Things are going well for me here. I’m getting a lot of work done, which was the big test of whether coming here was a Good Idea. Unexpected was my output of short stories. Unexpected, but welcome, and a lot of fun. So I’ve got progress on the novels (required), progress on the software (hoped for) and a few shorts I like (bonus). I also got something else, something I didn’t expect at all. Something really cool.
No, not a girlfriend. Haven’t you been paying attention?
A few weeks ago I learned that Piker Press would be doing a special issue to commemorate Talk Like a Pirate Day. It’s way out there in September. That same day I had been thinking, “I’ve gotta lighten up a little.” A pirate story seemed just the thing. Pirates. Arrr! Hilarity ensues. I had a couple of really great images in my head but nothing written when fuego sat down to join me at the Cheap Beer Place. I said the word ‘pirate’, mentioned a couple of my ideas, and he was all over it. We laughed and chuckled our way through some ideas and the core of the story took shape. The next day I wrote up a sketch of the story and away we went.
Flashback to another bar, sitting with fuego as we worked on other projects. There were students at the table next to ours, working on a project for film school. They were torturing themselves over the tiniest details — should she be holding half a cigarette or a whole cigarette? It was distracting for me and maddening for fuego. I wanted to go over to them, grab them by their collective collar and say, “Just tell a story. Maybe when you’re done and looking at it on the screen you’ll see things you put in there without knowing it, but if you don’t tell a good story, the rest doesn’t mean crap.”
fuego, who works in the film biz, just wanted to slap them. To some of their dilemmas he wanted to say, “That’s what you have actors for.” For the cigarette, it was “however long the damn thing is when you get a good take.” But for all his more knowledgeable criticism, it boiled down to the same thing I felt. Tell a good story and the rest of the crap will work.
So, pirates, then. Using the ideas we had come up with, I knocked out a few pages, defining a couple of compelling characters, drafting some good moments and building a few great images. It was nowhere near a complete thing, but I could see its strength, its story, shining up from the depths. fuego and I began the process of adapting it for the screen. (Not relevant to this story but exciting: we may be filming Pirates of the White Sand in New Mexico this summer. It’s a long shot, but within range of a good high-powered rifle.)
As we worked ideas were conceived, hatched, and clubbed to death. Nuances were added, relationships defined. Shots were laid out. The tides came and went. The pirates came to life. Tonight we finished a draft, and the result, while not final, is fun on a biscuit. We toasted its completion with an Arrr!
Which brings me back to the other thing I have found here in Prague. We had been working on part of the story and as usual fuego had to go to the bathroom. When he got back I said in a gravelly pirate voice, “Nay, Ruthie, twenty-six minutes.” fuego laughed and we shared for a moment what that said about the pirate captain. We squabbled for a bit about something else, then fuego came up with some dialog that helped connect Ruthie with the captain. Through it all we were having a blast.
We brought different things to the table as we collaborated, but the two, um, three… wait, four! most important things we had in common: ideas, respect, humor, and something else. And that’s what I’ve found here in Prague – a collaborator. A kindred spirit who loves a good story and has the drive to see it done. Of course we have our own things going as well, but what a blast it’s been working with him. Pirates wasn’t our first project together, and it won’t be our last. It’s just working.