Visual Metaphors, Flat Characters, And Unfinished Thoughts
It’s been a slow week. Mostly spent watching movies and pacing back and forth while music plays in the background, attempting to dream up story ideas.
I finally got around to watching American Beauty, and loved it. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed well done visual metaphors; especially when the movie isn’t ALL visual metaphors. I am referring of course to the red rose petals that appear in the fantasy sequences during the film, which (I can only assume) symbolized sexual desire. And let us not forget the quirky characters; there is no substitute for a expertly written one. I really am a sucker for characters like that, which might also explain my love of Breaking Bad, Sleepy Hollow, and House (sure, Sleepy Hollow’s characters may not be “quirky” in the traditional sense, but they DO have a certain flair to them that I love).
I also ended up watching Zero Dark Thirty. I’ll say this for it; at least it didn’t portray every soldier as Captain America. You know, the sort of upstanding, patriotic hero that many people would have you believe soldiers are. That first scene had some good weight to it, and assuming you view the Americans as “the good guys” and everyone else as “the bad guys”, it gives a refreshing release from stereotypes. Hey, it’s not just the bad guys that do terrible things like torture.
Aside from that, however, Zero Dark Thirty sort of fell flat on its face for me. The main character felt like a cartoon, especially when she gets incredibly “hero on a quest” about one-third through the movie, making passionate speeches about how they need to be going after Bin Laden when everyone else has given up. I got this vibe that she was some hero from a small village who had risen up to battle the giant evil dark lord in his castle of doom, and it was hard to take the movie seriously after that. And honestly, whoever this person ACTUALLY was, I’m sure she had a bit more on her mind than Bin Laden 24/7. That was the entirety of her character. There’s a scene where she goes out to a restaurant with a co-worker (who felt like a stereotypical “girl” character, which was a bit annoying) who tells her to relax a bit and asks “do you have any friends at all?” And what does she do? She stares downward and doesn’t answer till the phone rings. If she was an introverted loner, that would be one thing, but this character didn’t seem that way at all. She was just far too single-minded.
In short, she felt more like a plot device than an actual character.
But enough of that. As far as dreaming up story ideas goes, I have accomplished a bit this week. Nothing too extravagant. I’ve been working on plotting a novel I’m writing, and have been occasionally writing bits of short fiction which were discarded very quickly after their creation. I’m horrible at sticking to stuff like that.
To give a few examples, let me show you a piece.
This is something I wrote late one night, not entirely sure what on Earth I was trying to achieve:
Is everyone like me?
Sam’s thoughts were often plagued with such frivolities. For it was frivolous to reflect on such things. It was the sort of statement pretentious morons thought up when they were being “deep”.
Deep into shit, maybe.
But he always did end up reflecting on that ever-persistent question, standing idly in his uniform with that one inconveniently placed mustard stain on his groin, the headset that didn’t work very well affixed to his head, the plastic so warm from the insufferable sun shining in through the drive-thru window that it stuck to his cheek, the microphone always seeming to tilt upward in just the right way so as to obscure his vision. Not to mention the way the headset seemed to turn people’s voices into unintelligible crackles.
Sam took another look around the restaurant, wondering if these people did the same things he did. Spend their whole day with this indifferent, superfluous attitude, then going home to turn on music really loud, dancing around their living rooms pretending they were the star of their own music video, imagining for a moment that they could actually sing, and didn’t look just a little too fat for television. Dreaming of a life where you were always happy and everyone respected you just for the sole reason that you were something good to look at. You’d stand out. You wouldn’t be a drone.
Sam hated being associated with these people. The ordinary, everyday street people. He’d had this moment, all the way back in elementary school, where he realized he was special. A cut above the rest. They were all going to be accountants and engineers and doctors. He, on the other hand, was going to be famous. He was going to make it big. He would prove all the others wrong when they doubted him. Even when they encouraged him, but sarcastically. Everyone was so very sarcastic. Sam could see right through them. They didn’t think he was hard-working enough to make it big in Hollywood, or publish some overnight success novel. He’d make it to stardom, and they’d all look at him and say “well, I have to admit it Sam, you were right all along!”
Sometimes I’ll start with a single line I want to include, or a feeling, a mood, even a title, but often I won’t know where I want to end up, and I’ll leave it partway through. Most of that last piece was taken from my previous experiences with working in fast-food, my high-school-era attitude toward life, and that feeling I actually had when I was younger, the idea that “I’m special, and destined for great things”.
I think I’m one of those people that needs to know the ending before I can begin to create the beginning and middle. I need a direction to head.
For now, I want to continue work on my novel, as I would love to have a completed manuscript on my hands instead of half-fleshed out scraps.
Brendon “occasional cinephile” Regier