“Tis the season of wish lists (resolutions to follow in a couple of weeks, I suppose). Near the top of my Christmas wish list, just beneath the requisite ‘peace on earth’, end to hunger, health to all my loved ones, etc., is what could be described perhaps more of a literary aspiration than an actual wish.
I want to write a Christmas movie.
Let me backtrack. In previous posts I’ve talked about the muse: what inspires me to write and from where do stories generate? I detailed over several columns the Deadly Lessons origin – and have threatened on numerous occasions to account for the origins of Last Dance as well. But among the many sources of inspiration and story origin for me is music.
It’s possible that I’m synesthetic. For the uninitiated, synesthetes have a neurological condition in which a sensory stimulation of one sense involuntarily stimulates the pathway to another. Thus, a synesthete may automatically associate numbers with colours or some spatial interpretation. In my brain– a dangerous place to be, no doubt -, for example, I see numbers in three-dimensional form: the numbers one through ten go in a line straight up and down; eleven through twenty veer to the right at about a forty-five degree angle; then there’s a sharp left at twenty as the numbers travel off towards triple digit territory, a few minor turns along the way. At one hundred there’s a sharp right and we carry on in similar patterns.
Similarly, when I hear music – most music – it comes to me in pretty strong visuals. Now musicians would say that music does tell a story, whether through its lyrics or through dramatic lifts and portions of musical lines that invoke emotion. It’s why, I suppose, the creation of music videos made perfect sense. For me, music sometimes invokes very powerful images and I’m practically playing the correct music video in my head, which is why I never really enjoyed the music video genre as I found it difficult to believe how visually wrong the filmmakers often were. When I finally saw the actual video of The Dream Academy’s Life in a Northen Town I was so astounded at how profoundly wrong they got it I essentially gave up on music videos from that point forward.
So it’s possible I suffer (suffer?) from synesthesia. On the other hand, I’ve never heard of the term prior to the book I’m currently reading aloud with my daughter,The Name of this Book is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch, where the condition figures prominently to the plot and as a bonus, has driven my daughter to the Google School of Medicine to learn more. I may just have powerful visual responses or interpretations to certain music.
My Christmas movie is one of those interpretations.
What I find intriguing, not only about the story that has developed over the past few Christmases but also about the process itself, is that the music has provoked not just an image but a storyline, the genesis of a plot for a Christmas movie that each year has grown a little with the replaying of the two or three songs that seem to drive it.
Now I know, I know: Christmas movies are often hokey and saccharine and lack the edge of today’s modern cinema. But I also think: so what? I appreciate some of the darker themes of humanity explored by some of today’s cutting edge filmmakers. But does that mean that films can’t be nice anymore? Yes, I fancy myself on a mission to civilize but I don’t think that’s entirely clouding my storytelling judgement. I honestly believe there is a market for – and a desire for – movies that just tell a nice story, where we feel pretty good at the end and maybe walk out of the theatre with a smile on our faces and maybe just a bit of a warm glow in our chests. And that’s the movie, beginning and climax already written, complete with Christmas bagpipes (thanks for that, Amy Grant) that I want to write.
Of course, like leftover turkey and discarded wrapping paper, as soon as I stop listening to the music I move on to other things. By March who wants to write a Christmas movie? But each year, as I pull out the Christmas CD’s and I hear that one piece of music, it all comes flooding back, as though begging to be written. What I really need is to have enough of the literary deck cleared that I can spend November and December one year focused on writing the Christmas movie while the spirit is with me, so to speak. So on a practical level, may Santa help me get W3.doc done early in the New Year so I can afford to take a departure from the next book come this time next year.
That’s not so much to ask.
Next week: New Year’s Resolutions. Why not?