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The challenge of writing Base Instruments

The third installment of Mrs. Hawking is now underway. With Bernie's help, I have begun the challenging process of plotting it out, and it's clear that this will significantly harder than what I've done before.

First of all, Base Instruments will be a true mystery, as opposed to a caper like the first two stories. In Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina, our heroes are presented with a problem rather than a question. "Foil a blackmailer and return a kidnapped child." "Bring a monster to justice who is hiding behind diplomatic immunity." They knew what they were going after, and their challenge was to figure out how to accomplish it. In a mystery, however, they have to investigate to find out the answer to what's gone on. That's a very different story design process, as it requires the slow unfolding of the truth based on the gathering of clues, which is really tough to do in a theatrical medium. Think about it; most mystery stories require lots of people to interview and places to investigate, while in theater you have to minimize both locations and characters in order to make staging feasible. The few theatrical mysteries tend to be of the "locked room" variety, to keep both suspect pool and number of settings down.

Bernie and I are trying to use that "locked room" model after a fashion for that very reason. Still, this play is going to have a LOT of speaking characters, there's just no way around it. We've got our three leads, of course, and we're starting to build up a cast of supporting characters we want to recur and develop-- in this case, Nathaniel's wife Clara and Arthur, the policeman Mary befriended. I also want to include Nathaniel's brother Justin Hawking, and of course there's going to have to be all the characters specifically involved in the mystery.

But we're trying to concern ourselves more with telling the best possible story than with "production stuff" yet. Writing a compelling mystery will be tough enough on its own. I've been watching a ton of mysteries lately for research, and we're going to be working out a lot of kinks. Wish us luck! I want the next installment of this story to continue the upward trajectory of the last two.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
vortexofchaos
Jan. 29th, 2015 12:18 am (UTC)
Writing a good murder mystery is a real challenge. My first four LARPs were murder mysteries - and, for me, the only way I could do it was to work outwards from the death. From the death, there are clues and forensics - and I had to get it right. The worst thing is to have someone in your game go "it doesn't really work like that" - and I had people in my games who would know. Fortunately, there are some very good references on weapons, poisons, forensics, and police procedure that I could use for research. (Although these days, it could get my browser history flagged as being suspicious! I just have to hope no one around me dies under suspicious circumstances, given what's on my bookshelf.) From the death, I had to work backwards to the motives, and make sure they were strong enough. Murder is a difficult thing, a hurdle that, fortunately, most people can't get over, despite the usual incentives that get under peoples' skins. It's almost as bad when a player goes "Really? That's why the victim died? That's ridiculous." I look forward to hearing more about your process and to seeing the results.
laurion
Jan. 29th, 2015 06:04 pm (UTC)
Sometimes you can funnel multiple voices through one. The beat cop who reports back what all the witnesses saw. The detective who sums up all the interviews. The tech crew who brings in just the best bits of all the surveillance cameras. The rap sheet on file which already lists known associates and all sorts of useful backstory.
breakinglight11
Jan. 29th, 2015 06:32 pm (UTC)
That is an excellent suggestion, thank you!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

About Me

My name is Phoebe. I'm Boston area theater professional and English professor focused in writing, acting, directing, and modeling. I'm known for having lots of interests, lots of opinions about those interests, and a very high estimation of the value thereof. This blog is for talking about whatever's on my mind, from my daily life to my activities to musing on any number of abstract topics. Thanks for taking the time to read.

My productions:

Upcoming Productions:



MRS. HAWKING part 2 and 3


at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016

presented by The Chameleon's Dish

Vivat Regina
by Phoebe Roberts

at 2PM

and

Base Instruments
by Phoebe Roberts

at 6PM

Saturday, May 13th 2017
at 274 Moody Street, Waltham, MA

Other Achievements:

"The Tailor at Loring's End" screenplay
Quarter Finalist in the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Competition 2013

"Adonis" screenplay
Top Ten Percent in the Bluecat Screenwriting Contest 2015

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