Clamping The Words To The Page

This week I tried my hand at scriptwriting. I’m in two theatre classes this semester (Introduction to Theatre and Teaching Artistry) and I’ve been involved with theatre all through high school. My best friends are very involved with drama, and I go through phases where the only music I listen to is one musical soundtrack or another. So I’ve got some background, but very limited experience, with scripts.

I’ve done a little bit of scriptwriting before; most notably I wrote the script for a big theatre project in high school – a story of four roommates their first semester of university. That was then adapted into a short story, Roommates can be read on this website under the Writing tab. Other than that, at the writing camp I attended in high school I participated in the fiction writing workshops but one day of the session we would do genre-swap where we went to a different workshop. So between 10th and 11th grade I did script/screenwriting for genre-swap. We wrote a short comedy TV show, with just a few pieces of episodes. It was interesting.

I also briefly dabbled in the idea of adapting Wayward into a one-act play but I never got around to it. I think I still might, but when I work with fiction I know for a fact that I can move forward with that genre – if I write a script or a screenplay I have no knowledge on how to see those made into their final product. So, I really don’t work a lot with scripts.

However, over the past couple weeks I’ve been writing a lot of creative nonfiction. On Thursday night, I sat down and was trying to work some things out. And I kept feeling like every time I tried to write about this – a boy, I’m having problems with a boy – I would feel like there were two parts of me yelling at each other. And writing in first-person prose is very difficult if there are two voices trying to claim that first-person perspective.

So, I broke them into two characters and wrote my thoughts out as a play. One of my theatre professors once told us that playwrights love to have characters sit down while it’s raining outside, and drink lots of tea, and talk about life. Obviously, this isn’t to be interpreted literally. But you’ll often find that’s a fairly decent template for theatre.

So, I split my brain into two characters (well, three, but one of them is only mentioned by name) and had them sit down and drink coffee in the middle of the night and just talk. These characters are named Pathos and Logos (you can probably guess who the off-stage third character was) and they sit down and go back and forth about this boy. Pathos pours their worries out, Logos talks them through it. Logos takes up that logical ‘come on, be real’ argument while Pathos confesses all the turmoil and confusion which gets them so wound up. Logos is steady and clear, Pathos speaks in run-on sentences and is panicked and afraid. Logos calms Pathos down, Pathos reminds Logos how amazing it is to feel the intensity of emotions that we humans are susceptible to.

Now, obviously this play can’t be published here (like a lot of my creative nonfiction) because the contents are extremely personal and the whole world doesn’t need to have access to my innermost thoughts. However, I did find that – despite this being a fictional world and focused on another person – Logos and Pathos ended up discussing a topic or two that are much more visceral and much more integral to who I am.

For example, at one point Pathos remarked “I didn’t decide to be in charge,” effectively blaming me, Grace, for letting emotion and my heart dictate most of my decision making. Along that same line, Logos snaps near the beginning of the play: “What’s wrong, running headfirst into everything and letting your heart run the world not working out?” When Pathos first asks them for help. This explores a larger part of who I am, goes beyond this one boy and this one relationship I am struggling to work out. I didn’t expect that to happen, I didn’t intend that even though I’m the writer.

Still, there is also a deep conflict described between Logos and Pathos, particularly where the stage direction mentions: Pathos stands up sharply. Logos looks up at them, they stare at one another intently. There is clearly a lot of history there.

So while I let Pathos and Logos work out the concerns that keep me too-focused on this boy, I also began to critically consider how I live my life and how I approach decisions. I worry too much about futures that are impossible, I deeply overthink, and seriously over-plan. I focus on things that need not be focused on, and I have perhaps ultimately given Pathos – emotion and heart – too much power. Pathos says at the end: “What your head has to say is pretty important too,” in tribute to the help Logos has provided during their late-night conversation.

As I’ve said, I don’t intend to publish this or develop this particular piece of writing further. And I realize that strictly from a rhetoric standpoint, Pathos, Logos, and Ethos don’t work quite like that. However, I did like the concept a lot. The idea of two (or more) metacognitive characters who represent one person, discussing how best to take care of that one person.

Think Inside Out for adults.

It has been a few days since I wrote A Delayed Reprise, the title being a reference to how it’s been too long since Logos had a major say in something, and I have felt both more confident and more focused on the parts of my life outside of this boy. Logos and Pathos gave me a great ego boost, and it feels to me as if I’ve gotten out what I was carrying around in my head, spit it onto the page so I don’t have to deal with it. It makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from The Poisonwood Bible, wherein Adah says: “All the noise in my brain. I clamp it to the page so it will be still.” Which I find is often how I feel about my writing, as if I have loaded off a thousand thoughts spinning around my head and put something to rest.

While A Delayed Reprise as it stands won’t ever be published or available to the public eye, it’s a concept I’d definitely like to explore further. I think a longer story, and a fictitious one, would be interesting to write as Logos and Pathos (and maybe Ethos) go head to head, and try to decide what’s best for their person. I’ve found balance is best, I let Pathos run the show for way too long – and it wasn’t getting me anywhere but heartache.

-Grace T, December 2017

-Left a clouded mind and a heavy heart / But I am sure we could see a new start – Hopeless Wanderer, Mumford & Sons

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