Friday, July 27, 2007

WOW Day 4

Audio clips for Day 4 were the opening segment of TUMBLEWEED ROUNDUP by Great Northern Audio Theatre (out of Minnesota, I believe) and an excerpt of ISLAND OF DR MOREAU, performed live by WRW as part of OPB's Livewire show. Both had a lot going on in them sonically plus potential for listener confusion. TUMBLEWEED suffered from some mixing problems, so it was harder to hear and felt almost too much, but still fun cinematic-style old western. MOREAU was a great example of what you can do with live sound effects, the power of good direction, sound design & ensemble work. We talked about the strength of a big sonic hook at the top of MOREAU, and the impact of layered sound.

Next, we finished sharing descriptions of protagonists, opening dilemmas and conclusions. The variety and creativity of the pieces inspired a lot of rich conversation and questions. We wondered about techniques for conveying a character who is pure energy - ways she could communicate sonically. We talked about the importance of having a clear vision in the author's head when something will be hinted at but never directly shared with the audience. We examined listener's point of view - which character is our "in" to the story? How does point of view impact the listener's perception of whose story this is? We discussed how plot can affect and be informed by tone. Is your piece dark drama, light comedy, dark comedy? (In Shakespeare's day, "comical-tragical, tragical-pastoral" etc.). Several pieces will use flashback-style scenes to convey memories or information, the show-don't-tell of audio. We asked one another questions about character motivations. "How" and "why" were popular questions.

We closed with some discussion of the writing process. How do you approach building your plot? Some of us use a fairly organic process, starting with an idea, then unfolding it or writing it out or following it where it takes us. I voiced my need to strengthen my plot skills as a reason for approaching the topic of plot in a more intentional and analytical manner. One author suggested mind-mapping (some know this as making a web). Begin with a sentence - perhaps a central idea or event or character. Then ask "Why?" ("how" would also work). Write your answer. Ask "why" again. etc. (Rinse, lather, repeat). Another author talked about writing towards a feeling or emotional response, rather than towards a predetermined ending. Look at the big picture, then zoom in like a microscope. Someone else liked having a simple, clean through line, and viewing character and relationship as the ornamentation, like a christmas tree. I floated the idea of storyboarding as a tool. What pictures do you want your audience to have in their mind's eye?

As a parting gift for anyone who might need it, I shared following exercise:

1-Write out the key events in your story as sentences.
Each sentence should include the main character.
Follow the structure of person + action + thing acted on.
The verb in each sentence should show action.

2-Put each event sentence on a notecard or slip of paper.

3-Draw a graphic representation of the plot structure you plan to follow.

4-Arrange your event sentences on the graphic.

For next week, we'll be turning in character breakdowns with descriptions (remember, its audio - "Blonde, tall and buxom" is not an audio description) for casting purposes, and sharing sample scenes from our scripts, with our burning questions.

Tune in next week!

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