I once took a scriptwriting class.
As a final project we wrote a short chunk of an original script – whatever we wanted to write a script about. It needed to be in script format – I bought and learned Scriptware to that end – and it needed to be robust enough to start from something and lead to something. In other words, it needed to be big enough and coherent enough to tell at least a little bit of a story.
That didn’t sound too hard. In fact it sounded pretty interesting.
I couldn’t believe how hard it was.
The difficulty wasn’t in the writing. The difficulty was in figuring out what to write about. I kept drawing a blank slate.
Then finally something did come to mind.
That thing was a really serious encounter that I had had earlier in my life. It had been with another person on a bridge over a deep canyon in the middle of nowhere on toward sundown of what had turned out to be one of the best mid winter days that I had ever experienced.
The other person was a woman, so I would need to be able to write some kind of male stuff and some kind of female stuff. I had always wondered how writers did dialogue at all, let alone dialogue that came from mouths other than their own. “I guess I am going to find out” I thought to myself.
So I set out to write.
Mercifully there were start up point of view statements and ambience description statements and time of day statements with which I could postpone the need for dialogue, but ultimately I had to start having words come out of the mouths of my two characters.
My words were pretty easy. “Great” I thought to myself. The “great” was not directed at the quality of those words but at the fact that those words existed, glowing on my screen before me, at all. However, as always must, I would guess, happen, no matter how much a fledgling dialogue writer might want to postpone it, a reply becomes necessary from the other person.
I had reached and passed that point. Taking a deep breath I started keying the reply. I had started, I think, with the barest of concepts of what she was going to say, that concept being based upon some sort of memory of what words had actually been said in my actual past when the event had actually occurred. Beyond that barest of concepts there was nothing, so I had expected a word or two, a pause, a word or three, a pause and so on until something took form.
So it was with amazement that I beheld what actually began to occur.
She started saying things which I had no idea from whence they came. She was funny, ironic, whimsical but most of all desirable; she was electric; she had a life that I could believe existed independent of the script.
The fact that the actual person upon whom I was modeling the female script character was all of those things was neither here nor there. The script character that I had conceived and that my fingers had begun to key into existence was, in my mind a sort of cardboard cutout of the real person. That was also true of the male script character. And so he remained as he spoke his cardboard cutout lines.
But the female came forward, crashed around, and became a living, breathing being.
That had been an amazing experience.
That experience had been that some-Ouija-from-somewhere took command of the keyboard and took off with whatever it was that he or she had on his or her mind.
I have had many of those encounters since that first one. Those encounters produce, for me, my most personally satisfying writing.
For some reason today I have felt the desire to invoke one of those encounters. I have no idea why I have felt that urge. I have never consciously called the Ouija to the keyboard. He has, on occasion, showed up unbidden and spoken.
Today I am asking him to come.
To what end I am doing this I don’t know.
I have sat here at this keyboard for an hour now since I wrote the foregoing. I have had no contact from the Ouija.
So, I am going to start keying words and see if there is anything there.
“The sun always seemed to suddenly appear on those dawns when the sky was clear. On deeply cloudy days the sky gradually became light from dark. But on clear blue mornings there was at first a dim coral glimmer, becoming fuller and deeper of color – by then more of a glow than a glimmer – and finally, at a moment not to have been expected at all had it not been for the preceding glimmer to glow, the full fledged glorious golden sun leaped into view.
Starting from that initial leap into the sky from beneath the horizon, below and beyond the bank of the river, the sun followed its daily course in a semi circle nearly bisecting the river’s loop. At the sun’s daily terminus it fell back below the earth somewhat behind the sunward part of the river’s loop. And then there was blackness so dark that a fire or an animal-oil lamp on the island would not shed light; instead the light would be captured by the thickness of the ebony of the night. Light poured into that darkness as if it were a vacuum. What little light escaped barely illuminated the surroundings. That little left over light was the only way that the people saw the things that they needed to see. Those light sources were the only way that the people survived the terror of the night. And that little bit of left over light created shadows outside their futile little rings of illumination. Those shadows were the things of the night. They were the others, the already departed, the tangible surface of the almost heard scratchings of the things never seen, the things almost seen, or the things perhaps seen but not wanted to have been seen.
That daily journey of the sun laid down the rhythm of the life there on the island. In that loop in the river there were three islands. The people lived on the middle one. The other two constituted buffers against great varieties of enemies: other tribes and rising water from upriver to name two of the most frequent. The island was far from an ideal place to live, but in those times there were so few places that approached anything resembling a life that wasn’t imminently exposed to mortal danger or grinding, slowly advancing misery, that even thinking about them was worthless. After all, those places might only be myths: who among the people had ever seen a king, much less the place where a king might live? So the fact that the island was, for much of the year, a marsh, and that for part of the year the waters rushing by it sometimes rushed over it were conditions to be borne, and perhaps even seen as advantages. After all, once on the island looking out for potential invaders from the relative safety of the island’s marshy low ground and its slightly treed higher ground, one could take comfort in the fact that an attack on those already occupied places was a very difficult, and a very exposed enterprise to undertake.
So life on the island was generally tranquil, but tranquil with a raw edge. The sun came up over the river at dawn – except when thick clouds hid his daily arrival - made his daily circuit and retired behind the left back third of the island at eventide. Days, weeks, months, years and centuries passed to that rhythm. Nothing changed much, or if it did, everyone was too busy with the tasks of fishing and salting and drying fish, and preserving the meat and furs from warm blooded prey, and of making the treacherous boat trip across what was a relatively narrow gap to either side of the river from the island, to the even more marshy than the island right bank or the slightly more elevated and mostly dry left bank to notice any change.
But there were changes. Some of those changes were minor; some of those changes were major. Since no one among the people had the time or the inclination to observe them, all the changes that did in fact occur, lay un-noticed, un-prioritized and effectively unknown.
And so went the centuries.
One of the changes, and one that was so glacial in pace as to be legitimately un-noticed, even by the non human creatures that made it their home, was the tree.
It was an oak that had sprouted from an acorn carried by a squirrel up a rocky outcrop from a grove below and buried for future access – winter food, a human would have said – in a surprisingly copious deposit of good loamy soil that had somehow survived wind, rain and ice scourings. Once the acorn had sprouted and put down its first lattice of roots the soil was anchored against those erosional phenomena and the symbiosis of I need you, you need me set the stage for whatever length of time the tree was to survive.
The tree, along with the island people, persisted. It was an apparently static form of existence – that persistence – but as the days, weeks, months, years and centuries accumulated, the tree began to manifest what its significance might be going to be.
Over time it became huge.”
Once one of these Ouija encounters has been completed I experience a transition similar to what I imagine it must feel like to come out of a trance. This time that feeling is intense beyond any that I can remember. I feel as if there is something that I have seen that I should remember. But I can’t remember what that thing might be.
I do seem to have a stronger desire to read the journal.