Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mission: Omission

Time for something new.

This week, I thought it might be fun to issue a writing challenge. The "creativity at gunpoint" thing does wonders for self-censoring writers. (writer's block = bullshit)

The challenge is inspired by "The Wire". You've never seen it? Go. Click red X in corner. Actually, just minimize. But leave. Go watch the whole sixty-hour series. Order take out and wear an adult diaper. Then you can come back.

No, the whole thing.


Wasn't that awesome? David Simon lets no one off the hook and every character is some shade of grey, 100% fully realized.

The idea for this writing challenge came from Season 2. Since you just watched it, you'll remember Season 2 is the one where the port union conspires with smugglers so they can finally have the same political voice (money = speech?) as the downtown corporate types. (corporations = people?)

It's all brilliant, but the best part is when union president, Frank Sobatka, meets with the smugglers under a bridge, unaware that the smugglers are in the process of receiving a phone call - one informing them that Frank was going to enter witness protection and inform on all of them.

The next episode begins with a body being fished out of the water. The body is Frank's.

What struck me about this was the balls it must've taken for David Simon to omit the murder scene. Season 2, Episode 11 ends with "The Greek", the head smuggler, getting the phone call as Frank walks casually toward them for a scheduled meeting. Episode 12 opens with a dock worker sipping his morning coffee, then his curiosity is piqued when he sees the police boat pulling up a "floater".

He left "the big scene" completely out.

What really blew my mind: the show was better without it. Simon does such a brilliant job table-setting that everyone except Frank knows he isn't walking out from under that bridge - the viewer is just as well-informed as "The Greek".

We find out everything we need to know about what happened when the cameras were off. The dock workers are visibly stricken over their fallen brother, but unsurprised. Each of them must've heard a rumor that their union president was doing some off-the-books business with some dangerous people. The police say he must've fought. They had to stab him many times and cut his throat "to be sure"; he had defensive wounds on his hands.

So we imagine what we didn't see. We have an invitation to fill in part of the story.

So that's this week's challenge: write a short story where the "big scene" is implied, or omitted somehow. I'll try it for myself as well, and post in a few days. 

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