Screenplay Structure

8.  Screenwriter William Goldman, a two-time Academy Award winner, has long preached that “screenplays are structure.” What is he talking about? 

A) If he’s referring to a particular story-telling model, describe that in detail.

B) If there are multiple models, what are the most influential ones and how do they differ?

C) And how has story structure evolved through the centuries?

Use examples from the 2008 Oscar nominees to illustrate your points.

 

When William Goldman says that “screenplays are structure” he is talking about how a story is actually put together.  A story may have excellent dialogue, and loveable characters, but if the structure is not fully developed then you may as well forget it. The structure of any story focuses on how beat by beat and scene by scene it is ultimately laid out.  A story can use any type of story-telling model, but focusing on the structure or the foundation of the story is vital. Goldman believes that screenwriting is a lot like carpentry.  If you put together some wood, nails, and glue to build a bookcase, you better have established a sound foundation.  If not, you have might have created something really beautiful, but it won’t work as a bookcase.  As a screenwriter you must first decide what the proper structure should be for the particular screenplay you are writing. To do this you have to know the spine.

Goldman believes that it is absolutely crucial to know the spine of your story above anything else.  A spine can be rather simple such as “boy meets girl, loses girl, finds her again,” or something much more complex.  That spine is then developed further, taking a broad idea and digging deeper into the story scene by scene. After finding exactly what the spine of your story is, a writer must protect it at all costs.  It is easy to lose focus of what is really important in a story when you’re 80 pages in.  Goldman insists that strictly sticking to the ultimate spine of a story will drive that script to success. Without a well-developed spine, a screenplay is pretty much doomed.

-Contributed by Mackenzie G.-

 

 

 

 

Part B

The most influential story structure models include Aristotle’s Three Acts, Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, Field’s Paradigm, and Daniels’ Sequence.

 

The basic “Three Act” model of a screenplay starts with establishing the setting and characters (Beginning).  At the end of this first act, the introduction of a problem (or inciting incident) makes the story progress to the rising action (The middle or “Second Act”).  During this part of the story, the protagonist attempts to solve the conflict created by the inciting incident.  The second act ends with a climax in which the tension of the rising action reaches its greatest intensity.  Here, the protagonist either wins or loses against the problems he/she faces.  The third act, or denoumenet, is spent showing what has happened to the characters since the climax and ties up all the story’s remaining loose ends.  Though it is part of a larger trilogy of films, The Bourne Ultimatum follows this basic structure.  The inciting incident in the story is when Jason Bourne finds himself tracked by the CIA again after attempting to gain knowledge of a top-secret operation he was once a part of.  The climax arrives when Bourne confronts the members of the CIA he once served under as part of the operation.  Finally, the denoumenet shows Bourne surviving the encounter and escaping.

 

Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey involves a more complicated story structure.  Studying many ancient myths, Campbell constructed the idea of a universal “monomyth” with several common structural features.  The monomyth starts with a “Call to Adventure” – an event that entices the hero to leave all that is familiar to them.  In the film “Across the Universe,” this happens when Jude leaves for the United States in search of his biological father.  The hero then encounters a “Road of Trials” – a series of challenges to which the hero either defeats or succumbs.  For example, Jude’s relationship with Lucy weakens throughout the story.  He later attempts to save her from policemen at an anti-war protest gone violent only to get arrested and deported back to England – separated from her.  The hero’s victory or failure of navigating the Road of Trials leaves him/her with a “boon” or vital new knowledge about the world, leaving the hero a stronger and wiser person than he/she was before the “Call to Adventure.”  Finally, the hero returns to the life they left behind with this new boon.  The hero then has the chance to apply this new boon to the original world from the beginning of the story.  This happens when Jude legally moves to the States and reconciles with Lucy.

 

The Paradigm – as developed by Syd Field – took Aristotle’s Three Acts and divided the middle into two sub-acts – Act 2a and Act 2b.  In addition, it introduced the concept of plot points – important moments that occur around the same time in almost all good screenplays.  These include the opening image at the start of the screenplay (an image believed to sum up the film in one shot) and “pinches” (Scenes occurring halfway through Acts 2a and 2b designed to remind the viewer of the story’s main conflicts).  No Country for Old Men has a great opening image of the desert in Texas, setting the grim, desolate, isolated tone that the story takes.  Two “pinches” that occur in Act 2a and Act 2b also remind us that the hero – Llewelyn Moss – is constantly being pursued by the ruthless antagonist – Anton Chigurh.  The first “pinch” occurs when Chigurh nearly catches up to Moss at a motel.  The second “pinch” comes when Chigurh attempts to call Carson Wells only to find Chigurh on the other end of the line, threatening the life of his wife.

 

Frank Daniel’s Sequence Structure is based off of early film reels only having 10 minutes of film on them.  This limiting factor influenced a style of screenplay structure that still holds up to this very day.  Each 10 minute “sequence” of film was effectively a miniature version of a movie with its own three act structure.  Sequences 1-2 can then come together to form the film’s overaching beginning, 3-6 become the middle, and 7-8 are the end.  In the film adaption of Sweeney Todd, one of the two sequences at the start of the film tells its own self-contained story.  A corrupt judge lusts after Todd’s wife, trumps up false charges against him, rapes his wife, then “adopts” the child.  Though a tragic story, it has its own beginning, middle, and end.

-Contributed by Nick R.-

Part C

 Philosopher Aristotle had his own views on story-telling and story structure, which he exercised in his poems.  He believed that stories should explore choices and moral decisions.  “The development of a fable should arise out of the fable itself, and not depend on machinery.”  He believed that characters are not as important as the story.  One thing that he did think about the protagonist is that he should be flawed.  “In a proper tragedy, the protagonist recognizes that his own error has caused his downfall.”  He was big on writing the plot believing that that characters follow the actions.

                Lagos Egri( 1888-1967), author of “The Art of Dramatic Writing”,  had a different perspective.  He preached that characters were the driving force behind a good story.   He believed that stories were based on human psychology.  “You must have a premise- a premise that which will lead you unmistakably to the goal your play hopes to reach…The premise should be a conviction of your own, so that you may prove it wholeheartedly.”  He thought it was important to focus on character transitions.: define goals, values, and a plan.  Egri believed that actions followed character decisions.

                These two had differing views and Hollywood has seen both.  The only similarity was that the story always had a three-act structure: 1st Act , 2nd, and 3rd Act which were previously described.  Early films were were silent.  The audience did not get a chance to learn the characters on a deep level.  As a result the stories were centered on the plot and actions.  The story structure was very basic.  Once the “silents” became the “talkies”,  plots could no longer be simplistic.  Actors had to talk, which meant that the characters needed to appeal to the audience.   Authors such as William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and John Steinbeck were drafted by the studios to write screenplays.    In most novels, the reader gets connected to the book characters and studio execs knew that these authors could translate that to the screen.  This was the beginning of character driven plots. 

                For the most part, story structure in Hollywood has remained faithful to the 3-Act structure.  However, there are small differences  in the story nowadays.  Loglines for story’s are not even the same.  Most stories have a one-sentence logline, which tells what the story is about.  However, in 1937, screenwriter Francis Marion was quoted, “If you cannot state the gist of a play in three lines, it lacks backbone.”  Nowadays three lines is considered to be too long.

                Plots and characters are no longer simplistic.  The characters and the plots are now much more dynamic and interesting than those in earlier days.  There is still some debate over if plot-driven is better than character driven.  For the most part, current screenwriters use both the plot and the characters to drive the story.

-Contributed by Ashleigh-

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Indiana Jones 4 opening scene – as it should have been

              Indiana Jones IV

 

FADE IN:

Int. desert cave—DAY

 

A figure resembling INDIANA JONES walks down a long hallway with two guides flanking him holding flashlights and looking nervous.  They have been walking for a while and the passage is becoming more dusty and full of cobwebs.

 

One of the guides ARI stops to take a rock out of his shoe.

 

ARI

Ouch! Why is this passage

so long? And why is it

getting colder?

 

The figure resembling Indiana stops and throws a level on the ground. He turns around to face the other two and is revealed to be JASON, a twenty-something kid with a cowboy pistol instead of a whip.

 

JASON (laughing)

We’re getting deeper guys,

so bundle up.

 

ARI

If you knew it was going to

be cold why didn’t we bring

torches instead of these things?

 

JASON

I’ll never understand this

obsession with torches people

have. You’re just like my dad,

living in the past.

 

ARI

Archaeologists are supposed

to live in the past. Where

is your father anyway? I would

feel much safer with him here.

 

Jason is indignant and turns away without responding.

 

CUT TO:

 

INDIANA JONES is sitting in bed drinking coffee and reading the paper. He has a sprained ankle. SALLAH enters and pours himself some coffee.

 

SALLAH

So Indy, do you know where

your son is this morning?

 

INDIANA

Probably sleeping one off.

 

SALLAH

Well Indy, you can be happy

young Jason isn’t quite the

drunk you think although in

this case you may wish he was.

 

Indiana get up and starts getting dressed in a hurry.

 

INDIANA

Alright Sallah what did he

do now? He hasn’t been

gambling again, has he?

 

SALLAH

No, no nothing like that.

He has simply stolen three

of my best camels and two

of my worst guides.

 

Indiana looks alarmed and starts looking through his luggage.

 

SALLAH

He headed southwest

apparently into the desert

so I thought-

 

INDIANA (holding up an empty briefcase)

The ruins of Bedua.

 

CUT TO:

 

 

INT. Desert cave—DAY

 

Jason and guides have come to a stone wall blocking the passage and are examining everything nearby with flashlights.

 

ARI

Maybe this is a sign.

 

JASON (irritated)

A sign of what exactly?

 

GUIDE #2

We shouldn’t be here.

 

 

JASON

You should be more concerned

with what we can do not what

you think we should.

 

The two guides look at each other uneasily.

 

CUT TO:

EXT. Entrance to ruins of Bedua—DAY

 

Five Arab men with rifles sit on camels in front of the entrance.

 

ARAB #1

Do you think they will figure

out how to open the chamber door?

 

Arab #2

Perhaps not but he is American,

no? He will blow the door up to

get what he wants.

 

Arab #3

Now what makes you think

Americans are so destructive?

 

The group starts laughing loudly at the joke.

 

CUT TO:

 

 

Indiana and Sallah are riding through the desert.

 

INDIANA (curious)

Sallah how do you know where

we’re going?

 

SALLAH (coughs)

Well Indy I’ve been keeping

copies of your maps because

you do have a rather strong

tendency to get captured.

 

They suddenly hear the sound of laughter and pull the horses to a stop. They crawl up to the top of a sand dune and see the five Arabs.

 

EXT. Cave entrance–Continuous

 

The Arab men sit under some ruins next to the cave entrance. Some of them start loading and cleaning their rifles.

 

CUT TO:

 

INT. Blocked passage—DAY

 

ARI (shining his flash light down a hole)

I think I see a lever down

there but we’re going to need

a long stick to reach it.

 

JASON (rolling eyes)

Oh yes there are plenty of

long sticks in the desert.

 

Jason thinks for a moment and takes his pistol out and shoots into the hole. The door starts to rise.

 

EXT. Cave Entrance—DAY

 

ARAB #2

See what I told you!

 

EXT. Top of sand dune—Continuous

 

INDIANA (muttering)

Any excuse to use his gun.

 

SALLAH

You know Indy I think they

will be shot at when they

leave the cave.

 

INDIANA

Yeah I get that same feeling.

 

Indiana sees the camels Jason has brought and decides to create a diversion.

 

INT. Cavern—DAY

 

Jason and guides have entered a large elaborate cavern and they stand there speechless shining flashlights up and down the wall. After a few seconds the door behind them starts to close. They all run for the door and make it out just in time.

 

                        ARI (looking at the broken lever)

              Well this has been a productive

              day.

 

EXT. Cave Entrance—DAY

 

Jason’s group emerges into bright sunlight and chaos. Camels are running around wildly, with Arabs chasing them. Bullets are also flying from the few Arabs not chasing camels. Indiana and Sallah ride in and grab Jason and the guides and escape through the mazelike ruins.

 

INDIANA (yelling over the noise)

You’re a real pain in the

ass kiddo!

 

JASON

At least I haven’t been gambling!

             

 

 

FADE OUT.

Irish Famine story–2002

                                                The Blight                                          

 

Arriving in Liverpool in December of 1850, I realized that an objective account of a few Irish emigrants would be impossible, so affected was I by the suffering I saw there.  Nevertheless, a weepy emotional account of the situation there would be of no use to anyone due the already widespread accounts of suffering.  It would be more advantageous to examine the causes of this mass exodus by having a few of the famished recount the path that led them to the docks of Liverpool.  Setting foot on the docks proved to be fruitless in my endeavor because the urgency of the people’s situation was such that conversation was nearly impossible.  When the ship sailed, however, I saw that a few of the people I had previously seen clamoring for a berth remained on land and so I simply captured their attention with an offer of supper. The following accounts show how all levels of society were enormously affected by the famine and the English reaction.

            The first person to relate their story (through my interpreter) was a young woman whose appearance did not have the vestiges of starvation.  It was soon revealed that Siobhan Lawler was a descendant of the middlemen tenants who had previously gone between the landowners and farmers.  One could infer that the young lady’s ancestors once owned their own land in Ireland. Her grandfather was reduced to a tenant farmer around 1817 and was active in the secret agrarian societies thereafter.[1] It was her family’s membership in these societies that instilled a strong anti-English sentiment in Siobhan. 

Siobhan was raised in Westport where her family was relatively well off relative to the majority of Irish society.  In addition to growing potatoes, they raised pigs and sheep and were also involved in the linen trade before the demand for Irish cloth disappeared.[2] Though usually reliant on the potato for daily nourishment, the Lawlers were not hit as hard as most when the first potato crop failed.  Pre famine, the family Lawler had opposed the poor law, citing the conditions of the workhouses as inhumane.  When the famine began to take its toll, however, all efforts were directed towards survival.  This is a common tale among the survivors because when hunger reaches certain intensity, it dominates all other thoughts, save death.  There is generally no will to protest in the face of nature and the most common result is a strong anger towards those who will not help, the English.  A strong undercurrent to Siobhan’s account is a tradition of blaming the English for the Irish plight. 

            The third time the “blight” or decaying smell rose from the ground, Siobhan lost her faith in God to save her and the people she knew.  As more and more neighbors fled to workhouses or for parts unknown, the family had to choose between staying put and hoping for some charitable relief effort to come about before being forced off the land or take a chance on a new location.  Not believing anyone would save them it was decided that two of Siobhan’s brothers would travel to New York and eventually the rest of the family would follow.  This brings to mind the when I first saw Siobhan, kissing her brother as he boarded the ship on the Liverpool dock.  An intelligent girl, Siobhan should get along in England until she can join her brothers in the new world.  Siobhan’s tale in not a common one because the vast majority of rural Irish farmers were not nearly well off enough to survive the famine so unscathed.  Nonetheless, although Siobhan is closemouthed about the death she was undoubtedly witnessed to, one only has to look in her eyes to see that she has suffered greatly along with the rest of the country.

            The other account I shall relate is that of James Conley, a man whose experience of the famine is as disturbing as it is miraculous.  The story does by no means have an optimistic tone to it but his ordeal has convinced him that even the English are powerless to halt the famine. This is not to say James holds the English unaccountable, simply that the magnitude of the disaster precludes salvation by legislation or even direct charity.  This is in contrast to Siobhan who strongly disapproved of English practices in general.  He is the only surviving member of his family and has robbed an Englishman in order to book passage to America.  His appearance is one of a sick man and is unsettling at times to look at, the image of a corpse telling the story of his death.

James was born in county Cork where his family of Mother, Father, three sisters and two brothers, along with a few chickens, lived in a hut on the land where they grew potatoes and some grain. The family’s daily nourishment consisted of little more than

Milk and potatoes and while this diet does provide adequate sustenance, there were no consistent alternatives to this diet available. [3]  When the first crop failed, the Conley family tried to save some of the grain for their own consumption but their actions were discovered and they were kicked off the land.  For the large number of people in similar situations the most hopeful course of action would be to find sanctuary in a workhouse.  Given the general conditions of these workhouses, sanctuary would hardly be a fitting description but the feeling was that it might be better than starving by the side of the road.  When in 1846 the public works were shut down, James left the workhouse after having witnessed the death of his parents and two sisters.  James and the remaining survivors of the workhouse actually found some luck in the form of Quakers.  The Quakers had organized charitable effort that in the county Cork took the form of soup kitchens.[4]  If not for these soup kitchens James would have most likely died because after being released from the workhouse, he contracted yellow fever.  At a time and place where starvation and malnutrition were rampant, a disease like this should have been a death sentence.  He describes how people fled from him and refused to aid him in any attempt at recovery. Fortunately, a priest he had known from childhood agreed to bring him soup while he was still alive.  After his recovery, James was unable to find his remaining siblings and decided based on rumors that moving northeast would yield a better chance for work.[5]  Finding no more legitimate work than in Cork, James joined a gang of thieves who robbed food caravans and farms.  His gang was encouraged to join the Irish confederation fighting the English laws but few joined, hunger being more important than political aims for most peasants.[6]  With growing English reports of food theft and resulting English police presence, James left the gang and was able to survive on turnips stolen from the local farmers still able to plant.  After nearly being killed by angry landowners, he returned to a workhouse in 1850.  Being relatively more fit than most others in the workhouse, he is able to survive and amazingly find his way to the east coast of Ireland.  Stowing away on a ship bound for Liverpool, James arrived a whisper away from death.

            Siobhan and James both tell their stories in what can only be described as shell shock or “post-traumatic stress” despite the differences in their stories.  The important difference between them is their attitudes about what caused the famine.  Siobhan maintains that the situation is the fault of the English who created an oppressive system and then did not take responsibility when that system was damaged.  James, perhaps influenced by the English Quakers, rests most of the blame on God’s shoulders though recognizing insufficient aid on the part of the British.   Despite their different beliefs about the causes of the famine and the comparative harshness of their tales, neither seems able to distance themselves from the disaster.

 


[1] Grey, Peter. The Irish Famine. P.25

[2] Grey p.133

[3] Grey p.130

[4] Grey p.54

[5] Grey p.94

[6] Grey p.75

Jim and Ed

                 

 

VIDEO

AUDIO

FADE UP TO MS: Jim, sitting in a car reading a magazine.

Stereo:  Bob Marley “Lion in Zion”

 

CUT TO LS: Ed, getting in the car

 

Ed: Hey whatsup man

CUT TO LS: Car drives off

CUT TO CU, POV backseat: Jim changes the song and yawns.

                                  

 

 

 

Ed: so you gonna finish that story man?

 

CU, POV backseat: Jim rubs his head with a frustrated look.

 

Jim: I’m tired and that story is the story of my life

 

CUT TO MS POV in front of car: Ed looks at Jim

 

 

Ed: get on with it then. Ain’t like I got anything better to do.

 

CUT TO CU: Jim talking staring at the road.

 

Jim: Ever think that I might have something better to do?

 

CUT TO CU POV Jim: Ed, grinning

 

Ed: No

 

CUT TO CU: Jim talking staring at the road.

 

Jim: Ok so what was I talking about then smart guy?

 

CUT TO CU: Ed, thinking

 

Ed: I think you were talking about jamaca

 

CUT TO MS: Jim looks over at Ed

 

Jim: Oh…right. I dropped anchor right off this little beach on the east side of the island and decided to go check out the jungle

 

CUT TO CU: Ed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed: you know that’s fuckin stupid right, Jamacas dangerous

 

CUT TO CU: Jim gives a long sigh

 

Jim: yeah I know that now but of course it seemed like a fantastic idea at the time.  It turned to be maroon territory too.

 

CUT TO MS: Ed looks at Jim curiously

 

Ed: What does that mean?

 

CUT TO CU: Jim turns and smiles.

Jim: Marroons are kinda like clans that are all descendants of escaped slaves which basically means they’re tough as nails.

 

CUT TO MS: Ed looking incredulously at Jim. 

 

Ed: what did they fuck you up or something?

 

CUT TO CU: Jim looks forward

 

Jim: I walk into the jungle right and after a few minutes I see a little clearing and when I walk into it they are like 5 guys chillin, smoking cheba and they all have machetes

CUT TO MS.  Ed looks amazed, staring at Jim

 

 

Ed:  So were they like some crazy rastas or what?

 

 

 

 

 

CU JIM WITH EYEBROW RAISED:

JIM: They were not friendly and actually ended up robbing me.

CU ED LOOKING CURIOUS:

ED: that sucks dude. Anything good happen in Jamaica?

MS BOTH ED AND JIM:

JIM: Well they got me real high before they robbed me plus I only had ten bucks so aside from the whole being threatened with machetes thing, really wasn’t a bad transaction.

CU ED:  Amazed

ED: has anyone ever told you you’re a lunatic?

CU JIM: smiling

Jim:  Not infrequently

 

Silent Hostility

I walked into the house and found an unusual and disquieting silence. There should have been any number of sounds in a house that was supposedly full of people. The courtyard was empty and so was the kitchen. I walked around the house before depositing my belonging in the room and the house was also unusually clean. I walked out unto the back porch and the salty wind was bending the trees back and forth. My uncle was sitting in a single chair a few paces to my left and my father was sitting in a single chair about twenty feet to my right. Considering that the entire porch, at least the part facing the ocean is at least fifty feet long, the placement of the two brothers spoke to some problem. Both adults said hello and welcome and then quickly resumed ignoring each other. It is generally considered bad taste in my family for there to be an open conflict so while I knew there was a serious conflict there; I didn’t have the slightest clue as to its origin.
Feeling very uneasy, I wandered around in search of family who were talking to each other. I found a few cousins at the beach where they were playing soccer and drinking Harpoon beer. When I asked them what the problem was at the big house, they said they didn’t know exactly except that it involved most of the adults in the house. We all sat on the beach for a while until the mosquitoes began to torture us. We decided to go hang out on my uncle’s boat because pretty much anything seemed better than returning to the house with all its silent hostility
Eventually we get a call from my dad asking where we all are and that he is going out for dinner while his brother is cooking something. I managed to ovoid the issue by saying that I already ate and my cousins did the same. Unfortunately for us, none of this was true so we became really hungry as time went on. We were fortunate enough to find some cheese and a few bottles of wine on the boat so that became dinner and everyone was very happy to avoid whatever was going on with the older generation. After all the wine was gone and the waves became rougher, everyone started to feel a little seasick so we rowed back to shore, narrowly missing a large rock as we had forgotten to bring a flashlight.
When we got back to the house the situation was almost exactly like it was that afternoon, except the two brothers were on opposite sides of the house. My cousins and I again took the middle ground by hanging out in the kitchen where we also had access to leftovers. We all avoided whatever the issue was for fear of having to take sides and to this day I have no idea what the fight was about.

Boozehound

I’m not a bum, or a hobo, or a drunk, or any of the archaic and condescending terms I am pointed out to be. Nor am I homeless; I live in Copley Square, and I am an educated man. Now, the word drunk could aptly be applied to me most of the time, but I prefer the word boozehound because it shows me an ironic picture of dogs barking to a bell. Not that I am in a state of denial about alcoholism or the degree to which I am addicted to various substances. But as you can see I can still be apparently intelligent and genuinely eloquent. I live in the square with other tribes of miscreants and exiles, with most of whom I have a good rapport. I am of course most comfortable with the other boozehounds but I still slide into other circles when a change in monotony is needed.
I have said that I am an educated man and while I am not a braggart, it would seem confusing if I did not elaborate. I am educated because I keep a respectable pair of clothes for the purpose of going indoors. Given this freedom to go inside without coming out quickly, I have taken to living in the Boston Public Library and on days like this it is a sanctuary without equal. While others are relegated to sitting on subway vents, I look with a grand view of Trinity church, my favorite place to sleep and stare at through the window on cold days. It never fails to amaze me that such a place exists, that it is free and that it contains the lives of so many.
I like ravers the best because they have hope, which is both refreshing to see and provides for a type of conversation that can include things unrelated to destruction. This is because they have an idealistic view of drugs in general, a ridiculous notion to begin with, but I have mentioned before that they have hope. Almost universally the speaking among the hoodrats concerns hot cars or shiny acquisitions, but sometime the talk turns to music and more importantly the specifics that are worthy of sophisticated critics. The punks appear to have a deep consciousness but they are really lost exiles from a land of which they still wish to be a part. The skaters are monks perfecting massive skill in minute movements. They tend to their worship in a grand display of ceremonial recklessness. These are the major groups today and we all huddle under the trees looking for a way to be warm.
It is now the worst time of the year in the square with the jet stream descending, freezing the dripping noses of the daywalkers. The jet stream as I should explain is the wind blowing from the east off the ocean and tunneling through the lines of streets stretching from the waterfront to the back bay, where the wind is diffused by the drop in building height. The daywalkers as I should also explain are what commuters might call commuters. But they only exist in the day and they only walk while they are here.
One must eat and live with tolerable pain, so I hustle. Don’t really have a better word for that activity, but it’s pretty goddamn universally-understood, so I didn’t bother. I steal if the opportunity presents itself, I beg, I gamble, and above all I sell drugs. The circles in the square are the market and as I have mentioned, I float around fairly easily. I also buy alcohol for kids, mostly from high schools in the area but anyone with half a brain and the need can come to the city and send a boozehound on a run to the package store. They pay well and we have no compulsions sending others on the path to our reality.
I should examine my feelings concerning bravery because it is a concept central to the life of a boozehounds and myself in particular, being one of the more respected among my peers. Boozehounds are brave by nature, though some are forced into it at first. A conscious rejection of all social stature is not what a logical person decides to do simply because they see themselves as part of that structure. I am on the peripheries of the structure and as such am not concerned by much other than dependence on certain substances. Many will argue that we are most of us victims in some way, the two most common accusations being alcoholism and mental illness. I say to them that the will to live is very different than the will to live on the street. I will give an illustration of this idea because I feel my description can go no further. I will only preface by saying Jack is the embodiment of bravery.
Jack is one of the nicest people I know, homeless or otherwise. Because of his extraordinarily good natured personality, he is allowed to reside in affluent suburbs such as Brookline, where other boozehounds would normally be run out within the hour. I had a sublime picture of what Jack looks like from the face of a boy playing basketball in his large well kept driveway as we were walking by. A large black man is shuffling down the side of the manicured street pushing a can-laden Stop&Shop cart, occasionally yelling curses and hitting himself on the backside with jarring violence. I happen to know that Jack has an open invitation to one of several hospitals in the area where he could live in the comfort afforded by modern times. He feels the freedom as I do; the wanderlust and peace of being that can only be shown on the peripheries of structure.
I think I will elaborate on the condition in which I live, as I think this would be of considerable interest to the uninformed. Certainly I do not relegate myself to the Boston Public Library, and Boston has many squares like Harvard and Sullivan and Porter and so forth. Then there is also downtown and the tunnels, places I hesitate to commit the details to paper, lest the city evict the stowaways. Some may be familiar with the extensive and densely populated underground tunnels in New York because there was a quality documentary by the name of Dark Days made about the homeless community down there. Boston, however, has the oldest subway tunnel system in America and as a result there are many tunnels whose whereabouts are not even known by the city planners. Some of these tunnels have dangerous people in them and some have very amiable people living in them and it is not hard to tell the difference even at a glance because of the difference in appearance; often one can simply tell by the odor. Though perpetually damp, the old subway is the warmest place to sleep when the wind is sharp.
Looking back upon what I’ve written, I realize that I have not mentioned booze, normally the first thing that comes to a man’s mind when encountered a person such as myself. Denial is a long large river in Africa. I have said I am not in denial about drugs and the influence I feel but it is quite another thing to articulate, particularly when it might be revisited in a brief state of sobriety. I drink and abuse drugs because I like the world in altered states. I like the various pairs of eyes I have access to when I’ve had an intake. I had a place in society but I abandoned my post and I don’t miss it in the least. I don’t worry about health or death because quite simply, a man in my position doesn’t concern himself with those kinds of things. I keep myself in a state where the world is wonderful and as Hunter S. once said “I need my medicine to keep me totally twisted, otherwise I couldn’t stand this bullshit”, great writer, that Mr. Thompson. To come to my point I am content with my life as a boozehound and neither mourn nor anticipate the end of it.