Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Stacking the Woodpile

I've been using myself up rather freely of late (said Sherlock Holmes, whom I quote). Creatively, especially. Writing college essays really drains the focus you have for your own projects. I haven't been reading much, averaging less than a book per week since the beginning of the semester. And, of course, I had a lot of work to get through - more essays, naturally.

But, aside from working steadily on Sunday on school/college stuff, I took the time this weekend (a long weekend, because of Veterans' Day) to stack some wood by the fire.*

*This is not a theoretical post in which I talk about what stacking wood by the fire means to me and why it's important. Instead, have some specifics.

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Most important: I went to see the school musical, Curtains. It was quite great.

In a way, knowing all the actors made it less absorbing of an experience, since I snickered to myself every time anyone referred to the character of the conductor (who IRL is the band director) and kept composing haikus to describe the actions of one character played by a good friend (The stage manager/Is a most dependable/Lass. She is quite great).

However: plays are meant to entertain, so I trusted that the story would engage me, would not lose me in intricate metaphysical flights of fancy. Watching a two-act play with the roadmap, the playbill, in hand, gives a good feel for structure. I have no complaints about the pacing of the play, and in fact should probably take the time to do a story bones analysis on it.

Some general comments for now: reprises are immensely useful - recursion, ja? Also effective are nested bookends: for arcs, and for the entire story.

Law of conservation of detail applies in everything, but particularly characters. That's something I need to work on, since I tend to generate huge casts. Someone who is important at the end should be brought up toward the beginning, maybe not in an obvious way.

Red herrings are immensely useful. There's a critical point on the graph of "how much evidence there is that someone did it" v. "how likely it really is that they did it". After a certain point, if someone seems really obvious, then it's probably not them. For what it's worth, the reveal of the killer totally surprised me.

Weaving in multiple character-driven plotlines works in any format, as long as they actually are interwoven. Parallel processing, not series. Important plot moments should also function as important character moments. (I use "should" loosely, of course.)

Confession: I went into the play skeptical, because I suspected a play about actors in a play could get self-indulgent by way of being overly meta. There was a moment in the first act that kind of lost me - the song about critics - but in the end, if the characters are compelling and the music good, then I'm won over. Maybe I'm shallow that way.

Side note: I haven't seen enough plays to verify this, but is it a usual thing for there to be multiple romantic sideplots? Because I feel as though there were a lot of couples in this play, and a lot in other productions my school has put on (though I haven't seen them, just heard about the plots from friends who were acting in those productions). This isn't a criticism, I'm just wondering.

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Curtains was the main event this weekend, but I might as well document the other trees I logged.

Reading:
  • articles from Endicott Studio
  • Atlas of Military History, by Dr. Aaron Ralby
  • symbolism of serpents
  • The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman (currently on page 110 - I'd forgotten how good it is)

Listening:
  • power metal albums (Sonata Arctica's Reckoning Night)
  • my favorite song from Curtains

Coffee Shop Nights - from Curtains


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Some theory, because I can't help myself: this is the best kind of weekend. Choice excursions to fill your brain with stories, afternoon naps, long blocks of solid productive work time. May there be many more.

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