Friday, November 6, 2015

Straying South -- the outline

I've been rolling this around in my head for a while and decided to put it down on paper.  The general outline for the novel (Northern Latitudes) has been in my mind for decades now, but only recently did I decide that the scenes set in the apartment(s) where Jonathan and April and Shelly live could have a life of their own as a stand-alone play.  Now some scenes that would more naturally take place somewhere else need to be shoehorned in, just to advance the plot, but there are quite a few things that would be off-stage in the play but would be fleshed out in the novel.  At least that's how I think things would work.

In any case, it should be obvious there are going to be SPOILERS all over the place, but in my limited experience so far, if I stick a progress bar on this post and keep track of how many of these scenes I've actually written, I am going to be far more motivated into finishing this.  If this actually works (and I think it will), then I'll do the same thing for the chapters of the novel.  (Needless to say, many chapters will simply be reworked from the scenes from the play, but there will be more detail in the novel, and numerous settings.)  It also seems that naturally this would be close to 2 hour play, but I have to edit it down to make it 90 minutes or ideally closer to 80.  That might be tough, since most of these are going to naturally be close to 10 minutes, though I suppose they don't have to be.  It's just that most scenes do work out about that long.

Act I - Scene I: the wedding.  One of Jonathan's co-worker's is best man (torn between Julien and Daniel -- maybe save Julien for the somewhat skeevy employer that pops up later?).  The immigration officer (Helen?) pops up and makes it clear she has an eye on Jonathan and Shelly.

Scene II: Jonathan tries to put the moves on his girlfriend, after the honeymoon.  I guess she breaks up with him since he has no real character.  Need to make sure this scene works, or if it gets merged into Scene III in a somewhat confusing scene with people working and talking at cross-purposes.

Scene III: Daniel comes over with bad news slightly later: Jonathan has been fired.  Helen should probably pop up towards the end, almost catching Jonathan in what she thinks is compromising position.

Scene IV: Focus on April and Shelly.  Mention that Jonathan is off on a trip to BC.  Read a postcard from him.

Scene V: Jonathan's return.  Agrees to watch apartment (and cat? -- maybe just in novel).

Scene VI: the Straying South fragment

Scene VII: one more transition scene? (where Helen starts to figure things out and nearly gets April to spill the beans)

Scene VIII: the Job Seekers fragment

Scene IX: Jonathan has a new love interest, but a fragile one.  Helen comes over and scares her off, then basically kidnaps Jonathan to end the play.

The main thing would be if I want to discuss that Shelly decides she wants a baby.  In the novel, that would probably fit best between VIII and IX.  Actually I could have Shelly blurt it out in Scene VII to throw Helen off track (and definitely upsetting April) but Shelly realizes that this is actually something she wants.  Then she could bring it up after VIII (a natural transition since Jonathan is totally chafed from the job he gets as a consequence of Scene VIII).  What I probably wouldn't do would be to go all the way in Scene IX where Helen actually makes him provide a semen sample (while watching).  That could be reserved for the novel.  Some things are just a bit much, even for the Fringe.

So assuming I go with that short scene about telling Jonathan that she does want a baby (and he thinks she means doing it the natural way...), that is essentially 10 8 scenes with 2 already written.  That is a pretty solid show (I think so anyway).

Here is my progress bar:

Straying South: scenes written
25%

For some crazy reason I am reminded of the Blues Brothers:
Elwood: It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses.
Jake: Hit it.

And so I shall.

Edit: 10 scenes is just too many, both in terms of audience engagement, but especially with the lights down/lights up and resetting the actors.  That really won't work in a 90 minute time frame (the very longest a show can run at the Fringe).   But I also agree that working within limits can actually make plays (or other literary forms) stronger.  No question I have often thought plays should be edited down, and here's my own chance.  Since this is primarily a comedy (with bits of crunchy seriousness included), it will only gain comic power through pushing incongruous events and characters together, leading to close calls where people who are supposed to stay apart just miss meeting.  On the other hand, it isn't a farce, so I don't want to push this too far.  Still, I think Scenes II and III can be combined, and really Scenes IV and V.  They can be reading the postcard while he walks in the door.  That means I am actually 25% done.  Woo-hoo!

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