Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hanging With Cliff


Remember CliffsNotes? Yeah, those black and yellow striped pamphlets that provided study guides for school subjects and literature.

Well I stumbled on their official website while looking for an online glossary for Shakespeare. Found that and so much more. I've been hanging out on the site for hours.

Shakespeare is an integral part of my Fruit of the Spirit story world. My character, Estelle Starr, is a Shakespearean stage actress who has memorized every part of every play. She is also quite eccentric (some might say touched in the head) as she speaks only Shakespeare. I don't mean that she speaks in Elizabethan English, I mean that even off stage she speaks only lines from Shakespeare. Though she can range among the sonnets and other poems, it is mostly from the plays.

There is another character in the FOS story world who speaks only KJV Holy Bible. He was once a preacher who was excommunicated after a shocking incident for which he was innocent of all wrong doing. His name is Inny aka Innocence and he is the husband of Faye aka Faith who is the POV protagonist of the first novel in the planned series of novels. In the two stories from the novel which I posted for Friday Snippets last summer and fall, there were several scenes in which either Estelle Starr or Inny appeared but only one which included both of them.

Those two stories, though they can stand alone as longish short stories, are intended also as chapters one and three of the novel, The Substance of Things Hoped For. The story for chapter two remains unwritten largely because it is the story in which Inny and Estelle are introduced to each other and enter into dialog. Though I was delighted by the idea at the time I first conceived it, at some point I lost confidence in it and became intimidated. It didn't help that I lost all my notes about that scene in our 2001 move. But I can't blame that entirely since those notes had been sitting in my files for over six years before that.

When I first started working on these stories I had never heard of the Internet. I used concordances for the KJV Bible and Shakespeare. At the time I had access to the Shakespeare collection at SOSC (now SOU) in Ashland, Oregon. In case you don't know what a concordance is, it is a reference book in which every instance of every word in the referenced book(s) is indexed. Thus I can begin with a concept of the intent of their communication and look up the words that may or must be included and in that way find phrases, whole verses or monologues that can convey their meaning. (To see how it is worked out in scenes, you can find the stories through the FOS portal. Yikes! I've not updated that post as promised for quite awhile. I've posted snippets from other FOS novels in progress that need to be included there. The best scene to demonstrate the concept is probably the one mentioned above in which Estelle and Inny both participate: Part Seven of Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes)

It was the discovery of a searchable Complete Works of Shakespeare online in 1997 that enabled me to finish Rag Doll Babies and start collecting promising quotes for planned scenes in other chapters. But it also spoiled me for after loosing access to the Shakespeare concordance in 1987 I'd had to resort to reading the plays and collecting the promising quotes the hard way. I had finished the first story, Of Cats and Claws and Curiosities, that way but I had purposely limited myself to Macbeth for the quotes because that play reflected the theme I wanted to emphasize.

Well recently I have decided to add a new strand of scenes to Of Cats. After I had mapped out the second chapter, Strange Attractors, and discovered that it needed to alternate between NOW and THEN just as Rag Dolls did, I decided to make that the format for all of the chapters. Besides, I was unhappy that so many very significant characters did not show up until well into chapter three and adding the THEN strand to Of Cats would give the opportunity to introduce them. It seemed appropriate then that that strand of scenes should be Faye, Julia and Wilma overseeing a high school production of Macbeth in which Cassie and Fancy perform and Briana, Fancy's daughter, debuts as a toddler and Mae Bea, Fancy's mother, in charge of costumes and Inny in charge of props and lights.

In preparation for writing that addition to Of Cats, I've set out to review Macbeth which will include rereading it of course but also watching several stage productions on DVD which I have access to through the library system. (Love Your Local Libraries!) With Ashland being home to the Shakespeare Festival and SOU's serious Shakespeare collection, it behooves even the public library system to have significant Shakespeare material available.

Which is lucky for me because I have no clue how a Shakespeare play is produced. I've never seen one in person. So I've got to research all aspects of it from costumes to props to what kinds of directions and advice Faye, Wilma and Julia would likely be giving the student actors. And since one of the trademarks of the three women's relationships is a certain amount of banter that shades into bickering, I need to familiarize myself with some of the controversies regarding the proper way(s) to produce Macbeth.

Though I have acquired several library books to aid me in this, I was please to discover that the CliffsNotes on Macbeth include an essay about the historical and contemporary issues surrounding the staging of Macbeth.

Faye's story, The Substance of Things Hoped For, is the novel I targeted at the first of the year for a sustained effort to complete a draft this year. Because of the research still necessary and several plot holes in the latter half not to mention the need to resort to searchable databases of Shakespeare and KJV every time Inny and Estelle enter a scene, I am beginning to think even sustained effort won't be enough. This was the project I designated for the Sven III aka 70 Days of Sweat Challenge too but I've not added anything but notes since it began at the first of the month. Because of that, I've missed several check-ins.

The Friday before last when I posted a snippet about a teen runaway, I remembered that I had foreshadowed her appearance in Faye's story in the same scene I linked above (part seven of Rag Doll Babies). She is the shadow that faded into the woods when Cassie stopped to give Estelle a lift. This past Friday I wrote a new scene for Crystal's story, Home Is Where the Horror Is. Since the story is set in an Oceanside, California motel much like the one Ed and I lived in for a time when he was stationed at Camp Pendleton, I anticipate little need for research which makes working with the story much less complex. I am planning to write another scene for this Friday's snippet.

If I'm to continue posting snippets and participating in Sven III, I suspect I'm going to have to start ranging over the whole of the FOS story world stories again. There are many that are much less complex than Substance.

Well, another post has gotten away with me. I began this with the intent of a quickie about a neat reference resource for readers, researchers and Shakespeare lovers. I had said all I set out to say by the end of the third paragraph. That was hours and hours ago. Before midnight! and it is now 7:30 Wednesday morning!

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