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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Plot Line of Humanity

I know what happens in the end. All well-read Christians know what happens in the end. There will be no fancy twists in the plot line. No tension-building conflicts that cause us to adjust our outcome predictions. No flat finales that make us wish we'd not wasted the last two thousand years watching a Jesus flick. No cliffhangers that make us wonder what really happened - did He win or didn't He? The resolution is complete and solid.

If you're a believer, it will be the happiest ending you've ever experienced because it will actually be the beginning. The story of humanity will have just been the prologue.


Prologue is too strong.

It will have just been the back story (the stuff the author knows but leaves out of the real story because it's insignificant - it does nothing to further the real story or add to it).

Today I started thinking about the plot line of humanity. If you've read Daniel, Revelation, Matthew, and some other key scriptures, you already know the plot. The plot takes the problem set forth at the beginning and resolves it. What God began, He will bring to a logical and satisfying conclusion that ties up every plot line - the long and the short.

Let's go back to the beginning, but where is it exactly? Many might say Adam - God created him from dust and breathed life into him. But Adam isn't where the story begins. Adam and Eve and even Noah are the setup. It's the part of the story you have to know to get to where it all begins. It's the "Once upon a time in a village far away, there was a butcher."

But here's where this story truly begins:  "Now this butcher had a fair-haired daughter who turned the head of every man in town, but only Tommy, the village vegetarian, made her cheeks blush."

Okay, got it? Good. So where does the plot line of humanity begin?

Did you say Abraham? If so, then you and I think alike. God promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars. It was through Abraham that God promised two great nations through his first two sons - one through Isaac (Judaism and Christianity) and one through Ishmael (Islam). And it is through the tension and conflict of those two great "nations" that our plot line of humanity takes shape.

So here's my question. If the plot line of humanity begins with Abraham...

and it plays out through the conflict among the descendants and nations of his first two sons...

and the plot takes the problem set forth in the beginning and resolves it (we know, or will know, this to be the return of Jesus)...

what happens in the showdown  - that final conflict in humanity that leads to the resolution of the plot?

Do you ever wonder what process God might use to reconcile the conflict that began with Issac and Ishmael? 

Do you think Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael are the true beginning, or do you think the plot line of humanity begins somewhere else?

*To read the full story of Abraham and the promises God made to him, read Genesis 12 - 18.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Angels and Demons: My Journey to the Big Screen Part 3

On my journey to the big screen, I have discovered the no-fail method to assure screenplay completion: write with a collaborator. But when my writer friend Denise asked me to be her screenwriting partner last December, I wasn't enthused. I remember that night vividly.

We were sitting in my car in the Borders parking lot, and I began spewing a list of projects I was in the middle of. Not for her ears, really, but for my own. I was trying to talk myself out of it, but with every excuse I threw out, my inner voice was giving me a solution.

"My writing program just takes so much of my time." But you only have five assignments left until you're done. "I really need to get focused on my novels." You've been working on those novels for years - will a few months really matter? "There's the writers' group - I can't neglect that." Yeah, that's five hours per month - it would be awful hard to get a screenplay done with only the 715 hours that are left (I hate it when my inner voice throws down the sarcasm).

Fifteen minutes later, Denise and I were shaking hands and discussing a start date. As I got out of the car, the demon on my left shoulder said This is doomed to fail. Why the pessimism? It's a long story, but it boils down to this: I'm a loner.

I'm a writer for goodness sake. "Must be a loner" is on my job description. And I don't just play a loner for some dramatic writer effect (like that time I started drinking coffee because that's what writers are supposed to do - read all about it here: The 40-Year-Old Coffee Virgin). I'm a living, breathing, bona fide loner. I aspire to sell great pieces of writing some day so I can climb the writers' career ladder to reclusive.

What in the world was I thinking - a writing partner? - me? - was I losing my mind?

Salvation snuck through (as salvation often does) in the form of capture. Screenwriting had snared me in the months leading up to this collaboration agreement, and I knew it was time to stop resisting. And the Obi-Wan Kenobi angel on my right shoulder said, May the writing force be with you. Now go, young writer - your destiny awaits. Forgive me. I've been writing a screenplay for the past two months - my writing seems to have naturally drifted into the dramatic. On the screen, that line would have played out beautifully. And yes, I realize I'm not a "young writer," but Obi-Wan likes to flatter me.

So here's our status (and it took us two months meeting two days a week to get here):

  • Our outline is done. In the screenwriting world your outline is your boards. The picture at the top is of our boards. Act 1 is the first board, act 2 is the second and third board, and act 3 is the fourth board.
  • Our logline (that one- or two-sentence description you read to find out what a movie is about) is done.
  • Our key concepts are done and set in place (opening image, catalyst, theme, turning points, midpoint, long and short plot lines, pinches, emotional shifts per scene, conflict per scene, resolution, closing image). 
  • Our subtitle is done, and our movie poster image is roughly drawn. 
  • Our character biographies are done.
  • Our character grids are done (these are at-a-glance spreadsheets that summarize our character traits)
All of the above, plus printing off each of our 50 index card scenes (identical to our board cards) for note taking, filled up a 2" binder. 

And now, we're writing our first draft. If a scene focuses heaviest on a character whose biography I created, I write it. If it focuses heaviest on her character, she writes it. We're using Movie Magic, a screenwriting program that does our document formatting for us. With Movie Magic. we can link up our computers from anywhere and write together and use a microphone or chat feature to discuss while we write.

So that's where we are, my writing partner and I. Two months down, and about two to go. Our two-day per week schedule is solid. Our personalities complimentary. Each of our ideas stimulate and enhance the ideas of the other. Where I'm weak, she's strong. Where she's weak, I'm strong. We spend our work days laughing (we're writing a comedy) and feeling blessed that God put us on this journey together. I have never enjoyed writing as much as I have the past couple of months. And now I'm starting to think I'm not quite the hermit I portray myself to be.

What are your writing angels and demons telling you, and who do you tend to listen to the most?

Have you ever had a writing partner or considered collaborating?