happy endings, truth and other ponderables

This entry at Smart Bitches about why happy endings are considered inferior has reminded me of the struggle I’m having with The Movie, and I thought I’d repost something I wrote in another blog here.

My subconscious is working on the movie even when I’m not actively thinking about it.

Case in point: This morning I was lying in that half-awake/half-asleep state I get when I wake up before the alarm clock goes off, and two things occurred to me. The first was that the last scene of the movie should be James Schuyler trying to write that (ultimately unfinished) poem about Bill after his death: we’ll see him typing then X-ing out lines (I know he typed them and I know he X-ed ed lines he decided against as I have photocopies of the drafts, and how cool is that?) and finally removing the paper from the typewriter, putting it aside, and leaving the room. So the last shot will be that empty typewriter.

Which leads to the second realization I had this morning, that empty spaces will be a reoccurring theme in this story. I’ve been struggling with the fact that Bill’s life was ultimately a sad one, as I know I’ve mentioned before how hard it is to write something that’s ultimately a downer. But I’ve also realized that while a happy ending would be nice, it wouldn’t be true, and the important thing here is what’s true. I’ve said it to Helen too, that it’s a serious business, writing about someone’s life, and I’d rather be truthful than anything else.

So that will mean dealing with the empty spaces of Bill’s life, and the disappointments, and the dark side of his character—and there was a dark side, he was a very angry man for the last decade or so of his life. (Bill was, I believe, a disappointed idealist. That would piss off anybody.) But I think that ultimately that will tell the better story, and that’s what’s most important.

I made a list of all the empty spaces I know of so far, and I think—while I want the first scene to be Bill on a boat, probably coming back to the U.S. from Italy after he and James broke up—an early scene, probably third or fourth, will need to be when his papers were seized when he reentered the country. So, something like: the empty space of horizon over the ocean, then a war flashback (explosions, cries of pain, dust and too-bright sunshine), then the papers-being-seized incident with an empty briefcase/attache case—to establish from the get-go that this is not the story of triumph. And also to explain why none of Bill’s poetry is extant. *sighs*

(I want to use voiceovers. That worries me a bit: voiceovers are often cheesy. But I want to use James’s poetry and Bill’s letters, and I can’t see another way of really doing that without voiceovers. Gah. Structure. *bangs head*)

I don’t know if I’m quite ready to start writing—I still want to read a Schuyler biography before I get into the thick of it—but I feel like I’m a lot closer than I was. Of course, it’s easy to get distracted by research and that a trap I’d like to avoid. The bigger picture of history doesn’t worry me that much—Helen’s the historian, she’ll steer me to the right places for the big events—but I do worry about the little things. I feel I can write confidently about the Regency period, and even the medieval/Renaissance period to a degree, but the first half of the 20th century? Not so much. Still, there comes a point when you’ve read all the books and looked at all the pictures, and it’s time to seize the pen.

And I’ll tell you something else: I’ve certainly daydreamed about this actually being made in an “ain’t it cool!” kind of way, but today’s the first time I’ve really felt not only can I write this puppy but I could really make it into something extraordinary. And then who knows what will happen. :smile:

Originally published at JennaJones.com. You can comment here or there.

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