Sunday, February 23, 2003

An Intent to Disturb?

I promised myself that I'd do a book a year, but concepts and plotlines don't follow that schedule. Presently, I have quite a number of concepts for stories that would last me for the next five-plus years, granted that I write them to my satisfaction.

The sticker-label "creator of gay comics" is slowly unrolling across my wide forehead, and most of the story concepts I've thought up do have gay lead characters. But as an artist (and I say this with a shiver), I'd like to present that gay personality in different ways under different circumstances. Most of the stories I've come up with aren't necessarily about gay love or the gay lifestyle.

While Part Two of Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah has yet to be released, my extra brain cells have been mulling over the next solo work meant for late-2003. It's something light-years removed from the vulgar camp of Zsazsa Zaturnnah, or the love angst of One Night In Purgatory. The first time the idea came to me, I got so excited about it that I needed to tell the gang about it.

I refrain from revealing the details of this new story, except for the following: 1) it's set in the future with an 'earth vs. the aliens' backdrop; 2) it's got a gay character in it; 3) it's a quiet drama, and 4) its 'punchline' is disturbing. I can't say why it's disturbing because, well, it's the punchline. It's like telling someone who hasn't watched The Sixth Sense that Bruce Willis' character is actually dead. (If you haven't seen this M. Night Shymalan-megged Oscar-nominated flick, then I apologize.)

So I told the gang about the new story, and I got a flood of comments and questions (mostly from Dean, who's good at unleashing such floods), along with the gasp in reaction to the punchline. Suffice to say that it was disturbing to them, too.

One of the more important questions Dean threw at me concerned intent. Why that story among all stories? I gave the following reasons: 1) I wanted to challenge myself as an artist; 2) I didn't want to just be the "guy who made Zsazsa Zaturnnah," and 3) I found the story to be a great character study. And with those reasons given, they wished me well on this new story. I told them that I'd write the full script, have them read it and, based on their critique, decide whether or not I'll pursue it.

Is artistic maturity enough? Sometime in 1998, I wrote the full script for another story (a superhero murder-mystery drama with shades of sociological commentary) and, after reviewing the script months later, decided that it was too raw. It was pretentious and amateurish in my eyes. I shelved it, realizing that I didn't have the artistic maturity to tell the story the way I had intended it to be told.

Now being 2003, and having a little more experience in storycrafting, I feel that I can tackle this new 'gay sci-fi' tale. But something happened.

On my way home from that meeting with the gang, I thought more about the story, piecing together the narrative elements, character motivations, structure and other technical blah. I knew conceptually that the story's punchline was disturbing, but it was on my way home that night when it really sank into me. I actually felt the weight of it. I became genuinely disturbed.

Any experienced artist is familiar with the 'technique' of their craft. They can create pieces that don't require much from-the-gut artistic input, but are otherwise applauded by the untrained eye. (I fondly call this skill 'automatic writing.') I may have used technique effectively when drawing, but I can't say the same when writing. At some level, I need to generate or simulate the emotions of characters or condition myself into a story's atmosphere/mood to be able to find the right words to use. (This is something I developed in theater and RPG sessions.) Potentially dangerous, I know, which leads me to ask: Am I emotionally mature enough -- effectively detach myself from the characters and their situation -- to go through the process of writing this disturbing new story?

Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. It's something I have to ponder.

Whatever comes out of my reflection, I'd better sift through my storyline reserves for a back-up. Hmmm... I've got a 'political' love piece in here somewhere...

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