I saw man of Steel the other night (no spoilers, don’t worry), and other than the fact that it felt like it wanted to be a videogame instead of a film, the biggest disappointment was how much I liked the character of Superman (to my immeasurable surprise), and how much the film was nowhere near as interested as I was in having him be the absolute centre of attention.
Part of it was to do with pacing; it seemed like it was trying not to be an origin story, which is fair enough, because origin stories can be pretty dull, but the fact is that it was an origin story, and trying to be something it wasn’t ended up making it feel really rough. Looking back on it now, I would say that all of the pieces were there for a really fantastic, character-driven Superman story, but arranged in the wrong order, with the focus going elsewhere a lot of the time and thus undermining this one really stellar aspect of it, the one I most wanted to work and was afraid it wouldn’t – and it didn’t, and it most certainly could have; it could have been the thing that drove the whole film, and instead merely ended up as the thing that should have driven the whole film. Maybe the creators got scared because it’s Superman; maybe the production was troubled, maybe Zack Snyder just shouldn’t have directed (for my money, I’d say the first and third are most likely). But whatever the case, it felt like a pretty fantastic first draft, and it should have gone back for editing.
I’ve been facing the same issue tonight in terms of pacing, writing up that proposal for draft 2 only using what I’ve already written to try and create a coherent narrative. I thought I had the right idea, but upon close inspection (and wanting to do as good a job as I can, restricted as I am by the limitations of only being able to use material I’ve already written to fill in any gaps that might open up) I realised that, actually, something else seemed much more intuitive, but there were so many options for how it could go that I ended up creating a whole new Word document just to work it out. It’s been rewarding, but also difficult, to the point where I gave up about three hours ago and started looking for pictures of actors who I think look somewhat like my characters, just to have references, and also to procrastinate. I have to say, Robin Wright and Evan Rachel Wood go really well together as a mother/daughter pair, which I felt very validated to discover indeed. I think I’ll send them the script tomorrow.
Speaking of which, whenever I imagine actors playing the characters in any of my books, I start to think more critically about the dialogue, the interactions, the dynamics at play. This is because I tend to cast actors who I really admire, and also, as an actor, and as a film-goer who has seen far too many really talented actors (particularly actresses) stuck in roles that don’t challenge them in any regard whatsoever drives me insane, and I start feeling that if I were to turn Tallulah into a script, there might be a real danger of that happening, which I would never be able to forgive myself for. And yes, this is an utterly ridiculous thing to get worked-up over, but aside from the consequences of my over-active imagination, it’s quite a good mental exercise in terms of looking at how the dialogue and character interactions work, because giving them to good actors makes me want it to be better. Getting far too upset about it is just because I’m a neurotic freak; that part’s optional.
I mean not for me, but for normal people.
So yeah, it’s been a pretty lax day. And I think that’s okay. I think I’m still recovering from the intensity of last week’s three-day readthrough, the high from which I am missing now, but I’m glad it happened. It was a galvanising moment that did its job and has had a lasting effect; that overarching sense of the draft’s continuity has remained, so that’s good, and what I did manage to write tonight was very generative. It’s presented new problems to be tackled, and I’m tackling them – it’s just taking longer than I’d anticipated. But it always does, when you have absolutely no clue how to do what you’re trying to do. And that’s fine. That’s part of the fun of self-directed learning.
University stuff is pretty much all done, just gotta work out whether I apply for a student allowance, be accepted into the programme I applied for and talk to the graduate adviser, and then in four weeks I’m going back to grown-up school. I’m going to try and make the most of it. I’m going to approach it as though I’m never going to study again, which, to be honest, is almost certainly the case. I want to look back on this in ten years’ time and feel like I pushed myself as hard as I could. And given that I’ll be studying full-time, writing a novel and quite possibly going back to the gym, if I do push as hard as I can, the results should be pretty fantastic.
Though at the same time, I don’t want to make impossible goals for myself. And I haven’t even been accepted back yet. So we’ll see how it goes. But I am looking forward to it. Plus I’ll actually have money to be able to go do stuff, which is pretty nice to have.
And even though it’s going slower than I’d like, this thing is getting written, and that’s all that matters. I’m counting it as having been a year since I started writing; it’s certainly a year since I started writing in earnest, and it is that sense of earnestness that has come to define my experience of writing Tallulah. I aim to keep it up.