grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. inside, they look just like they always have. like they did when they were your age. truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. not one, in the whole wide world.
• Every time I go in a Target, I become invisible. People can’t hear me talking to them even when I’m standing right in front of them. Waving in their faces doesn’t seem to work.
• I once walked up to an entire group of red-vest-wearing employees and had all five of them walk away from me mid-question.
•They seem to migrate from the toy section to the food section like soulless jellyfish.
• They don’t know if Target sells dish soap.
• I don’t know if Target sells dish soap.
• Once, a person walked over, picked up a fuzzy throw-blanket out of my cart, and left with it while I stood there telling them that it was mine.
• The always weirdly crowded shoe section that’s mostly sandals.
• Last month I stopped in the mini Starbucks area of Target and stepped up to a surprisingly empty counter (for the middle of the day). No one appeared for the entire twenty minutes that I waited, but the lights went off and on a few times.
• I once saw a man entering Target with a screaming child over his shoulder. She had an ‘Out of Order’ sign in her hand, and kept repeating, ’I don’t want to go here.
• Their clothing sizes are darkest black magic.
• The changing rooms. (Before they vanished.)
• I lost four people in the middle of the furniture isle. I found them a half hour later in Hot Topic.
• I once stopped at a Target for a bathroom break during a long road-trip. When I entered the store, half the lights were off in the back section, and someone was yelling, “STOP IT, YOU GIANT BITCH!”
• There’s always a questionable swamp in the corner of the Target bathroom.
• When they switch all the moving/talking Halloween items over to the moving/talking Christmas items.
• I’ve seen eight different dogs wandering around by themselves.
• The local Target has birds flying around inside all the time.
• When I was a teenager there was this guy who drove around the Target parking lot blasting the chicken dance and dancing with his shoulders.
• I’ve seen a thousand mirrors break in Target during ‘move into your dorm room’ season. Doubt anybody buried a potato.
• They owe me $20
• I keep finding children in the clothing racks. (I don’t keep them.)
• You can never return anything, ever.
• If you eat their food you probably will never be able to return to the human world.
• Every picture I take in there comes out weird. Blurry, too bright, smudgy, wavy, too dark, weirdly green???
• That last checkout lane at the end with all the ‘as seen on Tv’ items and a million creepy jugs of green liquid for kids.
• I have 14 year-old socks from Target that look brand new. (My clothes typically develop holes the moment I look at them.)
• The animal heads.
• Pit of Death (aka: the far back corner where seasonal stuff goes to die.)
• I once kicked one of the giant red orbs outside and it moved.
• I watched a guy causally glide out of the loading doors and into the parking lot on a huge dolly.
• The ‘Is This Actually Only A Dollar Or Is It Five?’ section.
• I spent a half hour listening to a guy tell me why I needed an IPhone or I can’t be a part of human society. This was before the first iPhone was even for sale in the store.
• It’s bigger on the inside.
• I found this hideous lump of a fur hat for sale last winter, and wore it around the store my entire time there. Still invisible.
I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.
Summary: When your boyfriend cheats on you you’re left heartbroken and lost all hope in relationships. Santa says you’ll find love soon, but what do you do when you’re beloved cat turns into a beautiful grown man?
Why is it that sometimes a book or movie can make you THIS emotionally invested …
And sometimes it’s more like this?
My stories used to inspire a reaction similar to Hermione’s in my readers. And in me. At some points I’d be reading my work, and a little honest voice buried somewhere in my head would say “I wouldn’t care if this character was hit by a bus right now.” Then I’d heap some denial atop the voice, silence her unwanted mutterings, and go back to trying to enjoy my story. Problem was, my readers appeared to have this little honest voice as well. And if she told them “Cartoon bus. Hitting this character. Wouldn’t that be funny?” they had a tendency to listen to her.
What was the problem? My scenes didn’t connect to my reader’s emotions. They didn’t change those emotions throughout the scene. They started out sad and they ended just as sad or even more so. And what came after that? Well, another scene that began with the main character feeling horrible, which ended with him just as downtrodden as before. Or worse: The scene began positive and just got better. The next one would start out absolutely giddy and ended effervescent. And this kept going until the characters were almost singing with joy. (Okay, maybe I’m being slightly snarky about my past self.) But after that, I’d follow it up with a long sequence of sadsadsad scenes.
So what happened?My readers had only two emotions while enduring this: frustration and impatience.
The scenes weren’t keeping my readers emotionally engaged. The scenes weren’t changing emotionally. And that is what needs to happen: The emotional charge of the scene has to change. Switch between negative and positive. The flow of the reader’s emotions has to be taken into account, and consciously adjusted. It’s that simple.
How can this be accomplished?
1) Determine what’s at stake in the scene. To the characters, something important is being threatened, something emotional or primal. Love? Safety? Friendship? Justice? Make sure the scene means something for the characters. (If it’s not emotionally significant to them, connected to the A Story, B Story, or Character Arc, it’s not a scene and the reader won’t care.) And since the readers are emotionally connected to the characters, the readers care about what’s at stake, and are conscious of what it means.
2) Beats. The exchanges of action and reaction between characters and forces of opposition in pursuit of the goal … these carry that emotion, these are how emotions shift within the scene, gradually taking it from one to another.
3) Emotional Charge. If the scene starts with what’s at stake in positive way, then it’ll switch to negative by the end. If if starts negative, the scene will change to positive.
Anyway! How does this work?
To illustrate it, because I’m having a lot of fun reading the screenplay, here are five scenes from Zootopia.
Let’s start with the scene right after this happens: Manchas has gone savage, and Judy and Nick are running for it.
What’s at stake? Life
Opening Charge: Negative (They’re being chased by a jaguar who is about ten times bigger than either of them, and who seems quite keen to tear them apart. To the characters, this scene opens with a 95% likelihood of imminent brutal death. To the audience, this scene opens with two characters we’ve come to care about in this dangerous situation.)
Closing Charge: Positive (They manage to call backup. Judy manages to handcuff Manchas. Nick stays to help Judy, rather than hop on the gondola to safety. They fall but manage to survive. They fall again, but are caught by a vine just before impact. Bogo and the rest arrive, and Judy is full of confidence about her discovery in the Otterton case, and eager to show them. Everything in this scene ended in Judy and Nick’s favor.)
How has what’s at stake changed? They lived.
What’s at stake? Judy’s lifelong dream, the goal she’s worked towards since she was a child.
Opening Charge: Negative (Judy tells Bogo that this is way bigger than a missing mammal case – Otterton and Manchas went savage. He scoffs at her. In response, Judy confidently sweeps back the leaves to reveal the wild jaguar … and he’s gone. With her proof nowhere in sight, what she’s told Bogo sounds insane and ridiculous. Which provokes him into demanding her badge.)
Closing Charge:Positive (Nick stops Bogo from taking Judy’s badge. Nick also bluntly tells him that he’s been an unfair little jerk to Judy, they have time to solve the case, and they have much more important things to be doing than standing around dealing with these idiots. He even calls her “Officer Hopps” instead of Carrots. They’re back on the case.)
How has what’s at stake changed? She still has a chance to achieve that lifelong goal. And Nick was the one to buy her more time.
Scene 3 What’s at stake? Truth
Opening Charge: Positive (Judy, and the audience, are feeling thankful and closer to Nick.)
Closing Charge:Negative (But even though we are in a good place, Nick looks far away … he starts thinking back … and we can sense that this memory lane doesn’t end anywhere pleasant.)
How has what’s at stake changed? He’s about to share something significant.
Scene 4 What’s at stake? Innocence
Opening Charge: Positive (We see little Nick! Looking happy and excited. All he wanted to do was join the Junior Ranger Scouts, and his mother scraped together money to buy him a uniform. She’s even adjusting his tie for him, lovingly.)
Closing Charge: Negative (Nick, who had been so happy at the beginning of this scene, is now hiding from the evil kids, struggling to pull the muzzle off, panicked, crying like his heart’s broken.)
How has what’s at stake changed? Traumatized
Scene 5 What’s at stake? Closeness
Opening Charge: Negative (Well that was a horrifying story. And now Nick is avoiding eye contact, while revealing the takeaways he got from that childhood episode, which have shaped his decisions from then on. Suddenly Judy, and the audience, understand Nick a lot more. We empathize and sympathize with him.)
Closing Charge: Positive (The traffic cameras would have caught whatever happened to Manchas! And Judy has a friend that can help them access those cameras. They’re back on the case.)
How has what’s at stake changed? Nick dodges out of further vulnerability BUT they’re back on the case – this time, together.
As you can see, the emotional charges of these scenes fluctuate smoothly, from a scene’s opening to its closing, from one scene to the next. In every moment, in every beat, we’re feeling something. And when the scene turns, we (and the characters) are feeling the opposite of what we were at the beginning of the scene. Our curiosity and minds are linked to the story by the question “What’s going to happen next?”; our emotions are connected to the story by the conduits Judy and Nick, these two characters we care about, as every emotional change pushes us closer towards the answer to the question “What’s going to happen to these two? Is everything going to end up alright for them?"
Now, let’s see what happens when you stop paying attention to the emotional changes of your scenes.
Scene 1: Manchas is gone. Bogo is berating Judy. Nick stands there and watches. Judy ends up handing over her badge. The real cops leave, and Judy stays behind, figuring she might as well try and complete the case anyway. All Nick wants is that carrot pen, so he tags along.
Scene 2: Judy has nothing to feel thankful about, and certainly doesn’t feel closer to Nick. He’s thinking back on his childhood, but doesn’t share anything with Judy…
Scene 3: Instead of the flashback opening on a happy Nick, it opens on him getting beaten up by the evil children, and ends on him weeping with the muzzle strapped to his face.
Scene 4: We snap back to the present. Judy staring, beyond tears at this point. Nick looking traumatized and bitter. He remembers he needs the pen. He thinks about the reward money if they had found all those missing mammals. He has the traffic camera revelation! He drags a dejected Judy into his scheme, which she doesn’t care about, but why the heck not?
In this horrible alternate universe version of Zootopia, this sequence of scenes is negative from beginning to end. And what would have happened to the audience if the scenes had played out in this depressing way?
They would have emotionally checked out.
The connection between emotions and story would have snapped.
We would have forced our emotions to abandon the story, and watched the rest of the movie feeling betrayed and cheated.
Because in the end, all we care about are these characters. All we care about is story, and character is story. It’s no coincidence that removing the emotional changes of the scenes equated to removing Judy and Nick’s relationship in the scenes; that relationship, that B Story, or Love Story, function (oddly enough) as the heart of the movie: it keeps the story alive, it keeps us connected and invested in the narrative, it keeps the scenes emotionally turning. Before Nick showed up, and we had two characters to care about, what kept us emotionally involved in the story was our relationship with Judy, this plucky bunny that we really wanted to see succeed. Establishing that connection is a subject for another post, but in regards to scenes, this manipulation of the audience’s emotions is how you keep that connection going strong.
I just said to manipulate someone’s emotions. How villainous.
Anonymous said:Director Sanvers prompt: maggie and Lucy find proof of Alex’s punk/goth/emo phase and tease her but are actually a little turned on when they find out she fronted a band and shows them a live concert video of their performances ???
So, posting this ask as a text so that the “read more” works properly, because this is a total beast of a fic. I dragged @onefootone into this one just to see what would happen. One night of brainstorming, one night of words. 6600 words. Hope it meets your expectations anon.
look,” Lucy points with her pen, “here we see the elusive Danvers, cautiously
making it’s way through the grazing grounds, such a rare sight here in these
“Not much is known of the
Danvers,” Maggie continues, “just that they share communal living spaces and,
in theory, have a den nearby. Rarely are they seen in the wild, preferring the
safety of heavily wooded areas devoid of social creatures.”
“Rarer still has the Danvers been
seen in mating plumage-”
Maggie snorts and Alex, eyes
flashing, throws an orange. “The Danvers can hear you, you dicks.”