I am writing from the past.
I know. I'm super excited.
In last time's episode, I talked about a video essay that kinda made my editing world a lot easier.
I said I didn't know how to edit and I totally forgot to talk about how that video actually made me a better editor.
So if you haven't watched it, here it is:
If you're more of a reading kind of person, fear not. I have you. Let's break this b#tch down.
Now before we start on the actual breakdown, I wanna address the pound sign in my curse words. I'm not a prude, y'all. You know this. I just love the bleeping sound when something get's sensored and this is as close as I get in the written language.
I know. I'm weird.
In the video essay, Nolan's magic comes from a three part coolness. The Pledge, The Turn, The Prestige.
Now, admittedly, this video talks a lot about genre and how Nolan actually subverts it. It's awesome.
Nolan promises you one type of movie, superhero, and gives you the ordinary taste of it. Copycats, bank robberies, but Nolan likes to pull the rug from under you. This criminal seems to kill for the f#ck of it.
That's how we're hooked. We have that familiarity in what we know of superheroes, but we get this eerie feeling from our first Joker encounter that something isn't quite right. In fact, I don't know about you guys, but the moment he executed his henchmen, I got creeped out.
This brings you basically through the first part of Nolan's magic.
The Turn subverts genre. This is not what you signed up for. Something else is going on here. There's misdirection, there are ambiguous characters whose stance on anything is ever-shifting. You know you walked into a movie about Batman but this is a departure from what you come to expect.
Even though Nolan's changing what you thought you knew, he's doing it in a way that makes sense. The theme that was subconsciously promised in the first scenes carry you through this shifting world.
The Prestige is probably the best and hardest piece to pull off. I'd say even for Nolan this is a balancing act.
This is where he has redefined the world you thought you were in. The genre.
In a way, he has revisited this place with you too, in a circular sort of way. And the ending to the story is both surprising and thematic.
Everything. Every scene, line, character, sacrifice and triumph have been tied to the theme. And the changes the characters made are tied taut to this one thread.
The people behind The Dark Knight forever have my praise.
But anyway! I promised to talk about how this affected my editing process.
After I watched and rewatched and watched again, this video essay had told me all for one day and it made so much sense that I wondered if I could throw together some things and see it in action.
The elements aren't exclusively mentioned in this video, but for today's post, I'll toss in what I added to this makeshift edit guide page.
At the top of my page, I added the title of the story. Below, all the stories that either influenced it or it was a retelling of. Anything at all in this section that'll clarify what I need to allude to.
Below these, I added in societal issues. Fears, worries, troubling norms. Not just because my work has to reflect something I want to protest or protect or shine a light on, but these are the things that add depth to my characters and their relationships with the world (theirs and ours) and readers and viewers.
They don't live in perfect utopias. (Unless they do and in my worlds, they definitely don't.) Shit happens.
Included are problems they're faced with day to day.
|Sex and the City: search of romantic love while celebrating the ups and downs of female friendship.|
(This is setting. It's the social and economic environment and something I always, always forgot to add to my stories after the edits.)
Once all that's out of the way, I outline The Pledge, The Turn, and The Prestige for the novel.
I still haven't decided how crazy into bending genres and redefining them I am, but you can't change the rules if you don't know what they're there for.
Genre needs to be defined. You need to establish this quick so this subverting thing doesn't look like bad cooking.
The second bullet point here follows the line "shows you something ordinary but of course it isn't." This is a great way to remind myself to plant what's next, what will happen, and keep my promises in line. This will help me distinguish scenes that can get the ax too.
Honestly, this is such a better way to kill my darlings.
Then I remind myself to keep things familiar to the genre here. Again.
This is important because though I promise something is not right, it's better to tell my audience what remains the same. This will help with suspending disbelief.
It makes my departure from the promised seem like a natural escalation.
The Genre I've already established before has a twist to it.
Now in this phase, there's something else happening. Maybe instead of the treasure hunt I promised, my story becomes a romance.
These gifs come from movies that are blends of genre.
With Titanic, it started as maybe a documentary, then it went into treasure hunt, then it went to romance.
With the remake of The Mummy, it went action/adventure, romance, and um horror because what the f#ck.
|what the #@%$|
With this bullet point, it'll vary tons in my different works. For me, the genre change will come with changing goals but also my characters' internal conflicts.
At least the one I'm working on is doing that right now.
It's not compulsory, I think, to misdirect but if you're doing it, sudden goal change like going from defeating the villain to rescuing the love interest is probably going to be the easiest.
While all these movies were awesome, the conflict built in theme (where everyone has their own take) has a more powerful and natural effect.
More on how theme is used in Nolan's world in the coming posts.
This will be the hardest thing to do.
The best way to end a story is in a cycle. Let's admit it.
There's nothing more powerful than ending a story with the beginning image and having the reader or the viewer interpret that beginning image themselves.
|This total bitch, you guys.|
Or, to feel satisfied to be back in familiar territory after a long, hard battle. Hero's Journey af.
The key to unlocking this is to come back to the start, even in genre.
For Titanic, this was coming back to the boat as the old lady. The treasure hunt is over. The documentary is over. We're back from the love story that ended.
For The Mummy, it's the end of the romance with the kiss but as they trail off with hidden treasure, their journey isn't over. Probably more pleasant now, but still an adventure in a far off land.
For The Dark Knight, the Joker didn't win, but Batman is now even more shadowy and invisible in Gotham than before. An idea that people will stop associating as a person, just like before.
The thematic synergy has carried through. The Dark Knight is great because despite how sweet Bruce's idea of a world with no crime was there has to be a balance. It's human nature. There's chaos and peace all the time, and his sacrifice is to have Batman go from the good symbol to the symbol of hate. (Can we agree that a perfect superhero image would weaken the characters' motivation to build a better Gotham or is that a stretch?)
I go back to my original genre here and I tie all these things inside with the theme running through it. Shall we say, in a lame way, the afterschool special that launched the story?
This has been my favorite way to edit ideas and thoughts and kill darlings effectively. Not just tidy word choice or break up syntax to have better word flow.
As I'm editing a sentence, does it have to do with the retelling I'm doing? Does it talk about the societal issues and lies my characters believe? Does it have to do with the question that holds them back on a daily level? No?
Off with its head.
Kill those darlings, darlings.
Now, as always, I'll try to build a worksheet on this, though I really think this is a lot harder to put in worksheet form. It was a great video essay but as always, these are guidelines, built by one person (or small team) based off a few movies one man did.
I just found it helpful for the way I write, which is mostly pantsing. Maybe you will too.
Who's excited for next week's episode? I know I don't know what I'm doing.