Thursday, November 17, 2016

That Cool Moment When...

            Hey, folks. So very sorry I missed last week.  I had this thing all plotted out and then I somehow ended up in the Mirror Universe. And not the cool part of the Mirror Universe... the bad part.
            Hey, speaking of cool stuff...
            I read a book recently where the characters spent most of their time trying to verbally one-up each other. Every line of dialogue was a cool, badass line.
            Which still wasn’t quite as exhausting as a couple books I’ve read that were just non-stop super-cool action and conflict from page one.
            Although, that was better than the folks who tried to do an uber-cool plot structure of a cool flashback within a cool story within a really cool flashback.
            Saying “cool” that many times is kinda... uncool, isn’t it?
            Now, with that in mind...  I’d like to repeat a little experiment I did for some of you a few years back.  Please pay close attention to the following paragraph.  Don't write anything down, but try to keep a lot of it in mind.  There’ll be questions afterwards.

            LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!!

            So...
            What parts of that stood out to you?  What was the high point?  Did the paragraph hold you from beginning to end?
            Odds are none of it stood out for you.  And the high point was probably when it ended, right?  In fact, I’m willing to bet you got halfway through the first line and just probably skimmed down to the end. 
            Nah, don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you.  Any sane person would’ve done the same thing.  It was just a bunch of LAs.
            Here’s another example. A variation on the theme, you might say.  Have you ever heard a tuning fork?  Tuning forks are perfect, y’know.  If you have a middle-C tuning fork it will hit that note and hold it for ages. 
            That said... have you ever felt compelled to listen to a tuning fork for hours?  No? Why wouldn’t you want to listen to constant perfection?
            Because it’s boring!
            A tuning fork plays one note.  That’s it.  It’s the musical equivalent of LA LA LA LA.  Middle C is great, and any musician from Bach to Pharrell will tell you it’s all but impossible to work without it--but it can’t be the only note.  It’s part of a system of highs and lows that we call music.
            Storytelling works the same way.  A story that’s just all the same thing is the literary equivalent of a tuning fork.  It’s neat for a minute or two... and then it starts to wear on your nerves. 
            I’ve mentioned this idea before, because it applies to several aspects of writing.  Structure.  Dialogue.  Action.  I can’t have a story that’s all action.  I can’t have a script that’s nothing but Oscar moments.  Every line can’t be a cool line.  Because if it’s all at the same level—if it’s all cool—then it’s all monotone.
            Look at Doctor Strange.  Big popular Marvel movie right now, yes?  And, yeah—no spoilers—it has scenes of magical combat and all that skyline-bending we saw in the commercials.  Lots of other cool stuff, too.  But it also has quite a few scenes where Strange just reads medical reports and books.  He listens to music.  At one point he has a conversation with a guy on  basketball court.  He even writes a few emails.
            Y’see, Timmy, it’s the up-and-down, back-and-forth nature that makes for interesting stories.  If you look at any good story, you’ll see that most of its elements swing back and forth between extremes.  Lows and highs.  Calm and frenetic.  Average and unforgettable.
            Because, again, if my story elements don’t have this up and down nature, if it’s all the same, then it’s just a line.  It doesn’t matter how high the line is, even if every point on it scores a perfect ten, even if it all goes to eleven...it’s still just a flat line.
            And you know what “flatline” is another term for, right?
            Dead.
            Next time... well, next Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the states.  But I owe you all one from last week, so I’ll try to get something up the night before.  That way I won’t feel like a total fraud.
            Until then, go write.