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In With the New

In with the new project, that is. I had a little choreography to work out, since I’m planning to co-write a story with a friend soon, but just got a great idea for a screenplay that pretty much appeared in my mind, not quite fully-formed, but almost. The screenplay sort of brings together a lot of things I’ve wished I could see in a Korean SF movie, and following Justin Howe’s advice, I figure now is a good time to try write it… especially since there’s enough time to get a draft done and submit it to the PIFAN-hosted NAFF It Project 2013.

I don’t dare give too much away, but it’s basically what the film 2009: Lost Memories should have been: a meditation on the muddy ambiguities of ethics in a colonial setting, and the corruptive force of power and of coercion, and the lasting impact of war and oppression… but which actually takes into account the modern neo-imperialism in which Korea and South Koreans are participating today, and doesn’t just reinforce a narrative of Korean victimhood. I guess I’d say the impetus comes from wanting a grown-up, intelligent response to some of the questions that were posed and ignored in 2009: Lost Memories, in other words… and I hope that my script will be at least as challenging as the Bok Geo-il novel that those filmmakers ripped off, though obviously from a different angle.

Plot-wise, it’s sort of a Korean-styled mashup of Graham Greene’s  The Quiet American (1) and Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey (the latter a less-famous novel, but no less wonderful), set the late 1970s in an alternate history where geomancy is a functional science, where Korea has taken over stewardship of the collapsed Japanese Empire, and… well, you know, there’s this guy…

I’ve got about half the treatment banged out, and the other half should be done by dinnertime. Then I’ll give it a day to ferment, show it to some friends for feedback, and get down to drafting it in full. If my limited past experience is any indicator, once I have a treatment the drafting should be a pretty smooth process, though of course it’s probably different for different projects. Still, I should definitely have a pretty good draft ready for the April 30 deadline.

(If I’m really happy with it, I may even turn it into a novella or something eventually… though I have my doubts that Western readers would necessarily grasp what I’m doing with the diversions that make the history alternate. We’ll have to see how workable that all would be.)

But my experience with the treatment–which is something like a heavily-detailed outline–also has me thinking about novel-writing. I found the synopsis very useful, an important part of the screenplay-writing process. Screenplays are relatively short, mind: the last one I wrote was 100 pages long, but only 20,000-odd words long. But what it helped me with was the plot and structure, and when I sensed problems in the script, I was able to go back to the treatment and see where things needed to be changed, or added in. It made the whole process a lot less vague and painful in my mind. I didn’t stick to it too closely, but it provided me with a structure from which diverging felt a whole hell of a lot less crazy or unguided than it otherwise would have done… and it helped me to think about the overall structure and how changes would have an impact in what had already been written, and in what I was planning to write later.

So I’m planning to write a “treatment” for the novel I’ll start starting in on in May, before I do any actual drafting. Until now, I’ve only rarely outlined stories, but since I keep bouncing off the task of writing novels (having drafted three or four of them so far, and been so unhappy with all of them as to never revise them, at least not yet) I figure I might as well see how portable the technique might turn out to be.

(1) Yes, yes, it’s kind of stereotypical to go to that Greene novel now that I’m in Vietnam, but actually I have been a fan of the book (and the Caine film) since I lived in Jeonju, and have long thought a narrative featuring a Korean colonial occupation of Southeast Asia would make an interesting story. And by the way, I am thinking of setting the colony in Indonesia, instead of in Vietnam, though I played around with Vietnam as a setting in my head for a while, and in the treatment too.

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