Saturday, December 14, 2013

Spanner R5 Update: Leila Shelley on a Road Not Necessarily Made of Yellow Bricks

As I begin the final edit on Spanner 2.1, I'll be dealing with the most important character besides Shira herself in her only Chapter 2 appearance, one of the chapter's oldest scenes.

Leila Shelley, the series' primary love interest character, may possibly be its secret hero. I already have Shira as a catalyst hero whose roles alternate between trickster and herald. The first named character she appears as herald to is Leila, the girl she's in love with. What's Leila's "hero's journey"? I found the clue in my absolute favorite David Lynch movie, Mulholland Drive. That film uses Sunset Boulevard to turn the plot of The Wizard of Oz into a tragedy. My favorite Lynch character happens to be Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks; Leila is, among other things, Audrey with a bob cut, except at the same time younger (sixteen) and far less innocent, with a past as dark as Mulholland Drive's Diane Selwyn.

Now let's put Leila on the Yellow Brick Road, so to speak. At once several elements of her character arc fall into place:
  1. Drusilla Becket is, as her enemies (including who knows how many ex-husbands) nickname her, the Wicked Witch of the West.
  2. The corresponding Good Witch is Leila's aunt Ariel Shield, who is (except of course for the white stripe) black-haired like herself. (In The Wizard of Oz, the movie, both Dorothy and Glinda are redheads; the corresponding character in Mulholland Drive happens to be Diane's aunt.) As the Grail Bearer, she brings in a completely different myth system, particularly the version found in the books of Margaret Starbird, a real-life mentor she invokes by name.
  3. Shira, of course, corresponds to Dorothy's inseparable companion Princess Ozma in the Oz novels.
  4. Seattle has many nicknames, but the most famous of them is "Emerald City", named after not the architecture but the forested surroundings. The name of the city AI, OZMA, is a blatant pun.
  5. Once in the Emerald City, what "great and powerful" Wizard does she meet? Zardoz, of course, in the form of King Patriot. (The song in Interlude 11 samples Zardoz's speech in the notorious 1970s cult movie.) And she kills him — because there is in fact no man behind the curtain. That sequence is the origin of a major Spanner theme, the mystery of the Ego.
  6. Leila's counterpart to the tornado that swept Dorothy to Oz is the "tornado" of scandal that destroyed her modelling career and which she barely managed to escape with her life. Another version is the Spanner Incident, in which the series' title character appears and disappears in a whirlwind.
  7. Her version of the poppy-field crisis that Glinda has to rescue Dorothy and her travelling companions from may be the name crisis of Chapter 12 (R5 version), in which she fights for her life against her very name itself (which, due to Corporate customs, has trapped her in an arranged marriage to one of the story's nastiest villains). Another character plays the Glinda role here: Angela Coyne, Shira's cousin, lawyer, and fellow redhead. There's another poppy-related connection: it's in Chapter 12 that Leila leaves behind her old heroin habit forever.
  8. The Spanner versions of those travelling companions are already experienced heroes unlike the originals, so they don't need to earn their brain, heart, or courage. In fact, there's two versions: three bishounen at Bangor High (Team Bremelo's Connor, Cory, and Kio) and three nameless women from the revolutionary underground (now introduced in Chapter 2).
  9. The name of one gang, "Flyen Monkeez", reveals the Klownz to be a version of the Wicked Witch's flying monkey minions.
  10. Who corresponds to the Munchkins? Why, the "little people" as the Corporates call them, the mass of ordinary working people against whom the Conservative Revolution is crusading in the name of "the best" (hoi aristoi, as in aristocracy). Thus do I make explicit the Populist themes that are only implicit in L. Frank Baum's original novels, though I drop the old Populists' silver-against-gold (or greenbacks) crusade and ask why, if money turned out to be ichor (the blood of gods) as the Social Darwinists' occult secret doctrine states (so theorizes Bram Dijkstra), there is any need for it at all. The Corporate robber barons and Patriot terrorists with their giant-monster Egos are in fact Nephilim, invoked under their alternate name "Anakim", Hebrew for "giants". Starbird's name for those the Anakim oppose and oppress, those whom Jesus (and the Grail Bearers after him) vowed to defend? Anawim: "little ones".
  11. If Leila is a darker take on Dorothy who is in fact a witch, then her counterpart to Toto needs to be that classic witch's familiar, a black cat, a stray who charmed her way into Leila's life back when she was a young girl in her native Ireland.
  12. The Spanner version of the "yellow brick road" (the golden road of heroes) will lead Leila not toward "home" (wherever that is) but into legend. She chooses this path by choosing the human version of the red pill from another cinematic mythology.
Of course, the Wizard of Oz plot doesn't sum up all of Leila's character arc. For one thing, Dorothy has nothing resembling Leila's signet ring (the sign of her enslavement to her aristocratic clan that she throws away in Chapter 16) or power crystal (which Shira returns to her). Also, I haven't figured out any counterparts to the ruby slippers (that mentor's gift which gives Dorothy the power to return home) or the Emerald City's famous Horse of a Different Color (that obvious dream symbol of radical change to come). But it definitely serves as a good ready-made template I can model Leila's character arc on (at least in Book 1). David Lynch followed the template in Mulholland Drive, even adding a Princess Ozma figure in Camilla Rhodes; but this Hollywood Ozma proves as totally corrupt as Zardoz (an evil Wizard of Oz), so Diane murders her and ends her journey in tragedy. I'll make my own variations, of course. And it all becomes obvious when you remember that Seattle's nickname is "Emerald City".

Friday, December 13, 2013

Spanner R5 Update: Putting the Axe to Chapter 2 (with 2.2 now complete)

At last, I've begun editing Spanner Chapter 2! 2.2 turned out to be surprisingly easy to edit, so I finished it first, complete with new scenes. The next order of business is 2.1, which follows directly on the events of Chapter 1 and continues its threads, including scenes starring Leila (dating back as far as Revision 2) and Ariel (a new opening for the final version). Like I said, I finished 2.2 first because I found it easy, even to cut down the original scene ("Ghost Hunting" from Revision 1) so I could add the new ones — and "What Shira Knows", the interrogation scene I originally wrote for 2.3 and then moved to 2.1 for R4; and even that scene I made major changes to, echoing the similar scene in 16.1.

I'm editing 2.1 next because the scenes I keep in and the order I put them in will determine the order of scenes from 2.3 to the end of the chapter. These are the new scenes I'm adding:
  1. "Ariel's Vision": Leila's aunt, the hot witch with the white-striped black hair, induces a vision that puts Chapter 1's Spanner Incident in its wider context, subtly foreshadows future events, introduces the theme of fate vs. freedom, and reveals the true reason why she's become archenemy to the Beckets and especially Drusilla — and that just happens to involve the Holy Grail.
  2. "Message from the Evil One": the ghost of Osama bin Laden wimp-shames America. Only his smirking face will be visible.
  3. "Introducing the Beckets": a little three-paragraph exposition that does exactly what the title says: introduce the ruling clan.
  4. "Tender Enemies": the videophone call in which Willa taunts her ex-husband Henry Becket, which I mentioned last post.
  5. "Get Ready for the Bad Endings": a scene removed from Chapter 1 (1.2 in R2, 1.4 in R3 and R4) to become the heroes' own retrospective on the Spanner Incident. It still introduces the "Bad Endings" described in detail in Interlude 10. To fit it in its final place, I'll have to cut it down pretty severely.
  6. "Great Nike Is Not Pleased": the corporation that owns the monopoly on all sports and their arenas (Madison Square Garden during the Spanner Incident) reveals itself as the incarnation of its namesake goddess (the Greek goddess of victory) and tries to attack Shira in her own dreamspace only to discover that in dreamspace, Shira's power is equal to hers. The myth behind this scene, one of the series' two core myths (the Theomachy, or the War of the Gods, with the Olympian generation of gods now under siege from an upstart new generation: humanity itself), will be made explicit in 2.3, by none other than Ariel.
  7. "The Call" and "The Arrival": Shira gets a call on the flight home from her mother's nemesis, Teachers Guild president Dr. Jenna Hunter, and accepts her offer to be a college-student tutor at Metropolitan Seattle's toughest school, Bangor High. Once in Seattle, she and her cousins (and niece and sister) meet Willa and Angela outside the airport terminal only to be interrupted by police agents Sparks and Kowalczyk, leading into "What Shira Knows". In fact, these two scenes are the original reason I decided to move "What Shira Knows" from 2.1 R4 into 2.2.
The appearances of Spanner and Rebel, which I originally built 2.1 around in R2, will remain, along with the villains' post-Incident follow-up meeting, which in their current (post-R4) state consist of three different scenes I need to combine into one. Other than that, just as I mentioned last post, 2.1 will be vastly different from even the R4 version.

Once I've straightened out 2.1, I'll bring back Ariel in 2.3 to give Shira a Tarot card reading (of the story itself, actually, and her role in it) and introduce the first of the nameless women (the beautiful tall barista who used to be an Olympic swimmer and claims to be a psychologist). 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5 should also be easier to edit once I've finalized the scene order of 2.1. The remaining big challenge then will be 2.6: instead of just following the Shira-Sparks sequence with the "Henry Becket and his psychic-seer mother" scene the way I did in R4, I'm going to cinematically intercut them into a single climactic sequence consisting of as many as five threads, one of them introducing major villain Byron Scofield.

The work has begun at last. And I'm beginning to believe I can finish this chapter before Christmas...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Post-NaNoWriMo Spanner R5 Update: The Many, Many Changes of Chapter 2

Now that NaNoWriMo 2013 is over and won, it's time to return to the really, really Herculean task: editing the final publication draft of Spanner. Now that I'm done with Chapter 1, it's time for me to move on to Chapter 2.

Chapter 2 has been more or less the same through three drafts. I didn't do more than add scenes and do continuity corrections to the Revision 4 version. Not so in the final version. It's already vastly different. Since in its current state it's nearly twice its proper size, I'll be throwing out scenes I thought would be permanent. A lot of the scenes are entirely new. Here's the changes I have planned so far:
  • Willa Taunts Becket: in a videophone call. Ex-spouses Henry Becket and Willa Richter-Thomas have been bitter enemies since their one-month marriage in 1992. She has a special fondness for taunting the humorless old bully. Major themes invoked: fate/destiny and the death of capitalism. New.
  • Women with No Name: three new scenes introducing three characters whose first R4 appearance was in Chapter 12 with one retconned into 10.1 just because I was short of my desired word count. Sure enough, they demanded I put their real debuts in Chapter 2. Over the next 2-3 chapters they'll explain (and not in a single chunk of exposition) just how they manage to have no names at all yet be some of the most vivid and individual characters in the whole series. And they have relevant new backstory too. And this is partly because of what I found happening to major character Leila in R4: the moment in Chapter 12 she went permanently nameless, she became a stronger character than she was when she had a name. In fact, she became her own person; because of this, after that moment, "the girl with the violet eyes" will never go by a name again — and for R5 she insists on taking away her sister's and twin brother's names too, because she loves them so much, especially because she doesn't want Brinkman to forcibly marry Fiona to the evil Oliver in her place. (Actually, one of the nameless women, the blond rockergirl, does that in the R5 plan for Chapter 7. But that's later...) New.
  • Shira vs. Sparks: The final Shira/Sparks sequence "The Dangerous Type" (formerly the title of just 2.6, now the name of the entire chapter) is now a full-blown confrontation between two people on opposite sides of the Law, one trying to catch the other, who are highly attracted to each other. Sparks is still a villain until Shira lowers the WHAM! that destroys his world, as carefully reconstructed as his face. Even their flashbacks are now weapons. Shira makes his head spin just from the sheer number of names she's got, surrounding her like an obscuring cloud or nimbus (I swiped the metaphor from Henry James, incidentally, though he was describing rumors rather than aliases). Intercut with the "Becket's mother" sequence I added to the end of Chapter 2 for R4, it now makes for a strong conclusion complete with triple cliffhanger. Revised.
  • Rebel Styles and the Dying Patriarchs: Now the child-succubus videogirl kills one of them at the end of every section except the last, which will be the new introduction to major villain Byron Scofield. To the mystically minded villains, Rebel's the "Babalon" to Spanner's "Choronzon", and they know Shira's somehow connected to both. Revised.
  • Norma Jean Presley: the alleged daughter of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley and the cult object of a schismatic Church of Elvis sect in Japan. I created this character while the two celebrities were a married couple for a short time back in the 1990s. Now I've brought her back, and she starts seriously haunting Shira here, this ghost of a celebrity who never was. Added.
  • The Cults of Mammon and America: Wasn't America supposed to be the nation of the Enlightenment? Not according to the Corporate aristocrats and the Patriot warrior caste of the Conservative Revolution. They turned America into as fanatically religious a nation as the Caliphate itself. This, of course, will ultimately backfire. Theme now foregrounded in R5.
Several of the major scenes, some of which go back all the way to the first draft, will still remain more or less intact, intercut or not. In fact, the core and title scene of 2.2 ("Ghost Hunting") will probably stay the same as ever, with a few tweaks here and there. But the old scenes won't dominate the new chapter, or at least they won't make it in untransformed. The final continuity requires many changes, enough that Chapter 2 will come out a completely different beast.

And so the great work resumes...