Have you ever dug up bones? For that matter do you remember the opening scene from that iconic film Jurassic Park? Long before the raptors or the crazy T-Rex begin ripping apart everyone’s lives, the simple and quiet Dr. Grant is sitting on a dig site, playing with a claw and chiding some small boy about the viciousness of the real thing. This is a set piece using the almighty foreshadowing power. What it shows us is a few key things, first and foremost is that Grant doesn’t like the kids (something he has to resolve), but it also shows us that which is buried will be exhumed again to trouble the lands of the living.
Grant works to avoid these problems as the story moves along. He shelves his interest and understanding for anger and scorn when it comes to the kids. He didn’t want kids, they complicate things. He eventually gains their trust, shows his funny side, and ends up being their protector against the scaled creatures that stalk the shadows of the island. What we see in Dr. Grant is a dynamic character who is forced to face what he fears, and once that is overcome he becomes the hero.
It is both simple and hard. Simple to see the plot weave and hard to make it effective in an age where so many films did the same thing. To this day we still have films that run through these clean lines, just ask Dwayne Johnson, who has made a second career off being a similar hero. I don’t fault Hollywood for it, or writers who write those plot lines. It’s a base desire they key into and get butts in the seats to watch an action flick. We know the hero of story is going to go through some serious rough patches, have their beliefs and resolve challenged, but in the end they’re going to find a way to succeed. What we don’t know is the how of it all. That’s the part that keeps us watching. We care about how the hero does it.
One of the great dances of any story line is what brings the hero out of the cold and into the light they deserve to be in. What backstory element weighs on them so much they are willing to fight and scrap for every inch they can get. The goal might not seem as if it’s ever in sight, but the hero keeps fighting. That backstory is filled with buried bones, most are figurative, unless we’re talking about a character like Dr. Grant, but if we zoom out on our own lives we see that we all have buried bones.
The bones of the past can move us in many different ways. Regret over a path not taken. A chance at love never caught. A cobweb filled cemetery full of words one wishes they’d never said. We all have them. It’s part of what makes us human. When we rummage through the bones of our past lives, we turn up memories we thought were lost forever. This is all happening to me in real time these last few days, as I prepare to move from the home I’ve lived in for over a decade. The sheer amount of memories come on like waves, sometimes endless waves, to push me into a time machine back to an age long ago. And there are more bones to come.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I welcome the bones. I welcome the memories good and bad, because I am made of those bones. Piece by piece I stripped myself down to the base and rebuilt my avatar into what I wanted to be. I stretched my muscles and reconnected with who I remembered being when I was younger. The bones of the past gave me the wisdom I needed to make the choices which got me here, about to uncover more bones. Every time you reconnect with your past self, those pieces in the graveyard, you stumble upon an opportunity to make a change in course. This allows you to harness your own dynamic plot arc and make the hard decision, become the hero of your own story or spit the bit and put the bones back where they came from.
What I’m reading: Currently on the top of my stack is Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig. This is the fourth craft book I’ve read this year, and it won’t be my last (as I bought another one recently). I’m also diving into a few new podcasts to get some more perspective, but I’ll hold off naming them until I get a better feel on whether they’d be good to recommend.
What I’m listening to: The Rolling Stones are in heavy rotation with a peppering of Bad Religion and Beck. I keep my music choices wide ranging, but that comes from mood swings. I’ve gained more appreciation for the Stones in the past six or seven years than I ever did before, and trust me they are more than the hits you’ve heard (even though those are good too)
What I’m watching: We are making our way through the Punisher (season one) – and as a long time lover of all things Frank Castle I am pleased with their take on his story. Is it strict to cannon? No, of course not. The character was created out of the political flames of Vietnam, not present day. I think the core of what makes the Punisher is there, and even though I could pick nits about what I’ve seen, I won’t. I’m happy he’s got his own series, and that’s enough for me.
I’m also watching Ozarks, which is a leap into a much different setting, but that show is worth your time. If you haven’t seen or heard of it before, I recommend you check it out on Netflix and buckle up.