Saturday, January 19, 2013

Another Long Reach for a Short Joke

One thing you can do in written comedy you find harder to do on stage is to have scenes like today's play out. It would interrupt the flow of a film to suddenly have a flashback that does nothing more but define relationships between characters, especially since it would break up the rather brisk plotting required to keep comedy moving forward. Very little of what's seen here is important in the grand scheme of things, except that it helps show how Christine and Lucy are foils for each other and paints their rival-friendship in a clearer picture. It also brings us back to humanizing Lucy more by showing us the things that we liked about her at the beginning.

Ultimately, a lot of the jokes feel kind of flat, and frankly, I feel like I've written their conversation poorly. I can write conversations fairly well, but I feel a bit out of my element here. Do women actually talk to each other like this? I don't know; I'd assume so. Put downs and jokey cutting remarks are how men talk with each other in a friendly, bantering way. Then again, people tell me women are different, so I don't know. If the genders were reversed (and we changed Christine's shot about Lucy's figure into an equally degrading shot about a man's figure), would the conversation still flow as well? Would Christine come off significantly more of a jerk for treating Lucy like this than a Chris would for treating a Luke? These are questions I'll never have an answer for; suffice it to say, that from reading this, it should be clear that Lucy and Christine are friends, but Christine is definitely the "fun and down-to-earth" one, while Lucy is the boring one. Which is odd since Lucy wants to work in film while Christine seems to have a boring office job.

The reason this conversation happens here is that it is one I've sketched out for them, but it doesn't fit anywhere else in the flow of events for this story. But, I liked it too much to abandon it entirely. It was actually the first full conversation I plotted out between the two. Initially, I was going to start telling the story from this point, but I felt like Christine wasn't a strong enough character to carry the narrative load. I think she works better as a supporting character rather than a lead; especially since we know nothing about her. I got a real good, intuitive grasp of who Lucy is. But I don't really feel like I have that for Christine, except who she is in relation to Lucy.

The initial story would have been involved complications building out from Christine's prank. Initially, she swapped out Lucy's VHS tapes, and Lucy's parents brought her a DVD player, so Lucy decides to upgrade her movie collection and donates her old tapes to a school or children's hospital. Hilarity ensues. That plot probably would make an excellent short story, but the longer reaching plot involving how Lucy and Sam screw up a charity dinner seemed more challenging to write.

Either or, fiction below the jump, follow the links if you've missed a section. As always, comments welcome.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."
11. Sam ponders important questions.
12. Lucy is a wreck.
13. He has a night job.

* * *

Some women I know, after being humiliated or embarrassed find solace in ice cream. I hate exercising, especially in front of other people. I feel like their judging eyes are watching me, wondering what horrible substances I injected into myself to send me into an unnatural frenzy on the treadmill. Instead, I have always found my happy place in the front row of a new movie, preferably animated. Most people hate the front row because it is hard to see everything; I love it because it makes everything seem bigger than life.

Well, I guess that’s also true in the back row, but I learned about perspective in school and have applied it to my viewing habits. Christine hates that I sit in front of the TV in the apartment. She says it will ruin my eyes; I think she means she’ll claw them out one of these days, but I think I could take her. She’s short. But she is scrappy, so I always lay on the floor and try not to get in her way. Except when she’s drunk, then I make little robot shadow puppets, which she also doesn’t appreciate (or understand.)

Today, though, I was trying to watch the movie, but the fact that I hadn’t had any sleep and been yelled at made it impossible. I also liked to sleep when I was having a bad day. Since tomorrow is another day, I thought that if I slept away all the bad ones, I’d get to the good ones. Either way, whatever the animated lizard was trying to do was beyond my mental capabilities, so I just slept. Then I bought another ticket because I had nowhere to be for 10 more hours and I like the smell of popcorn.

I would try and watch movies with Christine, but she’s a talker. And not a funny talker like my dad. She doesn’t want to talk about the movie; she wants the movie as background noise for social niceties. Plus, she watches chick flicks even when she’s not upset. The contract I have with emotionally manipulative movies is that they only get watched when I feel like I need to cry; she doesn’t even cry most of the time. There’s no catharsis. I asked her about it once.

“It’s socially acceptable pornography,” I tried to explain

“Love Actually isn’t pornography,” She told me.

"Yes it is."

“Oh, what would you know about pornography, little miss innocent.”

“Just like the Supreme Court, I’d know it when I see it,” I said. Which was true.

“So now you want me to believe the Supreme Court is a connoisseur of porn?”

“It’s a quote! It’s famous! You can Google it.”

“I’m not Googling anything about old people and porn Lucy.”

As you can see, discussing anything with Christine is frustrating. I had tried a secondary approach: “Well, if it isn’t pornography, why is there so much sex?”

“They have sex in Lady and the Tramp, is that pornography?”

“Take that back!” It was annoying how she would always try to ruin what’s pure and good. Besides, even in the DVD commentary they acknowledge that it happens off-screen. So, it doesn’t count.

“Just because you studied film doesn’t make you an expert,” Christine said. “Unless your night job is secretly pornography. That would explain why you can’t ever find a boyfriend; no one can compare to the men you work with.”

“Take that back too! I have too much dignity to work in pornography.”

“And not enough boob,” Christine said. I didn’t tell her to take that back. That was just true; mean but true.

“The point is, it is thinly disguised pornography. Like dirty romance novels.”

“That’s just being snobbish,” Christine said. “I think you’re just being stuck up because you think you’re too good for porn. You’ve probably never even watched any.”

“I just have good taste.”

“Oh, so maybe you’ll watch French porn with subtitles?”

“For the last time, Amelie is not porn!” This was a touchy point.

“Neither is Love Actually, then,” She said. Like this was the end of the discussion. “Unless you want to have a compare and contrast movie night.”

“No, thank you,” I said. “I’ve seen enough to last a life time.”

“No you haven’t. You’re just saying that to avoid it. Your study of film won’t be complete until you’ve seen what the common man watches. The only time you’ve ever seen porn was an accident.”

“It’s not my fault! I thought Exotic Films 304 was about foreign films!”

When I came home the next night, Christine had replaced all my Disney DVDs with porn movies. To this day I have never found where she actually hid my 101 Dalmatians. It wasn’t until my parents visited that I noticed she had swapped the diploma I hung on my wall with one she had had made on her computer. It declared me a proud recipient of a B.A. in T&A.

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