Monday, October 27, 2008

Starting Over

If you're looking for a creative endeavor that's conducive to mood swings, you can't do much better than screenwriting, which has about as many emotional peaks and valleys as a Meat Loaf song. First there's the excitement of having a really great idea smack you in the face. This is one of the best feelings there is, because it's totally unadulterated. The idea hasn't had a chance to be poked, prodded, criticized, expanded, compressed, rewritten, polished, re-polished, and so forth; it's just an idea. You haven't even put it into a sentence yet. It may fall apart horribly as soon as you try to put it into a sentence. Doesn't matter. It sounds good, and it excites you, and it's why you're a writer, because there aren't a lot of other disciplines that consist of sitting around asking yourself stuff like, "What if you built a machine to go back in time and kill Hitler, but Hitler found out about it and built his own time machine to go forward and kill you?"

Of course, this initial thrill can't last. Inevitably it's followed by one of two outcomes, neither of which is all that enjoyable. The first is the realization that the idea actually sucks (see Hitler-killing example) or has been done to death (again, see Hitler-killing example, which is clearly the same plot as both Terminator 2 and Bambi). The second is the realization that the idea is good but will take a ton of work to execute. Oh, sure, you should be ready for this by the time you're writing your second script, but I've been hatching half-brained ideas for over a decade and still fool myself into thinking that it's going to write itself as soon as I sit down. There will be lots of story problems that need solving, characters that need to be created, thrilling sequences that require careful planning.

This is the stage I'm at right now. The idea made it past the initial sniff test, seemed worthy of several months of my strenuous efforts, so now it's time for those efforts to begin. And begin they have! I've started working on the characters, the overall spine of the thing, the exciting moments, the stuff you need to fill up a movie. I'm in the process of gathering research materials, which include (partial list):

- episodes of the A&E series Cities of the Underworld
- the Nick Hornby suicide-bonding book A Long Way Down
- the movies Clue and Sneakers, both childhood favorites
- Wikipedia articles on cryptozoology, steampunk, the Colossus of Rhodes, the history of geographical coordinates, and the Concorde jet
- a smattering of information about various American billionaires

You know, the usual. It's going to be fun, but it's going to be work.

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