Sunday, July 23, 2006

Writing On Another Planet

Most of the time, I think I’m writing on another planet. It doesn’t bug me so much, because I’m the only writer on that particular planet, so how would I know what’s considered odd, because hey, it all makes sense to me.

But participating in Act One has brought up the realization that my planet isn’t exactly twirling in a known universe. This may not be a bad thing because as a writer, you want to have a distinctive and original voice. But “distinctive” and “original” have to be words that other people say about you, you can’t say them about yourself. Kind of like how on any reality show, a contestant can’t call themselves “Crazy” it has to be ascribed to them by a competing contestant. Because some adjectives have to be born out of stuff that you DO, not stuff that you say you are. But I think that I can safely say that my Amy planet is a little out of whack in the Act One orbit.

For example, there was this scene exercise last week where we had to write a scene with the elements they provided to us. It’s a romantic comedy where Emily and Donovan meet in an outpatient pre-op room.

Emily’s getting a central line taken out, because her cancer’s in remission, so she’s a happy camper. Donovan is getting a central line put in (alluding that he has cancer), so he’s not. Emily asks Donovan out for Jell-O in the hospital caferia, he turns her down, yet when he hears the nurse talking to Emily about her central line, Donovan changes his tune. He asks Emily about her cancer, “Emily recounts a bit of the cancer battle she’s just come through. Donovan’s interest increases and he questions her about her story. It feels like a real connection to both of them.” But then Emily realizes that Donovan’s getting his central line put in for cancer treatment, she gets weirded out, and turns Donovan down when he wants to take her up on the Jell-O invite. End o’ scene.

And when I get this assignment, I stare at the pages and think oh blegh. It’s a cancer scene. It smacks of Hallmarkian Piece O’ Crapola. It’s exactly what I was worried Act One was gonna teach you how to write, exactly what I DIDN’T wanna write. Because c’mon, seriously. Jell-O? A date for Jell-O? Are we going to a sock hop afterwards?

I should interject and say that this is the only assignment thus far in two weeks that I’ve had a blegh reaction too, lest anyone think I’m not learning a lot and having a reasonably okay time in the whole Act One program. Because I am.

However, this assignment blew big ass chunks. And it’s up to me to take these bleghy elements and turn them into something that I could reasonably stomach, and fulfill the requirements of the assignment.

So what I end up coming up with is turning Emily into a chatterbrained annoying twit, and Donovan into a huge jerk who interrupts her nonstop monologuing to tell her that her eyebrows are crooked. The ones she drew on. Because the radiation made them fall out.

Yes. Yes, I am going to hell.

Oh dear, oh dear me. What kind of worldview do I HAVE!? Ms. Pessimism, Glorious Defender of the Cynic and Obnoxious, C’est Moi. Well, I don’t think anyone else is gonna come up with it. So there’s that. It make sense on my planet. The one on the frozen reaches of Pluto, where nobody human with a compassionate heart dwells.

We turn in our assignment and a few days later are divided into groups, where we take turns reading the scenes out loud, and our moderator gives us notes on them. Needless to say, mine’s the only one with a vicious eyebrow slam. The moderator tells me that the eyebrow joke stopped her cold, but that she also thought it was a brilliant choice. However, “I must give you a backhanded compliment. I hate your characters.” Well good, because I didn’t like them either. Nowhere in the assignment did it say anything like You must love these characters and treasure them as you do your major internal organs.

Moderator goes on to gently remind me that this IS a romantic comedy, and we should care for these people a smidgen, since eventually they are going to end up together. Yes, but see on Amy Planet, Emily the Twit and Donovan the Jerk DO end up together, and she draws crooked eyebrows on him when his eyebrows fall out, and they chuckle ruefully together, and it’s a lovely scene that’s many many scenes from now. But okay. I should write a romantic comedy scene that fits a romantic comedy definition on Planet Earth, since nobody writes paychecks for screenwriting on Amy Planet. There’s no money on Amy Planet, by the way. But there’s a lot of BEER! Kidding, kidding.

Anyhow, when Moderator gives us back our scenes, she has said a lot of very nice things like “I love your strong choices and general style. Very daring choices for characters. They all really live on the page and this cuts through the sappy factor that the cancer issue could have brought.” So it looks like I wasn’t the only one that thought SAPOLA when getting the assignment. Which makes me feel better. But I’m not going for Jell-O anytime soon.


peter said...

you see, the thing is, romantic comedies written in the amyverse sound like my kind of romantic comedies. bring on the cruel eyebrow jokes!

Stephaine - yes, that's spelled right said...

Romantic comedies are boring but Amy-antic comedies are great!

Tracy said...

For what it's worth - I love Planet Amy. :)

Midlife Virgin said...

I love visiting Planet Amy. Planet Amy is original! Glad you're living there. And glad that you're still hanging on to and able to thank God while you're going through these struggles. That's where faith is found.

Naomi Vondell said...

FWIW, I'd go to see that romantic comedy - and I'd rent the DVD! Doesn't matter if you don't like the characters at the beginning. If you like 'em by the end, you like them so much more by contrast.

What would a movie admission cost in the Amyverse? A pint? I'd pay! :)

Allison said...

Love the eyebrow joke!

I thought the same thing about the scene - I didn't particularly like the characters, and I didn't really think the scene was funny. Then I thought... is this a challenge? Like give us the most serious, non-funny scenario and have us give it a comedic execution.

My money's on this, but I agree, it's something I would never choose to write.