Thursday, January 15, 2009

Case study for creative artists and viewers

Help! I can’t stop teaching! LOL. I love to teach, not because I am a smarty pants, but because I’ve noticed that people have slipped into a very sad mode of learning, and I wish to change that. So here is another case study that addresses those in the creative arts, both producers of creative arts (such as the entertainment industry) and consumers (watchers of TV, movies etc, so they can demand better and not assume that they are getting the best). I in particular want to address, as always, the young people, the students and those who are starting out in these creative arts fields.

I wrote a previous case study of how one can write an interesting science fiction or fantasy type of story without being dark and depressive, but still being creative and edgy. The case study I presented was my story idea for a planet that has only yellow flowers and a traumatized Iraqi vet is sent there for some therapy. I have another, more developed story line that I thought of today to use for this case study. With this story line you can start to weed out of your own creativity tendencies toward unnecessary darkness and depression and instead restore it with genuine edge, drama and creativity. Too many moderns have grown up with two generations of entertainment and other creative arts professionals who equate edge, drama, suspense and deep plot lines (all great things) with darkness, sadness, fright, depression and depravity of thought or action (not too good things). Thus they weave into all their creative works enforced turns in the plot and underlying “messages” that are bringing everyone down and ultimately not really providing the edge that a really creative person craves in their works. So here is my new story line.

An average American returns from Iraq or Afghanistan wounded. Now when casting this person I mean what I say that he or she is genuinely average from an average family, so the protagonist can be male or female, straight or gay, white, Afro-American or Hispanic, from any part of the country. When you reach the parts that explore his or her past all of it will be perfectly ordinary, no reasons exist for what is about to take place because it remains a mystery throughout the story line and is never resolved.

The person comes back with severe wounds and severe post traumatic stress disorder, but while the wounds heal at a normal pace, he or she literally “gets over” his or her post traumatic stress disorder in a matter of a day or two. He or she does not do anything special, but one day doctors (and the vet him or herself) notices that “Voila” his or her PTSD is totally gone. They wonder about it but think nothing of it, figuring that either he or she is just extraordinarily resilient or it was not such a bad case of PTSD in the first place.

While in the hospital or rehab facility the patient, who is now being treated just for the physical wounds, socializes with other wounded vets. Suddenly, everyone notices, including him or her self, that every patient that he or she speaks to socially, not in a therapeutic way per se, suddenly is healed of their PTSD too. That becomes the story line, NOT the “why” or “how” but what does one do with such a “gift.” But because it is natural and not a supernatural or talent infusion, it’s called the knack. He or she has a knack for somehow saying the right thing that almost magically seeming eliminates and cures a fellow patient’s PTSD.

So the drama and edge comes from two components of this story line. One is to show the before and after of those he or she deals with and “cures.” It’s not like it rubs off from him or her where he or she just needs to be in the room, so it’s not miraculous curing. And it is not like he or she is using therapeutic and behavior modification psychological principles. Somehow he or she just says the right “ordinary” things and the PTSD is gone. So there can be a series of scenes where he or she converses about just ordinary things, what they did in the war, where their family is from, favorite hobbies and childhood memories, and somehow in those ruminations for each patient the one with the knack hits on saying something (different in each case) that works. For example, one vet may talk about a great play he made in a baseball or football game and feel bad that he, due to physical wounds, might not play sports again. But then after that vet has reminisced about the one great play, after the conservation and like a day later his PTSD is gone, even though they never discussed it. So there is great fertile ground for many scenes of ordinary conversation mysteriously resulting in an extraordinary PTSD cure.

The second component of the drama and edge is what do the various components of the society as a whole, such as the military, the government and others “do” with this person with the knack? Again, resist the urge to turn it into a dark “secret weapon” or the “drug manufacturers try to kill him or her” trite formula of paranoia, as is the standard today. Think about what we as a whole would genuinely “do” with such a person. That is the source of the second layer of drama and edge. Does he or she want to leave their normal life and go around the country or even the world doing nothing but “curing” people of PTSD? Would the military try to force her, cutting new orders so long as he or she is in the military to do such a thing? I would assume that he or she wants to help being, like I said, an average person, but he or she also wants a normal life too. How do they find the balance? Suppose he or she already has a spouse and children. Does the military create a new position just for him or her? Some comedy and irony would be appropriate in this entire “balancing act” too. The best edge is from genuine drama with the genuine gentle humor of human nature, including the funny and somewhat pathetic, LOL.

What would the government “think” about such a person? Thank goodness I am giving all of you this idea post-Bush administration so that Bush lovers and haters don’t ruin my great story line with distorting it to suit political agenda! The edge and drama of this is that normal people with normal capabilities are trying to now figure out what to do with a normal person who has one extraordinary knack and capability. Insurance companies, what would they do? Offer him or her lots of money to work at diminishing their payout to PTSD patients who require long treatment? Would non governmental charitable agencies try to get him or her as an employee to travel the world curing PTSD among poor villagers and war refugees?

There is so much here that it could be a great movie but also a long running TV series. That is because the edge and the drama comes from each interaction with a PTSD patient, the attempt of the person with the knack to have a normal life too, and the continuing series of governments, agencies and others with a vested interest in his or her knack.

See? One can have an incredible story line with a great plot and lots of potential for edge without alien possession, insane insurance agents trying to kill him or her, everyone is depressed and miserable in the end, and robots rule the world. One also learns to be a mature creative artists and consumer where you are interested and even fascinated with the plot but not because one must ever find out “why” or “how” he or she “does” it. It’s just there; it’s one of those fascinating mysteries about human individuality, not some overblown spiritual or superpower thing. This keeps it real, because this is close to the real world, with its problems of war and other causes of PTSD, but also entertainment because it is dramatic and inspiring and lifts one a bit out of the ordinary, through this knack, but not into warped fantasy. It is edgy too because one continually can’t help but wonder “how,” just as the protagonist him or her self wonders, but not so much because like I said, there is no explanation. No “reincarnation and past lives,” no “embodied aliens,” no “mutant superpowers gained from radioactive rays on the battlefield,” sheesh, for goodness sakes. And the pressure on the vet with the knack does not drive him or her to insanity, drugs, crazy sex and other dark depressive escapism, just to “work those themes” into what is supposed to be entertainment. The vet’s best friend does not need to be an assassin or a drug dealer.

This case study of an original story line is thus an example of how great creativity can provide edge, drama, mystery and humor without the same tired paranoid and depressive tools used by just about everyone in the industry today. There is nothing more fascinating than ordinary and real people (not contorted caricatures of “keeping it real”) who have one, maybe two, extraordinary circumstances to deal with.

I hope that you have found this helpful and interesting!