Re: Thinking about backstory
- From: Graham Woodland <gray@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 18 May 2008 08:34:08 +0100
Graham Woodland <gray@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
The rules change when you are retelling a story that your audience knows already.
If I want to tell a tale of Arthur, I don't have to start with Vortigern, Igraine, the sword in the stone, or the arrival of Lancelot, and I don't have to get to the Morte. In fact there are all sorts of effects one can achieve specifically by *not* relating certain events that will be much in the reader's mind.
Oh yes. I used to write fanfic, and a tale of Arthur is basically
fanfic. And there are story structures that work with fanfic really
well because they're hanging off a structure that already exists in the
reader's mind; but which don't work when it's an original story because
there's nothing to hang off of.
Yes indeed. Fanfic as something to look down on is a rather recent evolution, which one of these days I'd quite like to trace in detail. Traditionally, it's one of the main modes. I note its decline in reputation seems to coincide with the increased respectability of invention and the rise of the (non-superstar) author, which is about what one might expect.
I got tripped by this once when I ended up writing an original story
using what was essentially a fanfic structure; it just fell flat.
When I finished the Great Fanfic Novel, which was streets ahead of my previous original achievements, I failed adequately to appreciate just how many of the skills I'd polished there were less than transferable. I suppose it is a meta-skill to identify their chief and proper deployments.
But if it happens that I write Alan's story first, and it takes him all the way from childhood to where he goes, and ten million people read it, and everybody else has seen the film and wondered why the hell George Clooney is ready to fight the whole world with a blunt greatsword for Cate Blanchett in a bad haircut and a wheelchair, then I can follow Homer's example all I want to. Hey -- that looks like a plan!
Attempting to visualise: is that Cate or George in a bad haircut and a
Cate. This is the Bad Movie version, so she's playing it as a bit of a Galadriel-a-like, as befits the beloved earth-priestessy leader of the Free, Kind of Fey, Ecologically Aware West. I imagine Celerian's spastic mannerisms and torrential but unglamorously interrupted speech won't survive the translation, but at least she probably won't ride to the battle, sword in hand, in brave disregard of a chronically game leg.
The Good Movie version would be more difficult, but Sarah Jessica Parker with a black dye-job might look and talk like an uncommonly good Hollywood Celerian -- I'm sure she'd have no trouble with the sunnily vicious wit, or with the combination of cynicism and humankindness and armoured vulnerability, for instance. My main reservation is that Celerian is also a turbo-charged machiavellian theocrat who could eat both Clintons for breakfast, Queen Bess for lunch, and still have room for Peter the Great at dinner -- and her Enemy, from her culture's point of view, might as well be Sauron. I have no data on whether SJP could host a character who carries such sheer weight, however lightly they might seem to wear it.
(Look, Mom! I used singular 'they' in a case of known gender, to implicitly *decrease* the ambiguity of a sentence! This has never occurred to me before as a conscious possibility.)
There's the other thing about Bad Movie Cate, by the way. I bet she'd give Celerian formidable gravitas, which is maybe what I seemed to be asking from SJP. But it seems to me now that there's a distinction worth making: Celerian doesn't do gravitas unless she absolutely has to. She does *weight*, but she doesn't make the weight of the world a part of her. Her people know this, and those who are really 'her' people love her for it. I think I'm onto something here, but am I being even coherent?
And the obvious question: do you ever cast any of your stories mentally, and has the process ever thrown up something surprising about one of your own characters? I don't usually do this, because I am so not a movie maven that I run out of inspiration very quickly indeed...
To unmung address, lop off the 'be invalid' command.
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