I find myself angry lately, and despite the uncomfortable nature of a permanent frown…the end result could be very good for all of us.
The unfortunate food poisoning incident remains another of life’s unpleasant footnotes, attacking an already tenuous budget and schedule. Returning to work after an extended absence only reminded me of the stifling sensation that’s accompanied hourly work since the Story Engine decided it will be heard at all costs. Everything else seems an unnecessary distraction, some hindrance that only allows the machinery to turn at periodic intervals, when it’d rather exist on its own accord. It’s not entirely concerned with the fact that managers are prone to raising suspicious eyebrows at my frantic scribbling on a concealed notepad when I’m supposed to be “working”. It doesn’t care about bills, groceries, or foul moods, classifying these things as inconsequential in the larger scheme of things.
I was determined to spend a great deal of my weekend staring at the ceiling, searching for universal meaning and swearing profusely, but I have a strong suspicion that the Story Engine could give two shits.
Machines only need fuel to function, and raw emotions are reduced to little more than ammunition. Anger prevents you from loading the bullet, but the glittering projectile remains within reach. The fun thing about being a writer is that the strip-mining of pure sentiment remains a popular coping mechanism that aids one in dispelling feelings which may otherwise grind you into nothingness. Pain and frustration are mutated into an alphabetical virus that is designed to infect those within range, because misery does indeed love company, and it makes us feel better to believe that things happen for a reason. At our core, writers are opportunistic bastards that feel the urge to modify almost anything into a story.
It didn’t always used to be this way though. Years ago I hadn’t come to understand what encompassed an engrossing story, thinking that if two ‘men-in-tights’ chose to get into a physical confrontation above a city that doubled as a set piece, that was a story. Property damage and a tattered spandex suit were enough to set the blood pumping. You should see some of my earliest pitches filled to capacity with exploding worlds, innocent people losing their lives, and giant death rays. As entertaining as this can be, it’s not story. The emotional consequences that are incurred by the giant death ray is the story. Putting two men that have slept with the same woman in a room, and separating them with a coffee table…that’s a story. The little human details that burrow beneath your skin, causing an emotional itch that leaves an aspect of story with you long after it’s been digested. How could a human being with rent and credit card bills to consider possibly give a passing thought to some story featuring fictional characters living in a fictional world that could never exist?
It’s quite simple really…you infect them with something that causes a reflexive emotional reaction. You gotta make them feel it. It needs to irritate the skin.
This is the goal of writing, the manipulation and skillful presentation of powerful emotions that inspires a chain reaction within people that are fully prepared not to care. This is the reason I refuse to mount the bandwagon of vocal dissenters assailing the potential story-telling possibility of the man in tights. Intelligent superheroes are something our modern scribes happen to do very well.
Take Bendis’ latest Ultimate Spider-Man arc for example. On the surface it appeared to be little more than the tried and true case of mistaken identity leading to reflexive mistrust and suspicion from the authorities. But that’s not what the story was about. That’s not what the story was about at all. The entire arc was merely window-dressing for putting the proverbial screws to the Peter/Mary Jane relationship, forcing the characters to fold under the pressure of their strange lives. The storyline was constructed to trigger a single scene that featured a conversation that offered no clear distinction of who was right and who was wrong. An artificial gray area where nothing is certain, because what happens in a fight when both people are right? The result was a collage of nasty little uncertain feelings that we all share from time to time, and it certainly rings more genuine than knocking out the Green Goblin.
What does this all mean you ask?
Well ladies and gentlemen…with my emotions properly exposed, I think an excellent story will construct itself shortly. Writing has become far more cathartic than it once was, serving as a personal internalized response to the things in life that make little sense. The Reserve was a script I wrote that channeled the frustration I was feeling regarding my lack of progress. It was the kind of topical and immediate story that I wouldn’t be driven to dictate under separate circumstances, and if I tried to fake it, some of the story’s soul would be lost.
So as life continues to follow a scattered sequence that I haven’t been provided a personal diagram to…I’ll be here in the middle of it all, forcing things to make sense and lacing my consciousness between the panels. I tried to tell you that it’s not a fuckin’ game anymore, and if my own personal turmoil must mutate into a potent strain that crawls beneath your skin…then so be it. There’s only one thing you can be sure of at this point.
It’s going to itch.
It’s going to itch terribly…