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June 17, 1999: i'd give anything to change the words that come out of it


Alert readers will notice a drop in journal quality over the last few days: I haven't been providing titles or stats-of-the-day.

This is because web journaling is where I do my "quick and dirty" writing. I never do research. It's just supposed to be an outpouring of my thoughts. (I should get around to writing the 'why I write a web journal' thing, but I'm put off because I have a lot to say, largely in response to other journalists' notions that they claim are universal.)

The stats I stopped doing because what I do is I sit down and write up five or ten or twenty statistics at once, and then dole them out. I haven't felt motivated to do so. It's a pain in the butt to actually go count all my CDs or whatever.

The lack of titles are just because that requires real work, and currently I'm doing my "real work" writing in my scripts, and I'm not willing to expend the extra effort on the web journal. I expect that to shift back if and when I'm between scripts.

Which reminds me...

For a few years I've really enjoyed watching Janeane Garofalo. She seems smart and funny, she had some really biting things to say about Hollywood's weight obsession, and I've liked her roles in the couple of movies I've seen her in. (I haven't seen a lot of her work though, including any of her SNL stuff.)

I was reading a review of Grosse Point Blank the other day, and it reminded me that I haven't seen John Cusack in a movie in a long time. I think all I've ever seen him in is Better Off Dead and Some Kind of Wonderful, but I really liked his style in those.

And some random switch flew in my head and I thought to myself, huh, I wonder if those two would be interesting on screen together. So I hunted around on IMDB to see if they were ever in anything together: no. Then I checked their ages to make sure I wasn't totally high.

Then I added to my screenplay idea list: "a romantic comedy vehicle for Janeane Garofalo and John Cusack."

Hey, a guy can dream.

Thursday night

For those obsessed by line counting, things went a little slower yesterday, because I intentionally decided to write a challenging little "bit". By bit I mean like "Who's On First"--a little chunk of structured comedic wordplay. Like "Who's On First", it's basically entirely verbal--it would work on the radio as well as in a movie. However, unlike normal comedy bits, it's integrated into the storyline. A plot revelation occurs halfway through, and at least half of the material connects to other parts of the movie. (Admittedly, there are some throwaway bits.)

When I got the idea to do this, I knew it was going to take me a while, and it did. I probably spent about six hours writing it, and it came out to about six pages (pages that I think will go by very fast--I think it's more like a three minute bit than a six minute bit). It's peppered with a visual pun or two, and I'll throw in a few more to keep the gag momentum up, since it's essentially just a single sustained gag as it stands. (I try to avoid the endless-repitition-of-humor that SNL is infamous for.)

And today, I started to write the next bit but realized I needed to do some research, and it took me about two hours of searching the web before I found the info I needed, and I still need to go through it and digest it and resummarize it. So I haven't written anything yet today (although I still have, oh, six hours to go).

For those desperate to keep track of the line/word counts:

   4860   17440  141540    total

(that's in lines, words, characters)

But in general what I'm struggling to do is to keep the narrative going forward, on the assumption that I can go back through things and put in more gags once it's done. The trick is to bring it all to a satisfying conclusion. It's kind of scary that I'm this close (five sixths of the way) without any clue how I'm going to end it. I wouldn't normally write a script that way, but this one is allowed to be weird and wacky. I knew for a while what the setting of my conclusion was going to be, and then I had an idea for the climactic ending battle which didn't fit that setting. So I needed an idea for how to incorporate that, and a nice handy one presented itself, which then leads to doing a sequence of varied settings, creating a comic series. (I'm starting to invent jargon for comedic moves; a comic series is where you present a series of items which get progressively more outlandish, e.g. the scene in Young Frankenstein with the increasingly-old heads punctuated by Marty Feldman.)

But this is also good, because it allows me to select a final setting based on the need to actually resolve the plot--I don't have to constrain myself to the two I was originally considering. So I should have enough room to come up with something.

After all, one of the things I have tuned in all of my writings for talk.bizarre is my ability to apply creative problem solving to get my way out of holes. It's like the technique used in "retconning" science-fiction and fantasy series to explain logical inconsistencies--inventing some explanation that, yeah, fits the data but obviously was never implied. The difference is that I can go back through my script and set things up.

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