So, about a year and a half ago I wrote what I intended to be a ten minute play. It wound up running longer than that, around fifteen or twenty minutes instead – please try not to act too surprised at my long-windedness, Constant Reader – but it became clear to me that the piece needed to be a little longer still in order to work properly. Not too long, but enough for the material to breathe. So bringing that draft to a larger length – it’s thirty pages now – has been a project of mine for the past few months.
In its original form, the piece was vaguely set “now.” It takes place in October, but I didn’t really specify what day of the month, or of the week, and I was a little hazy on the year. I wrote the play in anticipation of a reading that didn’t wind up materializing, and figured the audience would assume the action was happening at roughly the same moment in history they were watching it. As part of expanding the piece, I decided to be specific with the time. It’s still taking place “now,” roughly, at least as of this writing. It’s now set on the Saturday before Halloween of this year – so October 28, 2023. This doesn’t materially change anything about the plot. There is, however, a charity event alluded to throughout the piece, so when I decided upon this course of expanding the piece I made a note to pay attention to major news events this month, to see what might be uppermost in people’s minds and prompt such a response.
Obviously the news out of the Middle East is horrific – so much so that I don’t particularly want to say anything about it, other than to extend my deepest sympathies to all affected, because I don’t want to trivialize the situation. However, I’ve put myself in a situation where I do have to say something about it, because I’ve set up a story that refers to current events in a time when those current events are invariably horrifying. It’s by far the least consequential issue involved in this – but it is the one I’m faced with.
I think I’ve handled it tastefully in the (for the moment) final draft – the characters come across as sincere rather than flippant, and it feels like a natural reference rather than something I’ve tacked on for the sake of topicality. But I don’t feel any sort of relief in pulling it off. Rather, there’s a lingering disgust in how calculated one’s thought process comes across, in calibrating how much real world horror can intrude into a fictional story for the sake of verisimilitude. And yet having something to say about these horrors is the entire point of telling our stories in the first place.
So I suppose I should just suck it up. Come on, everybody. Let’s try and keep each other from having to be in this position.