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  • Shanley McConnell

Academics: A Series of Stained Glass Studies.

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If you reach the third cove on the right side of the library three-flights above brick and granite and scaffolding, you will see a window of stained-glass and light.


I always sit to face it. The crowns and florals tinting books and radiators in violet. It is calm here. I know the archeologist just across, and the researcher just left, and in the stationarymoving of this moment, I feel the glory of a community that reaches out to me.


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Thank you, my friends, my family. I am so grateful for who you are in my life. Thank you for the beautiful birthday wishes; I keep them close.


I am a bit behind on blogging, but, if you'd like to read a little further, I will catch you up to date on this last month, and academic memories-made.


I completed the first two assignments for my University course as of the 14th of December. The first, an essay researched from Alice Oswald's Memorial and Tim Lairdet's 'sinking water, many many sinking water.' These two works are the perfect balance of classic and contemporary; their authors personifying natural things in an effort to examine the nature of things. To be more specific, I believe that Oswald and Liardet succeed in emphasising the interrelations between nature, man, mortality and modernism through their employment of structural, metaphorical, 'old language' images.


And the second, a short-film script. A brilliant assignment, albeit a bit of a risk. I'd never attempted such a task before, but I loved the experience.


In his tutorial for the MSt in Creative Writing Cohort, Jon Evans separated 'the script' into five acts:


act one: the inciting incident - the conflict driving the action forward.


act two: the 'dream-phase' in which characterisations takes precedence.


act three: the frustration wherein forces of antagonism fight back.


act four: the crisis (whether artificial or real, physical or existential, external or internal).


act five: the resolution. the living and dying, the changing and stationary. a closure.


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In follow-up, he provided ten questions for writers (in terms of story-structure).


1. whose story is it?

2. what is their flaw, or need? be it subconscious? conscious?

3. how does the character drive the plot? this, in terms of change.

4. what is the inciting action?

5. are there any characters that oppose/alter this change?

6. what's at stake? especially in the expanse of action, plot, and heart of a story.

7. how do we, as writers, involve the audience's empathy?

8. what does the character have to learn? whether it parallels the moral of the narrative?

9. how and why do they learn it?

10. and the denouement? is it open-ended, complicated? closed?


My friends, he seemed to say, do not micromanage scenes. Let each one come as an overflow of curiosity.

Whether you agree with these questions and the nature of the-five-act script, there is something to be said for the driving force of change. Of visible compromise and commitment.


My assignment for the Creative Writing Course was to draft a self-contained fifteen-to-twenty minute script for a short film in complete structural form. To write a story within the movements of beginning, middle and end. A script that is rich with real character and development.


To give it, at the heart, a bit of truth and reality.

At first, I was unsure how to begin. I remember returning home to stare at a blank sheet of paper, considering the rules of the craft in an attempt to find a narrative, a character - a story I wanted to tell.


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Late-July, mid-August, early-September, Indonesia was on the news; it was as if this place was returning itself to the world map, unwilling and desperate. The Earthquake(s) & Tsunami, their foreshocks and aftershocks, devastated this South-East Country: Asia between to two oceans. I could not let it go; the scenes of nature and ruin and death, it seemed to follow me like a novel finished and still there, lingering, in the back of one's mind. I couldn't move on from it. I wondered why, why this one? The earth was already a welcome-mat for destruction, for suffering and all sorrow?


I carried Indonesia with my for a long while, until it was the setting of my script. I remember ~ I researched Indonesia, searching for a language that might be comparable to my own. I was becoming a translator.


I wanted to know things. Like the history of Indonesia - about the culture and revolution, about the presence of the President, about topography, the religion, this land and its people. There was so much of it, and I read words as windows.


This became the premise of my script; I wanted to talk about the unknowns - why I had never seen an Indonesian film? Or, why it was no longer, as it had been, there on the tips of our tongues, at the top of our prayer?


Daughter of Pancasila is the story of a young, Indonesian woman (21) who begins to confront the grief of her childhood: the loss of her mother in the 1960s, prerequisite to the Indonesian Politicide (1965-1966). This mother, a revolutionary, a reporter - a lover, who joined forces with another three students, University-level and ardent, desperate and flaming in their resolve for freedom - their decision to argue with forces seemingly so far above their reach. Was it as worthwhile as silenced?


Who knew that earthquake would become a catalyst for this?


At first, I was most concerned about the dialogue. It seemed as forced and free as poetry, and I kept it. As a sort of expression. And if, this work was ever to be filmed, there is a note: This work is all to be spoken in Indonesian, subtitled in English. I dreamed the language to be as authentic as its emotion, as present as the setting.


I discovered WriterDuet, a brilliant program with free versions that enable one to focus on the narrative, and I couldn't recommend it more. It formats the action, dialogue, headings, etc. for the writer him or herself. If you are considering script-writing, this is a wonderful tool.


The most challenging part of the project was naming each character. I'd initially written the entire script with nameless characters (to make the story as universal as possible), however, I was encouraged to ground the narrative to specifics. And I am happy it was completed as such.


I loved this project. The coming home late and waking up early to write. The in-between time spent thinking. A lot of creativity is this, I think. Time spent deciding; making decisions that influence readers as much as they affect the characters themselves. These choices - the simple edits; they, like all choices, change you, don't they?


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