Working on Carrion today I found myself asking the question; why is Adam against drugs? In the story world of Carrion the drug user is the enemy. As a distinct social group they are to Reiner and the prohibitionist what the Jews were to Hitler and the Nazis; “if we did not have them we should have to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy.” (1) They are the outsider. The other. The enemy. The threat that people can be united against. Defeat drugs and the world will be a better place. From Reiner’s point of view the choice to do drugs represents a kind of desire for freedom that poses a direct challenge to the security he craves. This makes Adam’s animosity for drugs more about his desire to be part of something bigger. Which raises the question; if you strip away that belonging would the animosity go with it? Adam wants to be part of something bigger. The price to become part of that something is his sister. Unwilling to pay the piper he is exiled, forced to experience the world thusly. That makes Adam’s animosity towards drugs environmental. It is a learned behaviour that has more to do with his relationship with Christine than some innate hatred of drugs and users.
I’ve been going over yesterdays post trying to figure out the ten minutes of story that follow the inciting event. At its simplest the sequence is about Adam escaping. This prompted me to research individuals escaping arrest.
The scenarios for escaping arrest seem to fall into three main categories. The first involved intervention by a third party. Two bank robbers escaped custody when a prison van they were in was attacked by an armed gang. The gang forced the van to stop, threatened the guards with shotguns, freeing the two men.
The second involves meticulous planning. A murder escaped prison by scaling the walls of the prison with an improvised rope. He first hid in the prison gymnasium, then made his way onto the roof, before climbing down the wall using a rope fashioned from discarded netting.
The final scenario can best be described as an opportunistic escape. While guards were not looking, an arsonist slid under the van that delivered him. He managed to escape custody by clinging to the undercarriage as the van drove out.
The second of these scenarios is the least likely to work for Adam. There simply isn’t the time for him to plan an escape. The first scenario is also unlikely. All of Adam’s comrades are prohibitionists, who would come for him? Which leaves the third scenario, the opportunistic escape.
Refusing to kill Christine categorises him as a junkie in the eyes of Reiner and the prohibitionists. While the punishment for this treason could very easily be quick and final, Adam’s punishment is to be treated as a junkie, suffer the same indignities the drug taking community. Outcast by the prohibitionists, thrown in with the quarantined users, Adam is reviled by both sides.
This scenario is rife with the possibility of violent confrontation. Confrontations that have the potential to get out of hand and create opportunities for escape.
There is more to come but that’s it for now.
Some time ago I mentioned throwing out the first act. While working though various ideas about Adam, Christine and Reiner I came across a much stronger inciting event. Basically Adam is forced to make an impossible decision. He is given the opportunity to join the party and progress within the prohibitionist cause but to do so he has to kill Christine. It’s the most provocative inciting event I have managed to find. The problem is choosing it has forced me to reassess what follows. Specifically the events after the refusal. Technically this is the start of Adam’s desire line. But to save Christine he first has to save himself. The problem is the refusal to kill Christine makes him a combatant deep behind enemy lines. He is now a prisoner of war. Which makes the question for next ten minutes of story; how does Adam escape? One way is to have Reiner release him. But Reiner is so hurt by Adam’s refusal, so committed to the prohibitionist cause, that this just wouldn’t happen. A second way is to have Adam fight his way out. But this option is just too obvious. Adam’s character is not combative enough at this point in the story. He has not yet learned to fight prohibition. It contradicts the “not fighting back” immoral actions that underpin his character. A third way is to have him take advantage of events happening within the story world; swarming insect, a riotous mob or sympathetic aggressor. But all of these scenarios have the potential to dilute events later in the story. Overall it needs to be something of relatively low intensity. But what? Time to finish. I will return to this issue in another post.
Reading through Christine’s desire (1) I found myself going over one section repeatedly.
At its essence she has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story. The question then becomes; what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something.
Thinking about her destructive weakness and creative need it dawned on me that this binary polarisation of destructive and creative impulses is at the heart of the story. The clash between the will to destroy and need to create is the point at which all the characters intersect. Adam and Reiner are fighting over the kind of world they are going to live in; one of security or one of freedom? Each character wants to destroy the others version of the world and create their own. Another of the things this understanding allows is to broaden destroy/create dynamic into one of damage/heal. For example, the destructive weakness that compels Christine to rebel against Adam brings with it the creative need to heal the rift between them. I said this was a “short note” and it is. That’s it for now.
By the end of yesterdays post I had to reassess my understanding of Adam and Christine’s relationship. Truthfully I had an inadequate view of Adam that benefits from being reversed. I had this idea of him as a basically decent character. A victim of circumstance obliged to look after his sister. I understood his self-righteousness towards Christine as desperation but didn’t really understand how despicable his behaviour is at the beginning. For some reason I viewed Christine as a problem he must solve. Her behaviour drops him in the trouble he has to get out of. None of that takes into account Christine or the influence she exerts. I guess what I’m saying is that their relationship lacked depth. Yesterdays post made me articulate very specifically Christine’s desire, what she wants, in a way I hadn’t done before. A less passive Christine makes Adam’s job that much harder. The contrast between the two becomes that much starker. If I view him as a complete cunt at the beginning the change at the end is more powerful. It is also interesting if you consider Christine’s need is hidden from her until the end. It is only at the point of self-revelation, after the crucible of battle, that she realises what she is asking of him. Best of all this revised dynamic is rife with dramatic potential.
I ended my last post with a question; what does Christine’s desire line look like?
It would be easy to say Christine’s desire is to escape prohibition but I don’t think that adequately describes what she wants. To truly understand her desire we first have to understand her need. What must Christine fullfil within herself to have a better life?
Need is about overcoming her moral and psychological weaknesses. The knee-jerk reaction to this question identifies her drug use as her weakness, but as I tried to explain in my previous post, Christine’s drug use is not a negative. That understanding just doesn’t fit with the moral vision or theme I have for the story.
As I understand it Christine’s weakness is her rebelliousness, that impulse she has to resist authority, control, or convention. In the chapter “Character Web by Archetype” of “The Anatomy of Story” John Truby notes that the rebel’s strength is the “courage to stand out from the crowd and act against a system that is enslaving people”. The weakness of this archetype is that they “often cannot provide a better alternative, so end up destroying the society”.
I think of the link between the two sides of her weakness like this. If Adam’s self-righteousness is a product of a positive pushed until it becomes a negative, his responsibility, taken to the extreme, is oppressive.
Christine’s weakness is a product of her bravery pushed until it becomes destructive. At the beginning of the story her rebelliousness is the wellspring of the conflict with Adam. Her defiance exasperates Adam. He reacts with self-righteous indignation and arrests her, which reenforces her will to resist. She has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story.
The question then becomes, what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something.
That insight brings me to the conclusion that Christine’s need is to change the society she lives in. Ironically, a need she is only able to fulfil through Adam. When, at the end of the story, Adam chooses freedom over security, he is fulfilling Christine’s creative need to free society. He is doing it because of what he’s learned through Christine.
A conclusion I wasn’t really aware of until now. Christine’s desire line is not to escape prohibition, it’s to change Adam. This insight changes the way I look at Adam and how he relates to Christine.