Friday, October 16, 2020

Episode 22: The Holy Moment

Hi guys, it’s a new podcast episode, ad-free! James has advice for writing opening scenes and I basically agree with him for once. Plus, James almost gets hit by a meteor and I sing the praises of Minneapolis Community and Technical College.


Robert K S said...

James, I loved to write choose-your-own-adventure programs for my Atari 800XL when I was a kid!

I often ran into difficulty because the random number generator would always return the same number.

If I had Google in 1988 I could have learned that I needed to use a "RANDOMIZE" statement: "If you are using an IBM PC, Atari ST, or Amiga, you get the same sequence of ten numbers each time you run the program. Knowing this sequence may help when you are debugging a program, but if you use the same sequence for a game, the game soon loses its appeal. So, for the IBM PC, Atari ST, and Amiga computers, you'll need to add the RANDOMIZE statement. RANDOMIZE needs to appear before any use of RND."


Only took me 32 years to solve that mystery

James Kennedy said...

Robert! That takes me back. I recently dug my trusty Atari 800XL out of storage and have been playing some of the old games I programmed decades ago. I didn't have a disk drive at first, and was instead obliged to store programs on audio tape (!!) via the Atari 410, a tape-recorder device that took literally a half hour for stuff to load. The upside, though: you could also use the same device to play standard audio tapes through the TV speaker, and I used it to include "real-life" audio samples in my games. When I wrote a "Star Wars" X-wings-against-the-Death-Star game, I made it so that all the movie's actual pilot chatter and sound effects and John Williams music would play at appropriate times during one's progress through outer space and down the trench. Not bad for an 8-bit computer in 1986 . . . and amazingly, it all still works!

J Friday said...

I really like the sound of The Holy or Sublime Moment. As much as The Moment of Grace. (I’ve listened to that one multiple times — apparently it’s underrated!) I know you guys go back and forth over whether storytelling is about solving problems vs a religious/spiritual experience, but the religious language works and — isn’t religion about solving problems with unknown solutions anyway? And faith/acceptance that humans can’t know/do anything and therefore rely on unknown forces all the time?

That said, isn’t The Sublime Moment just the opening image and foreshadowing? Or is there something more? I think Brandon Sanderson’s promise and payoff is covering similar ground. You have a short time at the beginning of the story to make a “promise” to the the audience. You pay it off by bringing back those themes and feelings throughout the story, and especially at the end. Am I on the same page here?

Also wanted to point out that The Fugitive doesn’t open with the party, it opens with searchlights in the credits and flashes of Kimble’s wife being murdered. Then Kimble getting in the back of a police car. In the beginning, he’s getting in the back to be then unjustly convicted. In the ending, he’s presumably on his way to be exonerated. So the ending is just a mirrored/recontextualized version of the beginning.

English really needs to separate all the meanings for love into different words like Greek. The Fugitive was totally a love story. Just not a romantic love story.

Anyway, would really love to see you guys dive back into this concept and clarify the rough edges.

Joel W. said...

The moment of grace episode was great, very interesting even if it perhaps doesn't always occur in a movie (but maybe some version of it does?). This new episode leaves me feeling very much the some way. Other gurus have discussed the opening image and opening promise, and Matt's checklist also has an item for an introductory framing device, but the concept of the opening starting with the ideal, the sublime, and ending as a disaster, failure, or as just some sort of counterpoint to the ending is useful. And it seems far more common than one might think! The events occurring, the mood/feelings connected to the events, the characters' outlook, and the location in which the events occur all seem like they can be (but don't have to be) used to created this kind of intro mirror moment. The subtle Alien s example is awesome.

Robert K S said...

That is amazing! I had the tape drive too but never really got it to work so all my Atari games evaporated with the power cycle.

Raphael RKD said...

13th is one of my favourites episodes. The grace moment remind me a lot eucatatrophe concept proposed by Tolkien:

"But the 'consolation' of fairy-tales has another aspect than the imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires. Far more important is the Consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it. At least I would say that Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite — I will call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function.

The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially 'escapist', nor 'fugitive'. In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the “turn” comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality."
― On Fairy-Stories

James Kennedy said...

Raphael RKD -- Yes! Thank you. Great connection there. I remember that Tolkien essay. I'm going to reread it now. I'm pretty sure Matt hasn't read it. It might be worth dedicating an entire episode to talk about it.

Joel and J Friday -- Yeah, my "Holy Moment" idea is admittedly quite similar to "opening image"/"closing image" points that a lot of other folks have made elsewhere. I guess the thing that struck me, that I wanted to emphasize but I think got muddled, is how the structure of the story (vision of an "unfulfilled" holy moment, then busted down to the mundane unmagical world, in order to work one's way up to achieving a "fulfilled" holy moment) mirror's the artist's process in creating the work itself. Ugh, still muddled!

J Friday -- Also, thanks for that perceptive close reading of the beginning of "The Fugitive"!)

Joel W. said...

James' recap--thank you for phrasing your idea again in the comments--reminds me of another hypothesis mentioned in this episode: Matt describing various narratives and/or heroes as they descend and ascend through the concepts of head-heart-gut-spirit, in various orders. I don't think we've ever heard this idea before? I'm not sure I understand it quite as well as the character personality concepts of head-heart-gut-spirit (and groin and spleen(?) and stomach(?)). Would love to see a blog post or podcast episode talk about this a little more.

James Kennedy said...

Joel -- yes, when Matt mentioned his idea about the plot following the path of head-heart-gut-spirit, that was the first time I heard it too! (If Matt didn't edit it out, AS HE EDITED OUT MANY OTHER THINGS IN THIS EPISODE, you can probably hear my surprise as he mentions this idea.) In a future episode we should talk about the head-heart-gut directly, since we haven't yet, and I have much to say on the topic . . .

The Kid said...

Matt, thank you for mentioning the plot following the path of head-heart-gut-spirit. At what point does the hero hit the low point or gut point. It seems to me that the hero must hit the low point at the reversal and the decision to find what satisfies the spirit is the reversal engine that gives the story new life? Both Ground Hog Day and Empire Strikes Back seem to support the above. Thanks!