What's Become of Alex? - Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

You may have noticed I'm blogging a bit less, and shorter, lately.

I'm in the middle of a writing room. I have three weeks to break down episodes 4-10 of the pay cable series I'm developing. And rebuild the pilot better, stronger, faster.

It takes a lot out of you. This show in particular is part dysfunctional family drama, part metaphysical fantasy. Mixing mythology and reality is tough, especially within the limitations of TV. Too many monsters and you're hokey. Not enough monsters and you're not really delivering the goods. Every time you give someone a power, you have to make sure it's not something that will overwhelm the plot -- or would overwhelm the plot except you just keep ignoring it. (E.g.: if Superman can fly faster than the speed of light and go back in time ... why doesn't he do that every single time he's in a bind?) But if your characters have only minor powers, what makes them interesting?

It's a fine line. In THE SANDMAN comics, I manage to believe that Dream is an entity of unutterable power and knowledge and age... and he's got the hots for a human witch and gets upset when she no longer loves him. It feels right even though it seems inconsistent.

You're looking for the logic of a fable. There are a lot of great stories you could pick holes in. The trick is, I guess, something like prestidigitation. Don't look over here -- look over there! Sparkly!

How you actually do that is the surprisingly hard work of a story room.

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4 Comments:

Incidentally, Dreams love affair turned into - quite possibly - the best duel with the Devil I've ever seen (or read).

Oh, and intelligent body parts! Can't remember the 'name' of the power but it's essentially that you can pull off a hand and it'll run off and search for something for you, or take out an eye and toss it down a hallway. Might be a bit creepy for a family-style show... but if you're an adventurous young boy you could have a field day freaking out your sister or parents.

"Bobby, you put that eye back in your head right now or so help me...!"

By Blogger Brandon Laraby, at 3:22 PM  

Don't you get frustrated when notes come back focusing on plot holes or contradictions that you just know the audience will never care about?

It's an art to know what you can get away with and what you can't. Storytellers are con artists and vaudeville magicians.

By Blogger Sean Hood, at 4:10 PM  

I agree that storytellers are magicians, but I don't know if I'd say they are con artists. A storyteller imitates life, and that includes inconsistency, doesn't it? So I don't think that in that example Dream's inconsistency is a plot hole. I think it gives him depth and makes him more real, because in life we are like that, and can have totally contradictory qualities (especially when it comes to love).

By Blogger Trevor Finn, at 6:13 PM  

Yes! I agree with you! People are always behaving in ways that contradict their "character" as we understand them.

What frustrates me is the need, in the development process, to have every character and story point explained in a way that doesn't allow for the kind of complexity you are talking about.

I do think we are con artists though... and I mean that with great pride.

By Blogger Sean Hood, at 6:23 PM  

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