Monthly Archives: February 2012

Smells like teen spirit

The angelic Paul (center) and his pals fight to keep dead people dead, making it much less crowded for the living

Taking small moments and getting a lot out of them, that’s what the good writers do. For this reason, I enjoyed a recent episode of the BBC sci-fi gem, The Fades.

SPOILER ALERT. The show is about a British teen, Paul, who finds out he is an angelic. Angelics can see the dead who have not moved on, those who remain and watch over us. Now, some fades are becoming re-animated and eating humans to survive. The angelics are taking on the fades, hoping to prevent the fall of humanity.

Like Lost or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any other number of well-done TV sci-fi, that may be what’s going on in The Fades, but that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about the relationships of the people involved in this battle, how their highs and lows are often very much like those of any people, but magnified by the intensity of the danger surrounding them.

Not only is Paul finding new super powers and coming to terms with what this will mean in the fight against the fades, he’s also a child of divorce, the ultra dorky twin brother of the coolest and cruelest girl in school, and totally, madly in love. Paul’s lucky enough that the love interest appears to be interested in him, too.

This brings me to the incidents that occur Episode 4. Paul and Jay are playing a game of strip Rock-Paper-Scissor. It turns out this is a masturbatory fantasy of Paul, who lets the game play out to its somewhat obvious climax. Then, as that climax occurs, he sprouts silver wings.

Later in the episode, the opportunity to get into a nuder state with Jay presents itself. Actually, Jay presents it. Calmly, with a smile on her face, knowing just how much this is messing with Paul, who stammers and meanders until finally realizing the opportunity is here, he better grab it. So he strips down and hops in bed with Jay. Sweetly and awkwardly, they make love for the first time.

So many of this situations are played for big laughs, heavy drama, some sort of moral angle. I applaud the minds behind The Fades for doing such a good job avoiding those pitfalls. Yes,the masturbation scene is bit silly. But it really goes to Paul’s lack of maturity and experience with girls, as well as showing just how little control Paul has over his powers. It also works to cement his affection for Jay because it comes off more naive than dirty. And the sex scene was handled so, so well. It wasn’t salacious, preachy or ridiculous. It was just as uncomfortable and warm and unsettling as it would be for those two characters in this situation. They use protection, they laugh nervously, they are excited quickly, they seem to want to speak but don’t know what to say. It was a very real moment, both for the characters and for the viewers. If the characters aren’t well written from the beginning, this doesn’t work. If the words coming out of the actors mouths feel hokey, you can’t make this moment real. It isn’t easy to pull off, but The Fades nailed it.

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Feeling good

Unlike William Gibson, I can’t go through my manuscript every time I sit down to write. I need to do the work and move on, keep pushing forward. I tend to enjoy the rewriting more than the writing, so I have to force myself not to get bogged down in that and push ahead, especially if I feel I’ve built up some momentum.

However, I do like to return to my previous chapters for two reasons. First, continuity. This has less to do with plot, more to do with the voices of the characters. I don’t want my truck driver to be talking like a truck driver in the first chapter, then waxing poetic like a Phd in English by chapter five. That’s a bit drastic, but you get my point. I need my characters to be themselves, and I need to make sure I’m disciplined enough to keep what’s on the page clearly representing who those characters are and what they are about.

The second reason I like to start reading from the beginning is inspiration. We all hit that point where we wonder, “Is this any good?” I find that going back and rereading everything is a boost to my confidence. Yes, I do have something here. Yes, this can result in something complete and special. Yes, I have a foundation for what I’m doing. It’s a bit Stuart Smalley of me, but sometimes I need to understand that what I’m doing is good enough, it’s smart enough, and doggone it, people are going to like it.

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