Telling Stories…

I was conversing in the evening with a friend about my last (10 min) play, The Asimov Connection. Frankly, it was one of the more popular of my plays and some friends(who loved it) keep reminding me about how much they loved it (and I love being reminded, trust me). We were talking about how I came about different parts of the story and as I was narrating to him I remembered that the play was originally meant to be a short story. In making it a play, I had modified its core.

Before I go on, here is a quick detour about how I decide to write a short story or play or a blog post. Any communicable idea in general, can be communicated in multiple ways. If I had to tell you my favorite Zen story, I can write it down(story/sketch) and give it to you, narrate it to you, get performers and record the audio & play it like a radio play, get actors and perform it in front of you, record a video of a reenactment and show it to you.

So how do I choose my medium of communication?
It can depend on:

  • How good I am at that medium(have I worked in that medium before)
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of a medium (Novels have greater detail in them than say a play. The latter has time space restrictions too.)
  • What are the strengths and weakness of the story (Inception would make a great novel but be pretty hard to do as radio play)

I try to take a middle path. For me the essence of the story is as important as the medium I choose to tell it. Plays offer some features that I personally adore. Each performance is unique in its way, you cant pause and rewind whenever you want, there is no layered separation between the performers and the audience(the performers experience the audience as they perform)… I can go on.

The reason I decided to make Asimov Connection into a play was in many ways the challenge.

Imagine showing a 10 min story that takes you 20 mins to explain to someone who hasn’t watched it.

Just that idea was too awesome a challenge to get me all excited. I started with simply the core idea. The location was the most important part of the story. It started in a coffee shop, the characters and story line slowly merged with the “where”.

Two drafts down I realized that the location was just not working, a cafe are unfortunately too clich├ęd for plays… After working on a couple of choices I switched to an airport. The change meant a complete rewrite, characters changed as their motives changed. The relationship was similar but had to be tweaked to suit the changed characters. The climax was rewritten. By the fourth draft, things started looking decent.

The first read was pretty underwhelming, I was genuinely was worried if I was doing this right and if any audience will get this story. By the time I had casted for the play, a couple of major changes happened in the script. Then the actors happened…

The actors in most of my plays do far more than just reenacting the script. I have been blessed with actors who always managed to change the way I look at my characters. As we get into the depths of these characters, motives and desires become clear and by understanding them we rework on the aligning that with the flow of the story.

With a complex 10 min play, every line becomes very important; every action doubly so. Making an audience care for this character, they met minutes ago is a unique challenge in itself. Yet like in love you cant force someone to care for someone, it must strike a cord within or the simpler solution is curiosity. We are all suckers for wanting to know what happens next…

I am still at times surprised that Asimov Connection worked to the level it did, frankly even as it went on stage I had my doubts if people would enjoy it. That brings me to real reason I decided to do this play… Someone wise once told me “Create something that you desperately want to see created”… Asimov Connection was in truth a very selfish creation, I created it just because I really wanted it exist.