD WIND UP BEING PORTRAYED AS AN ASSHOLE FOR ALL ETERNITY" is what it says.

I got this from my wonderful boyfriend for Christmas this year. It's fabulous. People certainly find it as amusing as it is puzzling; a lot of people haven't met a living playwright. It's funny, because when I was a fiction writer or a journalist, I never heard someone say, hey, I've never met a (fiction writer/journalist). I guess we are a few and far between breed, but it strikes me as odd.

Anyway, I digress.

I've always said to people, even when I was a fiction writer, that everyone and everything is in danger of being in something I write. I've been told, you can't write about this, right before someone tells me something very awesome, and it always makes me sad. Well, not sad, because eventually I will write about it in some way, shape or form, but that's an invitation to write about it. Forbidden fruit and all that.

Sometimes it's worrisome to write about people I actually know, especially if it was something that wasn't so flattering. I don't want to get sued, but sometimes, the events of other people's lives that I have either witnessed first hand or heard about from friends or on the internet, are just too damn good to not write about. There's one particular event in my life where I was scared to death that I was going to die at the moment, but knew that I was going to write about that particular moment in a future play. Now, two-ish years after a girl insane with jealously broke into a guy's house that she and I both happened to be dating (the guy, not the house) and waved a flashlight around screaming, I have managed to find humor in it and used it in a play I'm working on. People who know me and the girl best will know what the scene is harkening to, but no one else will, I don't think.

You've been warned.

Friday, January 9, 2009

diet for a play

This is the time of the year for diets. God. It's driving me mad too. All these pills, food bars, promises of losing weight with gum (all with the disclaimer of--with appropriate diet and exercise written in the tiniest print you could ever find on the screen)--it's enough to drive a slightly pudgy playwright mad. Don't get me started on the exercise tapes and equipment and food plans you can get through the mail. Blarg!

Anyway, this is not about me being overweight. This is about my play needing a diet.

I just finished the seventh draft of 'A Death in the Family'. It's around 100 pages long right now. As I was just working on my last two correction notes for this draft, I was realizing, as I was writing it out, that all that I just did needs to be cut. There's a lot of repetition, a lot of unfocused writing, a lot of running around in the same circle. It's time to cut the fat.

So what is the proper diet for a play?

Good question. Not really sure. I think it varies from playwright to playwright. First, I'm going to let the play sit around doing nothing for a while--ideally a month. Then I will print it back out, read it, and write down comments and look for where the fat needs to be cut. I might actually give it to someone else to read for help. Then I will take my pen and cut things out. There's several things I really love that I might need to cut--time to kill my babies again I guess.

It seems appropriate that I'm talking about killing my babies. That's what led me to this blog anyway.

So what does a playwright do when one of her plays is off dieting? She works on another play. Another draft.

God, I love rewriting. Seriously.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

keep going

Okay, it's next exactly Hell, but it's a good thing to think about.
After a dismal post about the financial status of the world and such, I am trying to keep a positive attitude. I got the newest issue of The Loop and I found some places to submit a bunch of stuff, so now I have to work on getting revisions in FAST.
You would think that if I knew something was coming up in two months, it would be easier for me. I don't work well under long long deadlines. I do better when i have very little time to get things done. There's less time for procrastination. I am a world class procrastinator, as this morning at Panera in Little Rock has shown.
Actually, that's not entirely true. I was planning on being here for like five hours, doing a bunch of revisions on 'A Death in the Family' maybe start on 'In the Bunker', but I have a sick cat at home and I am going to be leaving soon to take him to the vet in Conway (I bet Dr. Carlin is going to be SO excited!). So that derailed my plan. So I looked at the Loop and did some work with that and did some revisions based on some things my friend, Randy, stated about 'Pleased to Meet Me'. I wondered why I decided to send that one to him. It was shorter so he wouldn't be as burdened with it, but I could have chosen something even shorter and less complext. Now I know--I'm sending it to two different one act festivals. So thanks, universe, again for leading me in the right direction.
All right, I'm off to take a sick cat to the vet. Eventually today I will get back to working on my writing--after I stop at the post office to get a couple of envelopes to mail stuff in.

Move along, move along

like I know you do

And even when your hope is gone

Move along, move along

just to make it through

Move Along

All American Rejects, Move Along

Sunday, January 4, 2009

happy endings

Happy endings are a problem for me.

They have been all my life. I won't even get into my hardcore belief in having a happy ending in life (failing to realize over and over and over again and will over and over and over again in the future that happiness is a process, a path, NOT a destination). I'm talking about having happy endings in my plays.

My plays have them. I just don't know how I feel about them. I'm of two minds.

1. The typical happy ending. You know the one. It's the one in fairy tales where the princess gets saved by a knight in shining armour, the princess awakens from a curse with true love's first kiss, you know the stuff. The one where everything is wrapped up neatly in a bow and there's a happily ever after.

2. The atypical happy ending. This is the one where the hero or heroine gets what he or she wanted but it wasn't exactly what he or she had hoped for. You know, like in 'The Shape of Things'. This story is just as messy as the first example, but just is messy still at the end.

I'll admit, I'm a sucker for a good typical happy ending. The scene in 'The Wedding Singer' where Julia realizes it's Robbie singing on the plane--that makes me cry every time. Let me amend that earlier statement--I'm a sucker for a good typical happy ending when it's done right. It has to tug the heart strings the right way, and the only way to do that is to actually get the audience invested in the characters. If the characters are crap--partially formed or, even worse, just random stereotypes, investment is hard. If there isn't investment, there aren't tears at the end of the play on the part of the audience--there won't be a reaction--at least the one the writer intended. I don't know about other writers out there, but the worst thing when I'm writing is to have the completely opposite of what i wanted out of the audience--not satisfaction that the ending was happy, but annoyance that it was drawn out of them--that they were TOLD how to feel about it, not allowed to feel whatever it is that they would feel.

Perhaps that's the problem I have. Actually, it IS a problem I have. I have a tendency in my work to tell people how to feel instead of drawing it out in the writing. And I'll be honest--I don't know how to fix that. I don't think I do it all the time (if I do, SHOOT me please and take the pen of out my hand), but I know I'm doing it at the end of 'A Death in the Family'. It's the final scene where everything gets wrapped up neatly and it's a good happy ending. All the arguing is done, everything is forgiven, but I guess I'm not sure how to make it work.

I guess the only thing I can do for my happy ending with this play is to just keep working on the happy ending. Maybe watch good examples of happy endings. Read good examples.

All I know is that I need to get this thing tied up. The play is in its seventh draft, and with the exception of some bits and pieces, the last scene is a mess that stands in my way. There's transition problems and then there's the happy ending problem.

Guess I have some work this week.

Happy New Year!