Monday, May 05, 2014

Bridges and Suspense

It's closing: The Bridges of Madison County, the musical, that is.

So we went and caught it before it all went away.

The music is lovely. Some of the music is so beautiful, a grown straight man from New Jersey with a strong accent was crying next to me. Pretty sweet.

So, I suggest you listen to the Broadway cast album somewhere.

But this is the bad news: This play had very little suspense. And by suspense I mean the normal human tendency to focus on a story that is set up so that you just have to ask, "What is going to happen??"

It doesn't have to be a big thing. In fact, it can be super tiny. Like a kid wanting a bicycle. Will he or won't he get it on Christmas morning? We can all sit there and watch the whole story as we wait to find out.

Even in Waiting for Godot, a play with a plot that has been referred to as, "Where nothing happens. Twice."  (The twice refers to its having two acts. And they are similar.) Even in that play, there is suspense. What will these guys do next? As they wait and wait? How BAD WILL IT GET???

Great stories we all know:

WILL Dorothy get back home from Oz?

WILL the patient get better?

WILL the criminal be caught?

WILL the young lovers make it to the altar of marriage without too many people messing it up?

WILL she get a horse ribbon?

WILL Gregor Samsa remain a cockroach?

In The Bridges of Madison County, the question is, "WILL she run off with the hippie photographer?"
But you don't think, for even a second, she will. So, you don't ask the question. All you are left with is the beautiful music and a meditation on life: desire, connected-ness, family, obligation.

I like meditative things. But let's face it, whenever you meditate, there's a great chance of falling asleep.

So, my note to all writers:  If you are writing a play or a movie or almost anything else, try to make sure that you keep people wondering, WILL (s)he _______________ ?  At least that will give you a motor so then you can apply your amazing voice, skills, ideas, characters, actions, conflicts, humor sequences and musical numbers with confidence and abandon. The WILL (s)he question will hold it all together.

This is rudimentary. But it bears repeating.

My two cents on a Tuesday.

Enjoy it. Toss it. Live it. Have a sandwich.

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