Scary Stories 3, One Hundred Candles, is now in review prior to publication!
That was a particularly fun one, since it has its genesis awhile ago, as I mentioned, and then was re-purposed several times, and actually shot a couple of times as a short film, which of course it was designed to be.
However, the Poe-style prose certainly lends the story a little more atmosphere, and I think it turned out very nicely indeed.
People who write a lot tend to agree that it's easier to write something that's longer than shorter.
The people who design and produce 30-second TV commercials have to use readily available icons and symbols to help the viewer understand what they're seeing more quickly and cleanly than in a longer form.
So it's not really like poetry, which it's been compared to, since poetry can stand, and should encourage, multiple readings, each one adding nuance and shading to the cumulative effect of the poetry on the reader, while a TV spot has to give it all up at once and first time out.
So, different animals, really.
Having been brought up in the rigors of the TV commercial, writing short stories and making short films is a relative pleasure, because, unlike TVC's, these are capable of being viewed many times, and so allow for more nuance and depth and general satisfaction for all.
Mostly mine, right? I'd hope so, some of these stories have been with me for over 40 years.
By which I mean, and this is quite important, that for me, a story is first and foremost a verbal affair.
For me, the heart and soul of a story is that it is a live communication.
How can a screenplay or a film be a live communication?
Well, let me put it to you this way:
When I get something of an idea, or an inspiration or a moment, the first thing I do is to write it down in my 'snapshot' format, usually on an index card, but it could be anything.
This is the fastest way to 'freeze-dry' the moment of the genesis of the story, and I've found that to be very important for later on.
Then I get on with my day, confident that later on I can come back to my snapshots and recall through them that fleeting moment of first inspiration.
Next comes a period of reflection and construction.
I'll take various snapshots and try to combine them. Sometimes consciously, mostly not.
Sometimes I'll be working on something totally different and then two snapshots that were in the back of my mind suddenly coalesce and demand time to be written down.
So that synergistic moment also gets snapshot, since, remember, I still have to get back to that something totally different that I was working on, usually the thing paying my rent at the time.
Finally, I'll have something of a story. But more like a logline.
And from that point onwards, I'm telling the story. To anybody who will listen. Mainly to friends, but not always.
I'll try to tell the story at least twenty to thirty times, at different times, to different people, before I actually start writing the story itself.
That's because I'm making it up as I go along, kinda sorta. More accurately, I'm playing to the audience, working the room, seeing which parts of the story sound cool, which are lead balloons, which parts flow right along, and which parts bring the story to a standstill.
After a while of doing this, I'll find myself repeating just the good bits, and if I still get good reactions to them over several different audience members, I'll try telling the entire story to people I do not know, and if they receive it well, then my story is complete and I can then start writing it.
I know, weird, isn't it?
Well that's the way I used to do it at school. Term after term, semester after semester, we'd tell and be told story after story. Some worked great. Others fell flat. Mostly they were great in some areas, and flat in others. One would sense the room (at that time the dormitory) and be able to tell the quality of the story and how it was received, just by noting reactions, or lack of reactions, from the audience.
This is showmanship 101, my friends. Without this, writing for me becomes a very difficult and largely thankless task.
After I've had the nod from over 50 independent listeners, I can take with a grain of salt the self-serving "story notes" a Hollywood producer might make, and can balance that worthy's opinions with a force of my own, better than if it were just one on one, and he's paying the bills.
Also, after I've had the nod on what would be my first draft, but it's been re-written practically 30-40 times already, then I can get stuck in with the details to make what I know already works, work better. The stuff that doesn't work has already been weeded out, long gone.
I once heard it said that a person who thinks their novel is complete after one single draft needs to get their head inspected.
I mean, think about it. In a first draft, you're basically saying: Hello all, here's my universe. And here's my time period. And in this universe, which works like this, there's a solar system that looks roughly like this. And in that solar system, there's a planet, upon which there are continents, and on this continent there's a country, and in this part of the town there's a neighborhood and a street and a house and a community of people and a person.
And this is what happens to that person.
Now, that's a lot, for a first draft.
Do you honestly expect to get the color of all the napkins and the weave of the wool sweaters exactly right, first time, as well?
I tend to agree.
So. What lies ahead?
SS4: My Best Friend - another short film about a suicidal young woman whose life is saved by her best friend - only she can't remember exactly who that friend actually is.
SS5: Muse - a tragedy, alas, when a gifted commercial artist gets his one and only wish - to be visited by his personal muse and through her to create the ultimate piece of art.
SS6: The Shoot - a quirky story about a film crew on a music video shoot that discovers a terrible spirit, only seen through edits in their daily footage.
More as it comes out!