This month, a process break-down and some new artwork…
Here are some of the things I worked on in October (and news)— details below…
• Untitled Historical Audio Drama (Audio Drama Mini-Series)
• The Transposition of Chloë Brontë (Audio Drama)
• The Sound of Many Oceans (Play)
• The Birthing Pit (Play)
• The House That Jack Built (Audio Fiction)
• The Alternate Wife (Screenplay)
• How High This Final Tally (Monologue)
Untitled Historical Audio Drama (Audio Drama Mini-Series)
I wrote the first full draft of Episode Two in October, which puts me roughly half-way through the series (I think there are four, one-hour episodes).
Although I have now titled this project, and started toying with the logo (inspired by old school Shakespeare playbills), I am not ready to show any of that yet.
The way the work’s been going— I’ve been rewriting each scene a few times before moving on to a new scene in my outline, then doing more research when I hit a knowledge gap (sometimes the historical record simply says, So-And-So was in Chicago on this date, so for a few drafts I have people simply talking in a void!
Then, to more fully dramatize the scene, I have to discover or invent the nature of the location as well as the era. Surprisingly (to me, anyway) this information is not necessarily indicated in the accepted record.
So writing and research have been a bit like overlapping waves on the shore.
Growing up partway analog and partway digital, I am still using a fusion of both in my writing, and since one of the reasons I started this newsletter was to share process, here’s the pattern I’ve stumbled into for this story—
Story-beats: I jot down real historical moments I want to dramatize in a nonlinear document, like “an event cloud.” It gets messy, sure. I do this on notebook paper.
Outline: I reorganize these events, using chronology as a guide, but I am increasingly discovering I ought to be open to jumbling and compressing the timeline of events within the episodes themselves. Also on notebook paper.
Research: Digging a little deeper into the events, this leads me to learn things I could not have guessed when I started this project, and these revelations alter the scenes or adds characters, or subtracts them, or combines them. At the moment, I’m approaching each scene as a two- or three-hander short play. You’ll see how episodic is, with each of the four main characters moving from scenario to scenario.
Dialogue: Then I start writing dialogue exchanges, dramatizing the scenes in the outline based on the events and my interpretation of the historical figures’ attitudes and beliefs. I do this in writing software, loosely, waiting to format until the rough draft is complete. I like to pretend it’s a Platonic dialogue. Although I used to write first drafts in notebooks, these days it seems I have left that behind.
More Research: Now I fill in the knowledge gaps (no wonder historical pieces have so many continuity issues and anachronisms!) …An example: One of the people I am writing about had two daughters. So far I have only been able to discover the name of the older daughter. Am I going to end up inventing the name of his younger daughter? That doesn’t seem right. And this wasn’t that long ago.
Rewrite: Fill out the scenes, adding behavior, actorly business, character beats.
Once I have the four episodes written, I’ll have a much better idea of reorganizing the structure as well as removing threads that were never pulled, etc etc.
…earlier today, while learning about the discovery of electrons, I think I discovered the final scene of the series…
The Transposition of Chloë Brontë (Audio Drama)
My low-fi sci-fi (sorta) rom-com audio drama The Transposition of Chloë Brontë is a 2022 Audio Verse Awards New Productions Nominee. We find out soon(ish) if the show advances to the finals, in which case my cast and crew will be eligible for individual category honors. Here’s the intro I recorded for the Nominee Showcase.
The Sound of Many Oceans (Play)
They say kill your darlings. They also say beware spurning a writer, for they’ll get revenge in their writing. Well, this deleted snippet from my play The Sound of Many Oceans covers both bases—
I never thought I’d be the sort to write a “comeuppance fantasy,” but apparently I am not above that after all. Self-awareness, dang you. While tightening this play in October, I reluctantly trimmed this section based on my experience in a doctor’s office (might show up in a different story, though). This happened several years back— not the threat at the end, obviously!
Oh wait, they also say write what you know. Three for three!
The Birthing Pit (Play)
Recently discovering the Calling-On Song tradition (a type of song used to introduce sword dances) I thought it would be good to add one to my play The Birthing Pit, my Gothic Romance set at the end of the American Revolutionary War.
This play has a character simply called Singer— they sing shanties, folksongs, and whatnot— such as “Revolutionary Tea” and “Roll the Old Chariot”— the songs are used as a transition device between scenes— songs with thematic and historic vibes of the era— and I think it makes sense for Singer to open the play with an acknowledgement we’re about to enter a story. An invitation, really!
Here’s my rough draft (emphasis on rough):
The House That Jack Built (Audio Fiction)
If you’re in the mood for something semi-creepy, here’s the audio version of my short story The House That Jack Built. I produced this a few years ago, read by me. You can also read the text of the story in the same post, if you prefer.
Here’s the synopsis:
When newlyweds Jack and Liz move into their new house on a small island, a nearly-forgotten arson casts a fiery shadow over their marital bliss— and the strange creature haunting them.
This story contains scenes of fantasy violence.
This story spun out of a short film I wrote and directed of the same name, which aired long ago one Halloween on Wisconsin Public Television— uh, was that 2010?
Who can say.
I’ve also got a few other audio fiction / drama stories you can listen to / read:
The Alternate Wife (Screenplay)
And speaking of marital discord exploding deep inside an eldritch forest— I made this poster for my horror-thriller-romance screenplay The Alternate Wife.
On the eve of divorce, a couple lost in a sinister forest take shelter from a storm beneath a mysterious altar. The next day the husband suspects his wife has been replaced by a fiendish, bloodless duplicate.
How High This Final Tally (Monologue)
Last month this was called Remittance. But after it was rejected from an anthology publication I took another look at it, did another draft, retitled it. Not an uncommon pattern for my revisions.
Christopher Latham Sholes, newspaper publisher and politician, successfully campaigned to end capital punishment in the state of Wisconsin, resulting in the State Assembly passing his Death Penalty Repeal Act on March 9, 1853.
Here’s the current draft:
While researching the origins of Mercury Theatre’s infamous The War of the Worlds broadcast last year, I learned about writer Archibald MacLeish. This research was for an appearance on an episode of Kinescope, a live-stream discussion program about early television, on which I occasionally guested. Us lads chatted about The Night America Trembled, a dramatization of the Mercury Theatre broadcast and the resulting nationwide panic. Hosted by Edward R. Murrow, The Night America Trembled is an episode of the CBS Studio One program.
Well, as I worked on my historical audio drama mini-series in October, I figured it was a good time to read some of MacLeish’s work, since he pioneered a number of radio drama storytelling techniques. So, I jaunted off to the library. Yes, I jaunt.
The Orson Welles connection is this: Welles played the Announcer in the original production of MacLeish’s The Fall of the City in 1937, a year prior The War of the Worlds, and it is believed to be an influence on Welles’ adaptation of H.G. Wells’ alien-invasion. The reasons are obvious if you read the play, but moreso if you listen to it— particularly the breathless, on-the-spot, radio journalist approach.
The Fall of the City is a mix of myth and modernity, telling the story of a resurrected prophet emerging from her tomb to declare—
The city of masterless men
will take a master.
There will be shouting then:
As things descend into authoritarianism, there are some nice moments of dark humor, including the Announcer joyfully crying out, “See now, the children are dancing!” following the conclusion of a demagogue’s harangue.
Both stories involve invasions of a kind— one, ideological— the other, Martian.
Lastly— I voted! Here in LA we have drop boxes positioned at the train stations— that’s the method I use to vote early.
thanks for reading,
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