Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tinker Mountain: Day 2

The reading last night. Thorpe Moeckel read several new poems, from his book that is due out later this year, and also several from his first book, Odd Botany. Then Jim McKean read a poem and also a couple of short essays, one unpublished and one from the current issue of Iowa Review. Both were wonderful.

This morning our craft lecture was "Guns, Guns, Guns" by Pinckney Benedict. The lesson to take away is that getting the details right is important and so many of us write about guns (and other things) without knowing what we're talking about. So we learned something about calibre and materials, the actual affect kevlar vests has on bullets (and what it might feel like if you were hit), how tasers work, etc. All good preparation for our trip to the shooting range on Friday. I think some people stayed away because they are morally opposed to guns. While I agree, guns are reality and it's going to pay in the long run to be able to write about them. Very interesting.

In workshop this afternoon, we watched the opening of "Fargo." The main thing we focused on was how much information was conveyed within a very short period of time and very little dialogue, and we considered how much of the action might have appeared in the script. Hilarious stuff. Then we saw the opening of "The Squid and the Whale" to observe some of the same things, the great economy with which information is conveyed, but also the reinforcement of that information through various devices--repetition of the word "dense," the son imitating his father, etc. Some people have commented that they're interested in my "notes" on our viewing yesterday of the opening of "Little Miss Sunshine" but there really isn't much to say, except that the opening, which showed each of the main characters, revealed so much about each of them in a "defining action," in a way that set up the premise of the story brilliantly. And then the very next scene which is the family having dinner, in which some characters are trying to get information and some are trying to withhold information, creating an exquisite tension. The effect being that we learn so much about what each of the characters want, and that's the lesson for us.

In workshop my nascent screenplay was discussed today and I continue to learn a great deal. Since I'm adapting one of my own stories, I included too much narrative and also included information that the audience can't know, so I have to figure out how to work that into the dialogue or action or decide it isn't necessary. But other wise my premise seems to work and that was encouraging. I think I'm going to stick primarily to fiction, though, and maybe work on the screenplay on the side. It's a far more different animal than I realized!

Tonight is the "student" reading. I'll attend but I'm not reading.


jessica said...

Good comments on the movies, Cliff - thanks. Reinforces what I teach, which is that "tease" and "exposition," or introducing the main characters in setting and then revealing their primary motivation/s is the function of Act I.

Sometimes I think I just make this crap up, but I did learn it somewhere, so seeing (reading) you reinforcing it makes me feel better.

Jessie Carty said...

Wow! Really interesting conference material. I like how you noted about your own piece you are adapting. I find I often aske people w/ my poems to explain the narrative to me since it is in my head I want to see if the audience actually understands the events taking place.