A 20-30 page, one-act, multiple-character play. That means in 20 to 30 pages: setup, conflict, resolution between multiple people. For some reason, most literature seems to suggest, and most feelings about one-act plays or similarly timed short films, that a piece of that length is too short to tell a complete and compelling story with multiple characters. To this moment, I can't imagine how one couldn't tell a complete and compelling story. I suppose a part of me has yet to make use of more than half that many pages, and so I am probably either intimidated by the length of the proposition, or simply can't imagine how one could use so much space given how little I've worked with. Though that begs the question, have I ever created a complete and compelling story in that much time.
I think the key to this is to fully explore the characters' personalities and interactions, to make full use of the whole universe of possibilities broached by the barest of bones outline of my story.
Take In Bruges, a wonderful film I saw yesterday for the first time. The basic premise: two hit-men hide out in Bruges following a botched job. That doesn't even scratch the surface of what playwrite(!)-turned-writer/director Martin McDonough has created in his first feature. I think the strength of the piece is in how it fully explores the humanity of its central characters--even the villain--and their interactions. It goes places few movies dare do--that of ultraviolent dark comedy--and comes out as possibly one of the feel-better films I've seen all year. Bizarre? Not really, considering how well it elucidates on its hidden armature. What the film is really about is the potential for a human being to change who he is. Colin Farrel's character wants to change after the gravity of his occupation hits home when he kills the kid. Brenden Gleeson's character does everything he does because while he may be too old to change, he needs to believe that its possible for someone like him to change and to live a good life. The girl Farrel's character hooks up with at first tries to seduce him into a stage tourist robbing scheme, but then she ends up falling in love with him when even after he is held at gunpoint, he still wants her.
I've gone on too much. It is a wonderful movie. My favorite so far this year by a long shot--but it has nothing to do with my play beyond what I said above.
To the point: what is a story worth telling, that has the potential for characters worth embodying?
Satan is a good guy. The genesis of all evil...isn't evil at all? Or isn't the genesis of it? Or simply exists in a universe where entropy is the natural order? What was it about the "satan is a good guy" idea that I liked so much? Surely there was more beyond simply wanting to see the greatest villain of all time portrayed as good, yeah? Perhaps it was more a desire to see god portrayed as the villain. But is there anything there worth mining that hasn't been already? I'm sure there is. But I certainly can't think of it. So. Satan is a good guy. Now what?
Satan is a hero. What did he do and why? Do I have to play by rules? Maybe not.
I am god's nemesis. I am his most-hated, most-feared enemy. I am all that he pits his all against. I am not satan. I am not the devil. Those don't exist. They are modes of control. Created by a jealous entity that exists beyond and within the fabric of this space called space. Not because you people are the There are issues at stake larger than any collection of parchment could contain.
"The devil is in the details"
Even the grandest project depends on the success of the smallest components. This version of the proverb often implies that the details might cause failure.