Music is such an important part of writing for me. I use it for inspiration. I use it to help find emotional tone. I use it to help set rhythm and pace. And it’s my constant companion as I bang away on my keyboard.
There’s a moment at the beginning of each new script when I know I’ve “found it.” No…that’s not quite it. When I find my way in–inside the story. 100% of the time, it’s when I find the song that represents the story/script/final product for me. When the song plays, I can see the story/script/final product unfold before my eyes. And even better, I can feel it’s unfolding. And I can finally reach into each character’s heart and feel the pulsing of their heartbeat.
The latest came to me yesterday driving in my car (#1 top place for this to happen in my writing life, btw). This one was funny…usually, I have to search for the song. But this gem was hiding right out in plain sight on my iPhone playlist. When it hit me, I seriously had to just pull over and listen a few times before my vision cleared, and I could see well enough to continue on my way.
Any writer will tell you the stuff that comes off their fingertips is an extension of themselves. I’m no different than anyone else in this regard.
Sometimes, though, the connection between the words and the writer’s core takes on a supercharge and runs with scissors through said writer’s soul. The following passage, from the script I wrote for the original stage/multi-media production, HE WHO GETS SLAPPED, was like that for me. So much of what I write is gone as soon as it hits the page. Released. But this passage sticks with me. Haunts me, even.
I suppose the underlying idea and feeling aren’t done with me yet. In fact, the whole reason this blog post exists is because they creeped back in today as I was contemplating a new TV series/pilot I’m developing with the MESSAGES guys. Well, “creeped in” isn’t quite accurate. There I was, minding my own business and trying to figure out the A plot for the pilot episode, when I was startled by a decisive knock.
So…”creeped in” isn’t quite accurate at all.
Alright…come on back in and make yourself at home. I guess we got some more business, you and me.
Excerpt from HE WHO GETS SLAPPED script:
The MAN stands at the edge of the circus set, watching the ACTOR stew in his misery.
MAN: I remember, when I was a child, my mother telling me that I could not attend a party for my best friend. I no longer remember the details. Why and whatnot. Memory is like that…
The ACTOR rises and slowly exits through the upstage curtain. At this time (and through the rest of the MAN’s speech) the screen shows a sepia-toned montage of the ACTOR and STARLET as Hook and Wendy from their Peter Pan days…rehearsing lines, falling in love. The MAN watches the montage unfold as he speaks.
MAN: Mostly cloudy. I didn’t throw a tantrum. But I buckled over, wracked with despair. My mother demanded to know what was wrong, and all I managed to get out were these words…it will never come again. A childish reaction, perhaps, but who is more in touch with the unvarnished realities in life than those whose senses are not yet dimmed by the gathering haze? It would never come again, and the knowledge, the brutal clarity of it, was simply too honest to bear. For in that moment was carried the most profound realization to my young soul–that each moment we live, from our first breath to our last, will only be once. And upon each step we make, the one before it is lost forever. Is it any wonder we all should not be so affected? Memory is malleable. We can mold it to our heart’s desire. Truth is cruel, and it mocks us as it slices through our souls.
On the screen, the ACTOR and STARLET kiss. The MAN can’t bear to watch it. He moves to the wall, touches the hash marks. He talks to the PROJECTOR as, on the screen, the ACTOR and STARLET snuggle…content.
MAN: Have you invited all these people here to settle a question? Is this memory? Or is it truth? Please…let it be memory. For in the fog, rather than being the Hook, and meet my bloody demise, let me be Pan, and freeze time and preserve the moment…when we loved each other last, before it was lost forever…never to come again.
The MAN falls to his knees, anguished, as the film returns to the screen.
© Please do not reprint or distribute without prior permission. All rights reserved.
Photo: the amazing Jim Coates as “Man” in HE WHO GETS SLAPPED. If you need an actor, hire him. If you need a teacher in the Alexander method, hire him. A great actor and friend. http://www.actsup.com