Sunday, 22 March 2009

Detail is like the water we take to swallow the pill of meaning

I saw a short animated film earlier tonight. The hero got struck by a meteorite and as a result is displaced by 91cm from his usual physical self. People see him where he is supposed to be, but he is detached 91cm away. At first he is confused. Then he works out what happened, and manages to adapt. He stands at 91cm away from the bathroom sink to use it, he sits 91cm away from the telephone to use it, etc.

But he can't live like that. So, he leans out the window and it comes to him: he needs to find another meteorite to collide into him, to undo the displacement. So, he travels far and wide, and manages to get at the exact location another meteorite is supposed to hit. Except this time, the collision causes him to be displaced even further, and with a vertical displacement too. (Previously, he was displaced 91cm horizontally.) So, he learns to accept his situation, to live where he is, not where he should be, or wants to be.

The film is Skhizein - directed by Jeremy Clapin.

Stories have all sorts of twists and turns but what we remember are the meanings.

I was struggling to recount to a friend the details of a funny sketch by Harry Enfield when I realised that I had already told him the meaning of it. Interestingly, my precis didn't mean anything to him! He wanted details to flesh out the gist, the idea.

Detail is like the water we take to swallow the pill of meaning.

When creating something, it works in an opposite direction: you have to go through the mechanics of storytelling, but what makes it a satisfactory process is when what you've detailed has meaning, says something. It takes many iterations to find out what the hell you're trying to say. Sometimes, ideas come fully-formed with their meanings already clear. Such ideas are a delight to write - just don't force it too much, and make sure you don't get distracted.

Other ideas come as what-ifs, observations, questions, how-about-thats ... Those need lots of iterations. I would say that out of so many iterations and versions, there is usually only one or two that are satisfactory - the rest are forgettable.

It seems to me the most effective creators, innovators are those who know what they want to say first.

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avantcaire said...

Detail is like the water we take to swallow the pill of meaning.

love that.

Ahmed said...

I googled that as a sentence and found I'm the only one to put it that way - according to google.

Not bad, eh?