And, so, the panel has assembled.
Cassidy asks if there is a photographer in the room. Gets no takers.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Cassidy says. Bear and Cassidy tell the story of Veronique is Visiting from Paris. It’s a story of time travel, dimensional drift and tea.
Cassidy pulls out props. A cigar cutter and a Archie comic came from Peter Straub. We have been warned that Ellen Kushner will pop in at some random time.
Bear worries that “Uncle Mike will start cutting off fingers.” Swanwick grins maniacally.
A Twitter hashtag is made. It’s #scratchstory.
At 6:07, Ellen Kushner emerges. She is bearing at sock purse and a sketchbook with a picture of an early 20th century map of Paris.
Bear breaks down three-act story structure. Talks about “hacking the audience’s endocrine system.” Now promises to ruin Hollywood movies for us forever.
Bear: Characters always have a “want” and a “need.” For example, John McClane from Die Hard. What he wants is his wife back. What he needs is to grow as a human being and become someone she wants to be with.
Members of the audience volunteer. “And we will let the authors look at you,” Cassidy says. A small fight emerges over who gets to be the protagonist.
The protagonist will be a hostess at a Chinese restaurant.
“What is her problem?” Bear asks.
“Her husband has left her,” Swanwick says.
“Her restaurant is going under,” suggests a young girl in the front. “And the yakuza’s after her,” someone shouts from the back.
General befuddlement about why the yakuza cares about a Chinese restaurant.
“This hasn’t turned sci-fi yet,” Swanwick says.
On the whiteboard, where Bear is keeping track as the plot as it unfolds:
Hostess —–> Chinese restaurant
Chinese restaurant owes $$ to a gang
Gang has kidnapped hostess’s estranged husband
Gang will destroy husband’s memory/past if she does not pay off
She wants him to forget the relationship-ending mistake she made
One piece of meat, like a finger, equals one year of memory.
A voice from the back: So he can only lose 21 years.
Bear: You and me, we’re going places.
“I want to steal from Harlan Ellison,” Swanwick says. “They didn’t know that while they were looking at the notebook, the notebook was looking at them.”
“Is it an unreliable notebook?” Amanda Downum says.
It is decided that the spouse shouldn’t be hetronormative. “It’s Massachusetts,” Bear says. Gangsters are drafted [from the audience].
Swanwick hands Cassidy the sock purse that “contains one finger.”
Cassidy takes the actors out into the hall.
Bear explains that at the end of the first act, we need a moment of crisis. Ideas are being tossed out, with rapidity. None are settled on.
“You got anything yet, Mike,” Bear says.
“Nope,” Swanwick says.
“She has to have the moral conflict about whether she wants the memory erasure to continue,” Bear says.
There is a debate about whether or not the memories are salvageable. Now we must make a choice, once the memories are gone, they are gone or are the memories transcribed into the journal and saved. Debate is ensuing.
It is suggested that images of hands counting down as each finger is removed would be a great visual for each section of the story.
Now for the second act, we generally have an acceleration and a reversal, Bear says.
We’re now trying to figure out how the protagonist will pay the gangsters. “Maybe the memories themselves have value?” Deemed that it won’t work.
“Maybe she has something that she’s not willing to sacrifice?” Bear says. “That could be her want v. need problem.”
“The conflict here is whether or not our protagonist is going to string this out. We can find a way for her to get the money. That’s a subsidiary conflict,” Bear says.
Bear is shooting down ideas right and left, once she realizes there isn’t much time left in the panel.
“Maybe her parents were abusive, which is why she went to a gang for money rather than her parents,” Bear says,
“That’s good,” Swanwick says. “Her parents have money. It’s nice and simple.”
Fingers are now each a week, rather than a year. Or maybe a month. Or maybe still a year. We’re working on it.
It’s months. Glad that’s settled.
“The thing is just a McGuffin,” Bear says, when asked what it will be that breaks up the relationship. “We don’t care what the thing is.”
On the white board:
Parents have $ but her pride is in the way.
She has the quandary of when to intervene to preserve either wife’s memory or her fingers.
“The lovely thing about being a protagonist is that unlike the real world, this world really does revolve around you,” Bear says.
Maybe the reversal is that the wife comes back with no memories. Or maybe it’s time for soap opera tricks: an evil twin, the wife is returned but has lost a lot of blood and is on death’s doorstep. Etc.
Cassidy walks in with new props from Caitlin Keirnan: a button and a paintbrush, and a piece of paper with a black ribbon around it.
Our protagonist realizes that her memories are suspect, too, perhaps?
Sadly, we will have to wait until the next session to find out what Act III will be.
(Let me know where this stopped making sense. I’m typing pretty quickly….)