e14: The Detective (It_2)
Brainstorming Session w/ Mum 07.10.20
Refining the Story Themes
I visited home this week for a family issue and happened to end up in a chat with my mum about my coursework. In explaining the existing thoughts I had on the Detective, I began to generate more ideas and created the notes at the bottom of this entry.
The Cervid Hunter:
In the previous iteration of this concept, I had stipulated in the notes that perhaps this character didn't have to be a detective and could instead simply hunt and sell deer meat. However, I hadn't been sure if they would exclusively be hunting cervids or other animals as well - a detail I had wanted to make a decision on to help determine what kind of hunting dogs the character would have. As I spoke about it to mum, the cervid theme solidified, and I remembered that there's a show I love to watch on Netflix about hunting these animals called Meat Eater. The main focus is on environmental consciousness and reducing food waste which often involves them restricting themselves to areas where the deer or elk are overpopulated, so that they are are actually helping to control the population with their sport instead of damaging the ecosystem. I think re-watching the show in my spare time could feed nicely into my research for this theme.
I concluded to keep the detective as an undisclosed main job (only really insinuated in the narrative) but have her hunt deer in her spare time as a passion project to protect the wooded area she chooses to live in and for keeping a practical and sustainable food choice. This would mean that I am free to continue exploring the 'case file' concept I have built, and have finally determined both the connection between the protagonist and the strange happenings, as well as the type of dogs they will keep - (Scottish) deerhounds.
Among the scattered, somewhat chaotic brainstorming, I realised that my original three concepts (now down to two) had one theme in common: pursuit, more specifically dangerous pursuit.
The Onion faces a childlike fascination with adventure which leads it into harmful scenarios. The Mermaid has a naïve infatuation with another world which ultimately costs her her body. Finally, the Detective begins an unhealthy obsession into investigating a paranoid hunch that spirals into a devouring madness.
All of these things start off as somewhat positives, interests that get the characters into an curious-enough predicament to make them appeal to the audience who then naturally want to progress through the story to find out what happens. The audience and characters will continue to experience the drive to pursue until an event happens that turns the pursuit into deadly momentum leading to a sticky end. I call the moment that changes the perspective from anticipation to dread, The Catalyst.
It was while talking to mum that I realised that my character was missing a catalyst. The Mermaid arguably had two catalysts - the moment in which she accidentally drowns the horse, and the moment when, upon sacrificing everything to save it, it is stolen away into slavery by the humans. I thought that for my Detective, I may also need somewhat of a loss.
Typically the audience feels the turning point coming before the character does or, in cases of a story with a twist, can discover it at the same time. Either way, I knew for a fact that I didn't want my character to experience the loss of either one of her dogs, because it is far too tropey and predictable. I thought it might be interesting to introduce some secondary characters for her to lose: another hunter (perhaps a regular attendee to our character's trips into the forest) and the hunter's husband, who breeds hunting dogs - some of which turn out to be part of our main cast. I've listed them in the notes below, and so far I think that the breeder will be the one to bite the dust, perhaps discovered by his spouse and the protagonist on one of their trips.
This human death catapults our character into the final stages of their spiral into madness and suddenly contextualises all of their previous paranoid note-taking about the happenings in the woods as useful. Said this, perhaps a frustrated rejection from the widowed hunting partner, by this point beyond tired of our character's obsessive rantings on the subject, will be a good way to keep them from speaking out to the police with their evidence - thereby keeping the story contained and well-scoped and emphasising the solitude necessary to feed into the protagonist's obsessive paranoia.
I will have to reflect on this Catalyst idea to make sure it is not oversaturating the narrative.
An Epistolary Tale:
After the session with my mum, I was thinking about how I would convert all of this character description into story beats and, specifically, how I would weave the individual cases into these beats.
I had the idea to work the story around the letters (from which we get the word epistolary) or personal diary entries in a similar way to how the great 'original' writers used to tell stories. Iconic works such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were all novels that felt very much brought to life by the staccato, third-party-letters nature of their writing styles.
It occurred to me that a simple solution would be to divide my story into the individual cases that will ultimately become my evidence file for the installation. This way, as the viewer leafs through the various bits of paper in the file, they can also pull out the individual story beats to see what happened during this event, which would act as surrogates for the epistolary 'letters' in the protagonist's tale.
Additionally, by putting a time difference between each 'entry', I could make use of stark changes in the protagonist's appearance to represent their physical descent into madness through the levels of dishevelment in their physical demeaner. The time difference between these cuts will afford me control over exactly how jarring the transition between story beats will be - which is a perfect way for me to control pacing.
If I have extra time, I could of course invest it into typing up actual written letters by the protagonist (perhaps including cyphers) but I don't want to get too excited and over-scope at this stage (personal growth!).
In particular I'm excited to start drawing some dogs :).
Cervid-hunting protagonist with deer hounds sounds more and more concrete
Secondary ”Dog Breeder/Hunting Partner (both?)” character that has been swimming around in my head is coming to life. They could be the catalyst for the protagonist’s transition from suspicion to obsession
^^ Two characters? A couple? A wife who hunts and a husband who breeds dogs? The hunting partner and our Perot could find the breeder? Makes things personal? OR oversaturated of a story?
All my stories so far are about pursuit. Onion = childlike fascination with adventure puts them in harm. Mermaid = naïve infatuation with another world. Detective = unhealthy obsession, spiralling into potential madness (unreliable narrator?)
Installation/Story Beats Idea: epistolary and by-case instead of linear. Would line up better with the story beats template (featuring *important* moments above trivial fillers) and the installation participant could go through the case file + the associated story as they go. Interesting!
^^ CON: I run the risk of turning every case into its own story - over-scope. If I want to do this I have to set a limit of how many beats per individual case, the total of all the cases would be along the same amount as McCaig’s work
Will need horror research to get the pacing, contents and order of the files right. Go through source ASAP and then make a move on some final decisions
Death of the side character is a substitute for Screwing the Pooch (killing the dog) trope. Confirms our suspicions that this IS personal. But if it’s personal then who or what is doing it?
CRYPTOGRAPHY: Make them Russian? For my Russian tattoo book? Could hide the details in a cypher in that book. Would have to provide the copy to the examiner. Maybe 1 cypher is enough for this project. Better be a good one then lol. Include the info in the submission but not in the installation
- R Cipolletta