Thursday, May 30, 2013

high concept plots -- v2

Aoife in Single Combat with Cuchulain
The graphic is just to add a little color to this month's post.  It is an acrylic painting I did for a current, local art exhibit, and depicts an Irish myth story from the Ulster Cycle.   The tree trunk is green and quite moist, plus it showered rain during the two days I worked outside on it.  I had to use a blow torch on the surface to dry the wood sufficiently for the acrylic paint, and hopefully it will adhere to the surface over time. Other artists did pen and ink drawings on the trunk, incorporating various distortions and branch nubs.

An earlier post, 06/13/2007,  discussed our theme of high concept plots,
From the outside the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women appears to be a boarding school for rich and snotty young women. The school, however, is actually a training school for future spies. Cammie is a Gallagher legacy and the daughter of the school's headmistress. By her sophomore year, she is already fluent in fourteen languages and knows how to kill a man seven different ways and is starting her first covert operations course...
Sort of an audacious premise, but then it's close to the concept of a movie made later in 2011, Hanna, starring Saoirse Ronan, as a 16 yr. old girl being trained in a remote, isolated setting by her father, an ex-spy, to be an assassin in an international operation.  So our fiction writer for the 2007 novel proved to be a seer of a compelling plot.  In another high concept plot discussed in the post:
The most powerful and elite families in New York City are hiding a secret- a secret that their children are about to discover as they are inducted into The Committee. They are Blue Bloods- an ancient race of Vampires. Schuyler's life changes dramatically when her invitation arrives to join The Committee. 
Vampires are probably not that much of a high concept entity anymore, but varying the setting or place of the novel, as done above, and proceeding in calculated steps, can give it an overall high concept score.  Vampires in the Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell, 2013, is a collection of short stories which include a few that could qualify as high concept models, including her vampire, title story.  The vampires consist of a kindly, very old man who whiles away his days sucking lemons and playing dominos in an ancient lemon grove in Italy, and his consort, a woman vampire who nightly transforms into a bat to return to a nearby cave.  The old man is an unpaid fixture at the grove, kept on to amuse the tourists.  The lazy pace and idyllic setting are dream-like, and hardly prepare the reader for the shocking ending, which helped give the story a somewhat high concept rating.

Reeling for the Empire was another story in the volume that was much more high concept.  Poor, rural girls in early, industrial age Japan are recruited from their needy families by a company agent for two-year contracts at a silk-making  mill.  The agent describes to the parents how it is their patriotic duty to help their country compete with the foreign industrial textile giants, and offers advance payment to the impoverished parents.  On the journey to the mill, the agent induces the girl to drink a ceremonial cup of tea to celebrate her good fortune.  At the mill, after meeting the other workers, the new hire soon realizes her special cup of tea was drugged, and she and the other women are at various stages of transforming into silk worms.  Each night their stomachs swell with embryonic silk threads, and the next day they draw silk threads from their hands to feed the giant spinning machine.  Their output dwarfs what could be accomplished with traditional silkworm culture.  Each day the women are fed bowls of mulberry leaves, and each day they grow more body fur and their physical features continue to slowly morph into silkworms.  The reader will be reminded of Kafka's story about the man who became a cockroach during his sleep.

Another story in the volume, The Barn at the End of Our Term, concerns nineteen past American presidents who have been reborn as horses at a ranch somewhere in the western states.  They are aware of their past identities and I don't know yet where the story is going, but one is certainly drawn to read to the end.  Other stories in the volume are gothic if not high concept.  Recommended.

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