Tag Archives: stream of consciousness

My Cats Live in an Action Movie


What is it like to be a house cat? We will probably never know, any more than we can know what it’s like to be a bat, or a beetle, or an elephant. Yet for whatever reason, some of us allow them to live in our homes with us, as if this isn’t a disruption in the natural order of things.

Cats are not meant to live indoors. They cannot be controlled or tamed or broken. Every cat has an insatiable need to run and hunt and play and do things it can never fully experience in your living room, no matter how many dangly toys or how much catnip you keep on hand.

Every cat is a Walter Mitty in its own mind.

And my cats live in an action movie.

Let me paint a picture for you:

Every night, they go off into exile. (The cats have a habit of jumping on the bed and pawing or licking my wife’s face, which wakes her up, so … nope.) They do not like it in exile. So they wait.

They know not exactly when their keepers will return, but they know we will come just before the sun. So they bide their time and gather their strength, until that critical moment, when — through the walls — they hear my feet hit the floor.

They know my pattern. They know what I must do when I first rise. I will leave the bedroom, go to the kitchen for a glass of water, collect the clothes by the stairs, head downstairs to the bathroom, then suit up for the day. All this I will do alone. All this, I will do while groggy and disoriented.

This is their moment.

They position themselves strategically: behind furniture, around corners, under chairs.

The door opens.

And as I pass, they dart into my path, weaving around my plodding feet like rebel speeders through the legs of an imperial AT-AT. They know that if they time it just right, they can do the unthinkable: they can bring me down. (Bonus points, apparently, if they get me going down the stairs — this is their favorite place to attack.)

They didn’t get me this morning.

But the Empire cannot keep them down forever.

ATAT

So they will pretend to be my friends again until tomorrow morning, when they attack again.

attackatdawn

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.

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The Doors of “Frozen”: Subconscious Storytelling At Its Best


You know that song from the opening third of Frozen? Princess Anna has just met Prince Hans (who she doesn’t yet know is a scheming sharknadobag) and starts singing. And because it’s a Disney musical, of course Prince Hans is ready to start singing right along with her. And dancing. Okay, I’m not here to kvetch about the willful suspension of disbelief; we’re talking about a fantasy story with talking snowmen and ice-casting princesses. (And don’t forget about the rock turds. I mean trolls. Even though they’re turds. For some reason I hate those things.)

Nope, today it’s the extended metaphor of doors. “Love is an open door,” Anna and Hans sing, and somehow I didn’t catch it on first viewing, but the movie is shot through with the door metaphor.

After Anna is injured, the parents separate the sisters by giving them separate rooms; and Elsa’s door is locked. After the parents die and Anna and Elsa are left alone, the door remains closed and Anna lingers outside it. She could just open it and talk to her sister, but she doesn’t — the door has become its own barrier, symbolic of the growing divide between them. In her very next song, Anna sings about opening up the gates of the castle, and how long it’s been since that happened.

Then, of course, it’s “love is an open door”, and we’re on to the second half of the movie, where Anna follows her sister into the wilderness only to find she’s built herself a totally badass ice castle, but she hesitates right on the threshold of — the giant ice door. (Quoth the snowman: “why doesn’t she knock? Do you think she knows how to knock?”) The doors in the ice castle are massive, but Elsa can open them with just a thought — they really are simply barriers of the mind, not the impenetrable barriers Anna takes them for.

The final third of the movie finds both the sisters trapped by the now-evil Prince Hans: Elsa in a dungeon, Anna in a sumptuous castle bedroom. Of course, both cells feature locked doors the princesses cannot escape. How will they overcome their captivity? Elsa channels a bit of power and counters the locked door with an exploded window, while Anna gets rescued by her childhood snowman, who picks the lock with his disembodied nose. It’s a funny moment, but viewed another way, Olaf the snowman seems like the purest manifestation of love in the story, so of course he can open any door he encounters. (Think back: “why doesn’t she just knock?” Doors are not a problem for him.)

The movie ends with the sisters reunited and committed to tearing down the barriers between them (blah blah an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart blah). And how does the movie end? With Elsa vowing that the gates will forever remain open. Probably not the greatest policy in terms of security, but for symbolic significance between the sisters, it’s as rich as it gets.

So I guess it should shock nobody that Disney knows how to give good story, but the extended metaphor of the door in Frozen shows how story elements can function behind the scenes to do subconscious work on an audience.

AnnaDoor

This mini-essay is a part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday. This week’s prompt: “door”.


Thunderstruck


When you hear something that matters, you know it. It’s a shock to the system, 1.21 gigawatts right down the ol’ fluxcapacitor. You feel supercharged, empowered, motivated.

I’m working my way through Save the Cat!, (something in me rebels against punctuating a comma right after an exclamation, but Save the Cat! is the title, so there you are), a tiny tome — giddy guidebook, prognosticating pamphlet — on screenplay writing.

Which is to say, on story writing. Snyder focuses on film, but film is just one storytelling medium among multitudes, and I’ve yet to see anything in the book that wouldn’t fly for novels, plays, games, perhaps roleplay with that special someone. It’s all gold, and I’m only 40 pages in.

The book is less bespectacled-professor-reading-from-a-musty-tome and more Morpheus-pulling-back-the-veil-of-reality. “Here’s a story,” the book says. “Look at it, see it, yes, it’s about these things, sure. But look closer. Strip away the trappings and look at what it is behind the mask.” Rather in the vein of Campbell’s monomyth, or Booker’s Seven Basic Plots, Save the Cat! is about archetyping, codifying, categorizing. Once you know the categories and the tropes that your story plays to, you can then maneuver more expertly within them; becoming the Han Solo to your own personal Kessel run.

Anyway. I’m finding it useful to take it just a few pages per day, so that I can marinate on the chapter I’ve just read without getting inundated trying to process too much at once (which is my fancy way of saying it’s my toilet reader of the moment). And today’s pages were all about making sure that your protagonist is the right kind of protagonist for your story.

Ka-BLAM. Thunderbolts and lightning (very very frightening [and yeah, that lyric has always bothered me, THUNDER DOESN’T COME IN BOLTS]). Just like that, I see why my trunked novel failed — my protagonist was all wrong. Or rather, all wrong for that story. The realization was like opening up a corpse for the autopsy and finding the spleen where the heart should be, the lungs crammed in behind the bladder, the leg-bone connected to the neck-bone.

Right pieces, wrong arrangement.

And while the current project isn’t exactly a stunning specimen of anatomical narrative perfection, it seems like most of the current appendages are at least in reasonable places for the phylum. Whether that’s by accident or because I grew a little between novel #2 and #3 is for fate to decide, but needless to say, this story doesn’t feel broken the way the last one did.

All of which is to say that I heartily endorse this book, as I’ve mentioned at least once before.

Save the Cat, read this book.

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday. I misread the prompt, but by the time I went back, I didn’t feel like starting over, so rather than getting a word that starts with “oc”, you get a word that contains “oc”. Deal with it!


Progress, Quantified


So here’s what’s going on with my current project:

It’s a Superhero story (I’m currently reading Save the Cat, which, if you haven’t read it as a writer, I can only encourage you to pick it up right away, even if you’re not writing screenplays) about a guy in a family of supers who has no powers himself. So he’s a little jaded. When he finally develops an ability of his own, he quickly finds himself at the top of the food chain and sets about a plan to wipe out supers forever.

It’s an idea I love that I kicked around in the ol’ brain for a good couple years before I wrote the first words, and once I did start writing it, it really took on a life of its own, as they say. Lots of twists and turns grew organically out of the thing, which is just one of the measures I use to tell me when an idea is worth pursuing.

And now, as I find myself neck-deep in rewrites and edits, the story is growing out of control like a Mogwai tossed in the deep end of the pool. Every day or two, I have an idea for something I want to add to the story, some twist to throw in the road. Every time I re-read something, the characters seem to be speaking to me: that doesn’t make sense, I should be doing THIS instead.

Gremmy

Playing whack-a-mole with ideas like this is frustrating: obviously not everything that springs to mind can make it to the page. Every widget you add over here throws things out of balance over there, and if you’re not careful, the story will go to pieces trying to accomodate everything. But it’s also encouraging, because it makes every writing session exciting. Every page is Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.

So every day is taxing work — pruning here, shaping here, splicing here, all without end — but it’s also fulfilling and of late, it’s actually been enjoyable. Like I wrote yesterday, the words are coming easier and faster of late. Given the loggerheads I was at with my other project, I’m taking all this as just another sign I’m on the right path, moving in the right direction.

Maybe I’ll even set a deadline, soon.

(I haven’t given myself a deadline in over a year.)

*flies into panic*

*jumps out the window*

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday. Today’s prompt was “the 6th, 7th, and 8th word of the page of the nearest publication. That happened to be “at the top”, from my current read, Otherworld, by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller.


Welcome to Christmas 2017!


*Announcer voice*

Are you ready to make some bad decisions?

Welcome to The Holidays ™ 2017, a time of year when things are destined to go badly, and maybe even catastrophically so, in a year when things have already gone badly, maybe even catastrophically so. It’s been a year of shredded dignity, metaphorical slaps to the face, general disillusionment about the world we thought we lived in, and some good ol’ run-of-the-mill human evil, soooo —

Let’s bring it all to a head by surrounding ourselves with fatty foods, last-minute shopping surges fighting the slow encroaching crush of humanity at your local consumer shrines, relatives you only see once a year for damn good reasons that you somehow forget about in the intervening year, and top it off with some crippling debt!

During this 3- to 14-day span, yule definitely make some decisions you regret, including but not limited to:

  • Ingesting three times your usual daily caloric intake (bonus points if you get it done in one sitting), and then reaching for another piece of pie anyway!
  • Rushing out “for just a minute” to the store to get that one last gift you forgot, or that ingredient you were sure you had in the pantry, only to get caught in traffic for half an hour. When you get to the store, it goes without saying that they won’t have the thing you need, which — after a brief fit of catatonic rage — will have you either repeating the process or going home in a right proper tizzy, ready to snap at loved ones who only wanted to bake you a pie.
  • Getting dragged into a “discussion” with that one family member about the politics of the year. Politics are always toxic talk at family gatherings, and doubly so this year. If you must get involved, try to do so during a course where nobody has a knife.
  • Hearing somebody say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” and doing or saying anything other than a reciprocation or a thank you.
  • Putting a purchase on the emergency credit card — no, not that one, the OTHER emergency card, the one for real bona fide emergencies — because you’re not sure how much money you have left and the first emergency card might already be maxed out, you’re not sure, let’s just be safe.
  • Anything involving fruit cake.
  • Somehow failing to deliver on even the tiniest of promises to yourself vis-a-vis exercise, hobbies, or the nebulous idea of “me-time” despite days where your actual obligations are so few and far between, you could sail barges in between them sideways.
  • Reaching for another piece of pie because everything’s in the ditch already, why not splash around in the mud a bit?
  • And more —

And, finally, don’t forget to wash it all down with a huge helping of guilt and bad juju when you come to your senses and realize what an absolute jackass you’ve been. You’re going to feel like hell by the end of it, so why not enjoy the ride?

Remember:

Christmas comes but once a year, but the mistakes you make now can last all year.

xmasbingo

via Imgur.

*Turns off announcer voice*

Seriously. Take care of yourself this Christmas. Breathe. Make like Elsa and Let It Go.

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.


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