So you know that whole virtual learning course I was taking? With 3 veterinarian events that require house arrest for a certain Doodle, surprising things are happening there.
First off, I’ve spent a lot of time writing in my head. Many writers do this anyway, but early in the process, I usually need to write things down, have a tangible hard copy to work on. Being deprived of that seems to bypass my cognitive brain.
As a result and against my will, my antagonist staged a coup ousting my protagonist and became my main character, bringing a complexity, if not a depth, I hadn’t anticipated to a (third) catalyst character.
The other consequence of Doodle duty is that my reading assignment is getting done in 2-3 minute intervals. Thus, passages that I would’ve sped through – I’m so smart, I already know all of this – now have my extended attention.
For instance, I’d just finished reading about outdoor vs indoor scenes when it came time to abandon all hope & cross the threshold into We Do Not Race Maniacally Thru The House Until The Stitches Come Out, i.e. a fortuitous attempt to reduce MY physical world by containing the pup.
My WIP associated with the course, Night Vigil, deals with how our childhood shapes our limitations in adulthood, as seen in the death watch of an abusive man by his wife and son. Reading about outdoor/indoor gave me the idea of reaching past the stage into possibilities for both son & mother that wait for them after the man’s death. There are already musical off-stage voices, but I now look for how to extend both the mother and son by being heard off stage , looking out windows, opening doors, as they try to escape where life has restricted them at the moment.
Then props. I’d written in the father’s violin as shortcut to a lot of his history. Obviously a prop to look at, especially one connected with a character who keeps his family in its particular status. What more work could it do besides telling us the father is a musician? And so the violin becomes an animate thing to the son and his sibs when they were children, and is still a way of knowing if their father were home by its presence or absence.
Also, like many abusers, this father is charming. In other words, Voice is a significant aspect. The violin’s song. The father’s song. The choice of melody played, in this case, one that’s initially playful but has minor tones in it, suggesting something darker even though pizzicatto. Lastly, holding the violin, aligns any character with the father.
These are more than, Far Out, Man, devices. Signifying the violin and being aware of the expansion or compression of space both give another tool when developing the plot. I get stuck, I ask myself where all the characters are, where should they be, and of course, where’s the blasted violin?
As alluded to above, there were two characters whom I always wonder – are they needed? They were in a first scene at the son’s house, one as the mother’s foil and the other as the son’s ally. But were they needed for the rest of the play and if not, why introduce them at all?
But a Doodle Nurse moment collided with a reading section on how silent observers could change what would be a sombre moment into a comedic one. I’ve had this lifelong fascination with witnessing for people during anonymous but significant life events. It made sense that the witnessing of any intense moments in a play could change the quality of those moments, and in other directions besides comedic.
I then wrote an argument between mother and son that digresses through a momentary crumble in the mother’s cognition, but ends in a loving moment. Quite a complicated emotional nosedive, but having it witnessed, allowed me to stop the action and give the audience time to assimilate what happened. I did this by having the son and his ally exit, leaving the mother and her foil alone in an awkward silence, followed by an exchange between the two women that furthers understanding of the mother.
So this play that started as static – a mother and son changing their relationship by sitting a death watch – gets energised via trying to keep a frenetic but recuperating puppy from being energised in my own life.
Beyond all that I’ve learned about writing plays, I think I’ll slow down my technical reading in future, let things simmer more. My only complaint is no 3D people to discuss this with!