Updated: Sep 13, 2020
You get to be the manager for a few minutes. You’re at your desk, working on something administrative—maybe something’s late—maybe everything’s running smoothly and you’re suspicious—maybe you’re goofing off between phone calls. What you aren’t doing is suspecting anything that would make you the focus of the first scene in the movie about somebody else’s adventure of self-discovery. You’re minding your business, keeping things in order, dealing with your everyday stresses.
But today is not every day. Today is the most interesting day of someone else’s life. And you get to help.
Your phone rings. You answer. It’s one of your sound engineers, that Titan guy. He puts in solid work—really understands the music. An ideal man for the job in a lot of ways; he shows a lot of care for doing his part to catch the best sound. Good mind on him, and he seems to like being part of the gigs. Sure, sometimes he’s a little subdued, but who isn’t? It’s a job. There are always days of being subdued.
“Hey,” you say, ready to provide one of the canned answers to the kinds of questions the sound engineers ask—you’re already trying to remember where the spare microphone stands are. You had a feeling you were running short this week.
“Hi,” Titan says. “Could you put together a resignation letter for me? I’ll sign it on Monday. I’m moving to Barcelona.”
You pause. You sit back in your chair. You think about something to say.
There probably isn’t anything obvious to say.
“Sure,” you eventually say.
“Cool,” Titan says. “See you Monday.”
A Story of Heartbreak Either Way
Starting stories is easier than middling them. The middle is the dull part where this leads to that—where we hurry—because as people we’re addicted to climax. We fast forward through the progressively more predictable middle bits because they always have a certain reasonableness. A beginning implies a certain middle, and we develop an instinct for predicting that middle. And even though middles have certain ends, ends always have more fireworks.
We writers have a certain strength, though. Which is the lack of soundtrack. The beginning of the story has a particular cadence to it, you see, that suggests one of two middles, and you can tell by the musical drop at the end of the scene which way to feel.
Either the music will be something eerie, like “If I Had a Heart” by Fever Ray, or strikingly absent, and you’ll know that Titan’s made a horrible decision. He’s triggered a horrible tragedy that will end in a drug-induced fugue where, in forty years, some young musician will move to Barcelona and find him with all his limbs splayed off a park bench, drunk off his mind, strung out on cheap cocaine, with a cautionary story to tell of heartbreak and never quite making it.
Or the music will be something upbeat. Something with a familiar, or at least catchy, first few seconds will begin and lull you into a comfortable sense that you’re about to be led on an adventure. There will be struggles, yes. Heartbreak, certainly. But it will be a story of victory. Continuing with the classical definitions, it will be a comedy, in which our hero achieves happiness after many adventures of a growing sort, and will get the girl (or boy) in the end, probably. I envision maybe “Long Way from Home” by The Heavy would be a good song for this commencing scene. It’s got a sufficiently unclear tone; it wouldn’t give up the story too quickly.
That’s what the movie would do.
A written-down story doesn’t have to do that. I can give you an ambiguous beginning and you won’t know the story you’re getting till we get there.
Fortunately for Titan, he seems to have the second kind of story. If the movie of the part of his life I’m writing about gets a movie, then that first scene (which is, apparently, factual, unless Titan’s using it as a cover story because he’s actually a French Canadian Spy (probable)), that first scene gets to end with a cool song. “Rhythm Doesn’t Make You a Dancer” by John Fratelli would be a pretty good song. Maybe that one will make the cut.