The Weakest Link—Lack of Vision

October 4, 2011

Fail! 

The chain be broken, broken indeed.

By which I’m referring to my goal, introduced in the blog Don’t Break the Chain, to write at least once daily for the entire year.  The idea was to create a daily cross-off (on a linear daily calendar chart of writing) that, together with the cross-offs before it, form an unbroken chain.

But I broke it.  Big time.  Like nearly three months of breakage.

What happened?

Lack of vision happened. I hit a major roadblock in the script that I was working on and, when I couldn’t figure a way past it, I lost steam.  And, you know what they say; Without a vision, the scripts perish.

Or something like that.

Then, life happened.  A new job – the kind that hasn’t the decency to contain itself within a 40-hour workweek – combined with a new interest that was taking more and more of my free time (running) – put the screenplay on a back burner, not even simmering.  Just collecting dust.

So, let’s build a new chain!

That’s my goal.  The contract job has ended, and I’ve got some new ideas on how to fix the script, and that means I’ve got a vision of reinstating my New Year’s goal, even if it’s got that summer-long gap. 

Two chains are better than none.   Smile

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Transforming caterpillars

August 24, 2010

I’ve added a couple new quotes to my writer quotations collection—one quotation for the story structure section, and one for the writer motivation section—and both from screenwriter Blake Snyder.  I hope you find them as motivating or thought provoking as I did.  The first:

“All stories are about transformation.  In every story a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.”

It’s hard to think of a major film in which the lead character or characters did not go through a major transformation.  And as Robert, a writer-director friend of mine, pointed out yesterday, this is probably one of the least realistic aspects of movies because, in real life, people rarely change.  Not real, root-structure changes. 

Which, I figure, is why character transformation makes for such good storytelling:

  • We all have this vision of what we want to be, even as we wallow in the quagmire of who we are.
  • We all know those whose persons who never change and we desperately wish they would.

So when a story can take us to a world where people really change, it inspires us—gives us hope. 

That’s my theory.  And Blake Snyder’s, apparently.  His words are a good reminder that writers must let their characters not only affect their world but be effected by it.

And, in other news…

Blake Snyder gave this advice to yet-unknown screenwriters, which he wrote on his blog the day before he died in July of 2009:

“Have fun! The most important thing to do is to love what you’re doing. That way, getting better at it isn’t a struggle, it’s a pleasure.” 

I love that.  What a wonderful reminder when one is getting bogged down in the business of trying to create a screenwriting career that you got into the business because, hopefully, you enjoyed the art of creating with words and language.  Yeah, sure, it’s hard work.  But so is mountain climbing or playing soccer.  If writing isn’t just as fun, why not flip burgers instead?  Much less stressful.


Maybe Just One More Analogy…

September 5, 2009

To summarize my last post: A writer can infuse a scene or moment with dimensional richness by planning out and artfully revealing story threads. Largely, this richness comes from giving the viewer (or reader) a completely different perspective on the plot and the protagonist.

Maybe you’ve also seen this?

image I remember watching a chess player in a very intense match who, after studying the board for several minutes to strategize his next move, suddenly got up and walked over to his opponent’s side of the board to study it from that viewpoint before eventually returning to his side and making his move.

Obviously, he was seeking to optimize his strategy by…

Getting a fresh perspective

Nearly always, the storyline is centered on the hero, right?

Right. But what or who influences the hero as the story unfolds? And what or who does the hero effect?

While screenwriters are inclined to write from the perspective of the hero/protagonist as they create each moment, the story can have greater realism and richness if they also take the time to look at what else is (or could be) happening in the unfolding moment, and consider what fresh insights the viewer may enjoy from the vantage points of your protagonist’s influencers or influenced.

While planning out a story, I think about events or conditions or people — the influencing and influenced — and consider where a moment in the story might be much more dramatic or meaningful if I pump it up by revealing the moment from those alternative perspectives, not just the protagonist’s.

But as I suggested in The Five Steps of Story Deconstruction, such elements or characters have limited dramatic value if presented as a singular event or “beat.” They gain their greatest impact when they are strung together to form a series of building story revelations. That’s a story thread.

More on the power of the story thread tomorrow…