Catching Ghosts

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Act 2 is done.

I gotta say, it’s great working on a script. You get to the end of the act and you type ‘curtain down’. Boom. End. Finito. Real closure. I took the time to read what I’ve got so far. Found plenty of typos, and I’m sure I’ve got some stage direction errors to work out, but I was well pleased to find my stop and start writing style didn’t show in the reading: it flowed, flowed well, and made me laugh. I’ve also found it dead easy to hit the mark on suggested word count; this morning it stands at just over 12,000 words. My quick read through revealed something else to me, too. I saw where lines could be cut to make time and where lines could be inserted to stretch time. Always before, a story was a story to me – couldn’t tell it any other way but the way I laid it out. Not so for the script. It’s alive. The setting and characters have achieved self awareness, and know what their jobs are: entertain, be funny, and underneath it all talk about the art of communication. Earlier, the characters ran away with the narrative, pulling some unexpected stunts that helped show me who they really are. Now, they are cooperative, willing to take back long rants in order to keep to tale we’ve all agreed we’re telling. Characters I imagined as flat and unsympathetic have shown me other sides, fleshing themselves out and making me like them despite my preset conceptions about them. No one is ‘the bad guy’. No one is without a moral compass or a sense of compassion. Even the oldest son’s wife, who I designed to be a bitch and say the nastiest things my memory holds, has shown another side to herself.

It’s a revelation. While I think I’d like, someday, to write an archetypal script with strict adherence to one main characteristic per character, it’s not today and it’s not this script. No. This script has shown me – me, personally – that if I write deep enough I can find understanding and empathy for anyone. Even my family, because that’s what I began with. They’re skewed, naturally. I’ve turned the mother into a woman who repeatedly talks about babies. That is a trait my mother held; she loved babies (not so much children). But I’ve blown it out of the water for the sake of humor, taken comments that I remember a sting in and made them laughable. Good therapy. The father is much as my father was: irascible, roaring goddamns at this and that every other minute, and as funny as I remember my dad could be. The oldest son is as wishy-washy as my oldest brother is, right down to looking at the mother helplessly anytime there’s a hint of housework to be done. Not sure what I’ll end up doing with the daughter. I think she’s still got a surprise in store for me; I can feel her highjacking her storyline and wrenching it into another direction. The youngest son, the depressed one, has been as fun to write as I imagined him. Yes, he’s depressed. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t laugh and joke once in a while. After all, everyone is quick to point out my own depression even when I’m cracking wise, and since he’s my dark side he does that, too.

I AM stuck on the poem for the father. That’s the youngest son’s gift. For narrative’s sake, I just breezed past it. Right now there’s just the stage direction ‘reads poem’. The poem might bother me more than the rest of the script. I don’t want it to be shit. And I need it to be original. So I’m waiting on myself to write it. If I really pull a blank I can use an older piece of work, but I’m hoping to get into the proper frame of mind and churn out a stanza I can use.

That may end up being the last piece of the puzzle, and a tough one to do.

Since the tumbleweeds of silence continue to roll through my inbox and I’ve heard nadda from the theatre group, I think I’ll end up printing a copy of my rough draft and using some dolls to do the walk through. At least it’ll be visual for me. Pretty sure I’ve misplaced a few people, or not said who’s sitting, standing, or doing whatever while the scene plays out. Using visual aids will help me quickly see what I’ve done wrong. And since I really don’t know if I can trust the group to even be interested in what I’m doing, I want to make it as bullet-proof as possible before sending it out into the world.

Fly, my pretty!

Naturally, I’m having a hard time reigning my thoughts in. Immediately my brain envisions rave reviews and interest in more work. And you know, considering the piles of rejections I’ve actually experienced, in some ways it’s wonderful of my head to immediately imagine the absolute best reaction from the world. It tells me I believe in myself to some extent. The ghost of my mother (always present in a corner of my brain, no matter how often I evict her) whispers I should expect to hear no thanks, we’re not interested, better luck in the future, and all that pat language that rejection comes wrapped up in. We are at odds, the ghost of my mother and I. Always have been. So I fly and she tugs on my string. I am not happy being caught and caged, and she is not happy fighting me to stay put.

At least on paper I can resolve it. Put it to rest with a laugh and a little tug at your heartstrings. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. I’m very, very grateful for that.

Outside my window, a wall of white sits waiting, expectant, like a cat sitting before a mouse hole. Ghosts float by.

Time to capture a few on paper.

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