Friday, November 28, 2008

An Epic Tale - 8.The Fire Goblin And His Fairy

"I don't know what you were expecting," the half-man said. "This is a forest. Not much around to live in but trees.

"Yes, but - " I swallowed. "Did you have to make it so high?"

"Fire goblins have enemies. There's a lot more going on in the world than your kind has the courage to face."

I looked up. The oak tree was certainly tall, and the grass hut at the top would be hard to reach and easy to defend. I didn't even know if I could make it up.

"Is there a ladder, or something?"

"Not a climber?" the goblin smirked. "Don't worry. These trees would fling you from their branches the moment you tried. You won't be coming in. We're just here to get something."

The half-man rummaged in his backpack as I stood there, wondering what such a person could possibly have to get.

My life was now utterly outside my control, I reflected. I had intended to end it all this morning. Now I was wrapped up in something I barely even understood. Did my parents know there was a world like this, so close to the village? All they ever did was tend to the cows.

"A ha!" the half-man held up a small golden whistle and gave it two sharp notes.

"Belinda!" he shouted. "I've come home!"

At first, I thought nothing had happened. Then I saw it - a tiny flash of light, flickering and fluttering around the edges of the treetop canopy. It was no bigger than a mosquito.

The light swooped down to join us, and up close it was a pinpoint, so bright I had to avert my eyes. I heard it laughing at me, a tinkle of tiny bells in the wind.

"It's so precious!" the pinpoint said. It swooped and darted around me until my head spun. "Where did you get it?"

"Pack up your things," the half-man said. "The old wars have begun again, and this one's right at the center of it."

"Pack up?" It was just a ball of light, but somehow it still looked worried. "Where are we going?"

The half-man smiled grimly. "We're going to take this boy, and throw him off the edge of the world."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Not an Update, but Something

This is me, Josh. I've been taking a break on the Tale because I have to work on something important. Nione demands it. I'm sorry.

Instead I offer this: My own inane, stream-of-consciousness babble. I hope it pleases you.

The Overture

In opera and symphony, the overture is a well-understood part of the narrative formula. It's an encapsulation of the piece as a whole, a way to set the tone, a way to establish the major themes, and a way to foreshadow. The overture does what I like story elements to do - accomplishes many things at once.

So let's think about the overture in cinema. Unlike in music, the overture is rarely explicitly branded as such. But a quick search of my mental archives suggest that there are few, if any, great movies without one. Star Wars has its opening crawl, Raiders has its first mini-treasure. Jaws has one of the simplest and coolest overtures ever. Even The Saddest Music in the World, a crazy-man movie by crazy-man Guy Maddin, has an extensive overture in the form of a strange medicine man that the main character visits.

I think it's this beat that makes circular-structure movies so popular - No idea how to start your movie? Why not give away the end! Almost by default, then, most of the functions of the overture are fulfilled - the tone is set, plot events are (heavy-handedly) foreshadowed. The only thing we lose is the innate tension of wondering what will happen next - which, unfortunately, for many is the whole point of watching a movie in the first place.

Repeat after me: Secrets must be kept. If your audience knows everything that happens before, after, and during the time the story takes place, why would they keep watching? Even at the end, when everything is resolved into a tidy package, there has to be an open question: What will happen next?

That's why those painfully obvious "setting up the sequel" moments are so annoying to me. If I don't see Freddy come back, it's an open question whether they really killed him. If I see him, and he's okay, then there's no reason to consider the movie any further. No reason to watch it again.

Anyway. Overtures. Raising a question without implying an easy answer. They're important, and scary, and hard, and I think I just found mine while I was typing.

Thank you for listening.

I'll try to reward your patience soon.