I've been thinking about John, the man who cuts my hair, and how he told me about his experience on a reality TV show. He said the producers interviewed him for about ten hours before casting him, and what he thought were more or less innocuous questions turned out to be cold-hearted trickery. They asked him about what situations really made him "lose it," and then put him in precisely those conditions. It was like torture for him. On agreeing to be on the show: "I've done a lot of things in my life, but that's the only one I regret." The producers wanted aggressive behavior for the plot.
I've been thinking about what it felt like, when making autobiographical shows, or doing memoir-type writing, when I tried to fit my experience into a plot. It was baffling at best, disorienting, often maddening. It felt imprecise and unjust. I wanted to fight against it.
I've had similar experiences even in fiction. In Doppelganger, the cast and I co-created the story. I would give improvisational prompts, and each performer would develop her own character through responses to those prompts. I was also responsible for making sure we had five plot arcs, and that each of the plot arcs enriched the others. This part of my job often clashed with the understandings the performers had developed of their characters, and we had to do re-writes of internal motivations that they found frustrating at times.
I've been thinking about the work of making a show in which the protagonist is the audience, like in Two by Two. I've been thinking about how I would like to articulate ethical guidelines for that.
Inserting real-life people into plots can be really painful to those people. Prioritizing plot can do real damange. Plots are also a way to make a story accessible to an audience. We understand plot structure. I mean, we the audience do. So there's a tension there.
- In this exercise, I'll think of myself as the protagonist, not the author.
- Vonnegut wasn't talking precisely about the emotional state of the protagonist. He was talking about good fortune and ill fortune. But good fortune and ill fortune are not just according to perspective of the protagonist, and maybe even less according to the emotional state of the protagonist. A protagonist can be optimistic and resolute in the face of ill fortune.
- One way to consider plot is that it highlights certain chains of cause and effect and obscures others. Because I'm playing protagonist here and not author, I don't know what chains of cause and effect to trace, to make it easy for the author. That's okay. Just noting how I feel and associating it with the task I'm doing or the thoughts I'm thinking seems the easiest to start with, and I want to see the shape of that graph.
- I'd been thinking, this morning, of ranking feelings from most negative to most positive, but this could get really tricky. Like: what if I feel intense anger? Do I rate that as a negative experience or a positive experience? Anger in certain contexts is super healthy. I think I won't worry too much about that while I'm notating. I think I'll do the conventional thing of rating anger, sadness, fear, jealousy, and pain as negative experiences, and the realm of happiness, pleasure, and "flow" as positive experiences. But just sticking a flag in the fact that this is not a perfect convention.
- I think I might need some degree of privacy to do this honestly. I don't know how much of the notes I'll publish.