Sometimes your stories die (and that's okay)

12:00 pm

Image Credit: @dominikmartin

For one of my university modules we had to take a scene from a book we had studied and describe how we would adapt it for the screen, and give our reasons why. I chose Alice's Adventures in Wonderland when she first sees the White Rabbit and follows it into Wonderland. I found myself fully-immersed, spending late nights planning the setting, the cast, the music, the atmosphere. I had the entire thing sketched out in my mind, the whole story. I drew diagrams of narrative progression, I planned costumes, whether the characters would have accents.

It was set in Bank Station on the London Underground, which wasn't as original as it could have been. It was going to be gritty. Gritty retellings of fairytales were already relatively popular at the time so, again, my idea wasn't that original, but I loved it. Guy Richie would probably direct it. It would feel a bit like Sucker Punch, but also a bit like 28 Days Later. The story would follow very closely to Dante's Inferno, with Alice venturing further and further through the rings of hell. I thought it was a damn good idea, but, hell, I can rip it to bits too. In fact, let's give it a try:

Lifted that Brian Eno track straight from 28 Days Later. I think we were told in this assignment to copy things from other media so as to have a good reason to use them. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself to feel better about this blatant copying. No clue where Michael Gambon came from. Harry Potter had just ended and I was feeling a little sensitive. 

Chloe Grace Moretz was all the rage in 2011-2, fresh out of Kick Ass, so this doesn't even need an explanation. Abbie Cornish is a straight-up Sucker Punch reference. Dead parents, obviously. Harry Potter, all vigilante superheroes.




That's dark. Also, did I not at all proofread this? Why are there two full stops after 'flicker?'


Kevin Corrigan was an odd choice, but I had been watching a lot of Community. Looking at it now, I would definitely get Oscar Isaac for this role. And all roles, ever.

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When I got my paper back, it was one of the lowest grades I had gotten at university. It was disappointing because I considered the assignment to be a very creative one, where you couldn't go wrong if you gave your reasons for your choices. I was also told that I had no clue about the fundamentals of writing and sentence structure, and if I wanted to ever do well, I would need to get a book out about it. I get that this isn't my best writing (did I even proofread this essay?), but, damn, that's harsh.

I was still very attached to the idea of Alice in the Inferno (or Underland, which was another working title) uncharacteristically unshaken by this disappointing result. The story played on my mind, perhaps a little more than I remembered until recently I found a stack of old notebooks in my bedside cabinet. Flicking through the pages I saw drawings of my Alice and the details of my carefully constructed narrative arc. My cast of characters were still there, ready to come to life.

And then the story died, like many stories do. It never went anywhere. I don't even think I have any of the Word documents left with my planning, only the finished assignment. Five years have passed and that's okay. Sometimes ideas happen to get you to another place. Sometimes they happen just to get your mind working. For that period of my life, I spent a lot of it with tiny sparks of inspiration for stories I would write. One-page summaries of plays about friends who developed superpowers. Little scraps of memoir that I thought someday someone would read. There are even pieces of story that I stumble across that make no sense to me. I don't remember writing them, but I wish I did because they sound good and I know at some point I did have a very exciting idea. I'll have a beginning and an end, and a little bit of middle, and that's all it will end up being. That's also okay. It's all okay.

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