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12 May 2005 @ 11:50 am
Waste Our Lights in Vain Commentary, Part the Second: In which Nifra becomes obsessed with doors, and Mercutio hijacks a story as surely as Dom ever hijacked a truck.  
So, last time we saw our intrepid hero, she was talking at length about the reading of Romeo & Juliet that lead to her getting an idea of the characters she was writing beyond Romeo=Tool and Mercutio=Teh Roxxors.

First things first: anyone who wants to read the story before reading this, here's a link.

Okay, so going into this story, I knew that 1) I can't write Elizabethan dialogue. I mean, I just -- no way, man, and 2) knowing that anything dialogue-wise or attempting to sound Shakespearean I wrote would be absolutely stunningly bad against the text from which I was writing.

So I decided that the best way to do this was to just not write any dialogue, and the only way to make that work was to write a story that was very, very image heavy. The next thing to figure out was if I was going to be Baz Luhrman about the setting or rock the Zepherelli old school Italy thing. I decided on Zepherelli, mostly because I had an incredibly strong mental image of an older Calumy from Master and Commander as Tybalt, and so there was a weird Vermeer feeling attached to the images I was thinking about. And really, is it just me, or was Master and Commander very Vermeer-type-imagery heavy?

But moving on. Image heavy was what I wanted, but I didn't want it to feel -- clotted, if that makes any sense? I wanted there to be motion, forward motion, not for the images to be like stuffed butterflies just kind of hanging there without any breeze. And I wanted the world to be as vivid as Shakespeare makes the characters, I wanted it to be *alive* and as accurate as I could make it, knowing like...nothing, really, about that time period in Italy. *winces a little*

Motion wise, I wanted it to be a slow ebb and push-pull kind of a feeling, like the push-pull of Mercutio's relationship with Romeo. Attraction, repulsion, over and over again, and so of course the first thing I thought was "Ocean! Yes! Ocean!" except...that really isn't practicable in terms of Verona. Given that it's described as a walled in city, and plus, it's like not right near a coast. Plus, I wanted to try and do something that wasn't, you know, what I wrote in every other story I've ever written say, oh, ever. So my next thought was "heart?" because to me hearts and oceans are inextricably linked (I don't know, it's an esoteric me-thing, I can't explain), but again. Cliched.

The real problem at this point was that I was envisioning the entire thing as a Tybalt POV. I'd thought of how I was going to deal with his class-issue, his status inside the Capulet family, the ambition that would have made Mercutio (as the nephew of Prince Escalus) a totally hot catch, and the underlying vulnerability that I am totally convinced exists in Tybalt. I wanted to maybe do a thing with his biological family, make him ashamed of his father's low-class position in Verona soceity, and maybe make his father abusive, because -- oh, I don't know. I think I thought that his acceptance of Papa Capulet's verbal assault seemed symptomatic of some kind of larger thing.

Anyway. Tybalt was where I was convinced the impetus for the story was going to come from, an outside looking in perspective on the tie between Mercutio and Romeo, but that was sort of silly, given the fact that the Mercutio/Romeo dynamic was what I wanted to base my structure off. I kept thinking about that, obsessively, thinking about the way with Romeo and Mercutio it always seemed like there was some kind of -- rotating door between them.

And then I got the first line, There is a door inside Mercutio, in the shape of Romeo. It blows with the wind; open and shut, open and shut.

At this point, I still thought that it was going to be Tybalt POV. I don't know how/why I thought this. But I totally did.

Mercutio, naturally, was having none of that. So, there were a couple of first paragraph drafts that got scrapped entirely, after that line, where I tried to write about Tybalt seeing this happen in Mercutio etc. etc, but more and more it seemed to me like if Tybalt knew, if he really knew that his lover (as I'd envisioned Mercutio at the time) was madly in love with a Montague, he'd go totally apeshit and not want anything to do with Mercutio.

So then, I found myself thinking. "Okay. Blows with the wind. Changes every time Romeo's in love...so, Juliet and -- hey. Mercutio doesn't know about Juliet. He's where Romeo's parents are at the begining of the play -- watching Romeo shut himself into a dark room and just lie there, miserable."

And it kind of -- went from there, all in Mercutio's voice, or as close to it as I could get (I still think it wasn't snappy enough to really be pure Mercutio, though I do think that I did managed to capture his tone in here: Romeo has learned a new word. It is Rosaline.

Mercutio's mask scratches his cheeks, and plaster flakes into his eyes as he watches Romeo kneel before her green skirts, her sallow hands, her plump face.

Romeo watches her, his face a triangle of adoration, his lips quivering with lust. Rosaline covers her mouth with fluttering fingers as she yawns, and looks away.

Mercutio is not impressed.
)

I wanted to track Mercutio's growing frustration with Romeo in terms of his dedicated depression, and to do that I wanted also to have something to contrast it against, so that's where the pear-orchard scene comes from. The pear thing -- I was wracking my brain for ideas of fruit that would have been available and I think it was the Vermeer thing. There are so many still lives with pears...anyway. I like the way that they feel when you bite into them, too, and I thought it was weirdly appropriate for Romeo and Mercutio in this way that I can no longer adequately explain. Something about the yieldingness of the fruit -- I don't know.

I didn't want for Mercutio and Romeo to actually be having sex, and I didn't want for Romeo's feelings for Mercutio to be in anyway obvious. I wanted a sort of ambiguous tension on his part as a counterpoint for Mercutio's very clear adoration. Because the more I thought about their relationship, the more I sort of seemed to sense a "time for something later" feeling. Which is the ironic tragedy of the whole play, naturally, but I wanted also to underscore how bloody young they are.

Romeo's a 17 year old guy in deeply Catholic 1500s Italy. He's going to be pretty unsure how to respond to any m/m feelings he might have. And in the second pear scene -- when Romeo hands the pear to Mercutio and Mercutio tries to kiss him -- I wanted to make the undecided nature of his feelings for Mercutio even more plain. I didn't want it to be a totally one-sided thing, because I don't think it is, I think Romeo just -- is stuck in this rut, this inability to make decisions regarding Mercutio, and Mercutio of course is pushing forward while Romeo is closing off.

Open and shut, open and shut.

So, that's the thing with the pear offering scenes. The thing with the dying pear was more -- I don't know. Me trying to be clever, "Look, Mercutio and Romeo don't get time to ripen into anything, but their love kind of -- decays because of time". I mean, I think the image is pretty in the story, but looking back on the idea behind it, I feel vaguely ashamed of how I tried to use blunt force with that particular metaphor.

I am subtle like a freight train.

The next big problem I ran up against was trying to get Tybalt/Mercutio into what was becoming increasingly a story framed by ambiguities of Romeo and Mercutio's relationship to one another. The careless acceptance of Mercutio's adoration, and the persistence of Romeo's blindness -- or, rather, inaction.

Tybalt -- doesn't fit into the entirely Montague centered-world that Mercutio orbits because of Romeo. So, then, I had to pull Mercutio out of that orbit, if only for a night and give Tybalt a reason to want not to kill him. Tybalt, who I personally FELL IN LOVE WITH IF THAT WAS IN ANY WAY UNCLEAR. (*freight train*), had to be all about Romeo to Mercutio, and I think I managed to connect the two obviously enough in terms of the 'white skin' thing. (Also, really. My obsession with the word white is sort of odd.)

So to seperate Romeo and Mercutio more - to create the layer of frustration that I felt would really push Mercutio to the bar, looking for a one night stand -- I gave Romeo a scene where he kind of toyed with Mercutio, but also made the first subtle step at hinting to Mercutio that there was something more on his side:

Once, Mercutio watched Romeo lick pear juice from his lower lip, and felt Romeo's hand trace circles on Mercutio's forearm. Circles linking over and over and over again, maddening circles, small and complete and finished when Romeo swung back to the ground.

Romeo has not touched him since.


Then in walks Tybalt, and hello says Mercutio's libido, and then there's the sex scene. I hate writing sex scenes. There's nothing *less* sexy than writing a sex scene, but I wanted that one to underscore the physicality of Tybalt, and ground Mercutio's fears in terms of him fighting Romeo. I wanted to make Tybalt somewhat fierce, somewhat war-like even when fucking. Although, that's such a war-like word that how could he not be, to an extent? Anyway. That's why I put Tybalt in the driver's seat of that sex scene, so to speak.

I just realized how completely out of chronology I've been talking about this story, but I think it's related to the way I wrote it. Which is not at all to say that I didn't *write* chronologically -- I find it virtually impossible to do that, I build from the ground up when writing -- but because it's written as a handful of connecting vignettes, and relies upon the basic knowledge of the play for any plot whatsoever.

But, I guess the reason, really, that I'm breaking the story up this way is because I feel that there are emotional bundles within the story, and that's related to the imagery used in them. All scenes dealing with the possibility of Romeo reciprocating Mercutio's feelings have the pear, and all scenes dealing with the sort of tragic nature of Mercutio's love for Romeo have repeated mention of Romeo's sepulchrally white skin, and the Tybalt scenes are all based upon a mixture of ferocity and vulnerability meaning to display both his athletic prowess and the danger inherent in that and Mercutio's awareness of that danger and the dichotomy between that and Tybalt's emotional defenselessness against Mercutio. The opening and closing door, the litany of Mercutio's compliments for Romeo -- these are all about the push pull of Romeo and Mercutio. That's the motion. And they're all tied together by theme that way, even though the structure is one of seperated moments, snapshots.

The title was really lynnmonster's contribution -- I was freaking out about the titling (as I tend to do) and I threw a bunch of quotes at her and she said that one fit best, and you know, the woman is a genius. Becuase that title fits perfectly with what I was doing here -- all of the characters I deal with Mercutio, Romeo, Tybalt, are all wasting their lights waiting for someone who won't meet them the way they need to be met.
 
 
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4rightchords_ on May 19th, 2005 12:46 am (UTC)
awesome! thank you!