Sunday, November 25, 2012

How animation legend Chuck Jones influenced "The Death of O'Ryan Ross!"

I've spoken before about the rules legendary animator Chuck Jones established for his Roadrunner cartoons. He insisted that the roadrunner not speak - only Meep; the roadrunner had to stay on the road; the coyote would always fall the same number of frames. To Chuck those strictures freed the creativity of the artists within that context. It was very structured.

Some would say rigid.

But it worked. The Roadrunner - (And Pepe Le Pew, which was similar) is extremely popular. When I interviewed him for "The Hand Behind the Mouse" he reaffirmed those rules as a creativity-enhancing device. For me, that's what my little experiment with Tolstoy was all about - working within a structure.

Each line for me was like one of Chuck's rules. It may have limited my options, but it also forced all of my thought processes to be concentrated on the content and the story - instead of rhythms, parts of speech or anything of the sort. All of that was already done for me. The process was enabled in some ways by the choice I made to have O'Ryan be integral to every chapter. With the exception of the opening chapter at his funeral - and the final scene in the hospital - the viewpoint is limited omniscient. I write from his perspective, feeling his pain.

So knowing the subject was O'Ryan, and the sentence structure I needed, I merely had to fill in action verbs and pretty it up with the filigree of adjectives and adverbs as prescribed by Tolstoy's word choices.

"Merely," the man said. "Merely!" Hah! Darned hard work actually. But that hard work was between the lines. Not external. Everything that suffered my restless nights was what was truly important - the story itself.

Not that I would do it again. But it was certainly an interesting process.

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