Sunday, March 25, 2012

To Thine Own Self

In a sea of voices crying out to be heard, whose do you hone in on when you find yourself drowning in the mounting waves of a story or an idea? There are hundreds of books, gurus, classes and courses out there to guide you in the best direction. But, best for whom? What story are you trying to tell, and why must you tell it?

Sure, you need to know how to build a house before you actually set about building one. A weak foundation will only lead to valuable (and costly) time spent repairing and correcting the basic, yet required, structure of the house before you can actually move on to the fun part of making said house a warm and inviting home. And it's the making of the home that we originally set out to do. Yes, this is a pretty long metaphor and, with the whole Real Estate and Home Lending crisis, it might not actually be the best for painting a picture. But I do hope you get the point.

Definitely make sure you understand structure and what it takes to build a safe and secure house (yes, I'm sticking with the metaphor), but don't forget that this is your home and, above all else, it must be a reflection of who you are - your voice. Those of you who have been writing screenplays for a long time have no doubt heard this term thrown around. The voice. Do you have one? Everyone has a voice, even those born without speech. Now, whether you use it or not is a whole other set of questions, the first being - why not? Easier asked than answered and, in fact, you might need a few therapy sessions (no joke) to get to the bottom of that.

However, I do suspect for some writers that they have lost their voice by freely, and in some cases unsuspectingly, turning it over to someone else. When does the advice and opinions of others morph itself into your own thoughts and actions? When do you stop trusting in those instincts and inner voices which have been loyal friends for years and, in some cases, gotten you out of sticky situations before disaster could strike? Does it mean you have to be an island unto yourself? No. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the better informed your decisions will be. But remember, you were you, long before what you knew. Those who love you unconditionally do not do so because of your perfections. In fact, it's the imperfections, the flaws, the quirkiness that make us memorable, lovable and, sometimes, forgivable - but, if nothing else, interesting as all hell.

The point I'm trying to get at - yes, take a class, read a book, know the latest guru's method of writing a screenplay or novel in under 30 seconds, but “this above all: to thine own self be true”. Gotta love that Shakespeare dude; he knew a thing or two about writing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thank You For Your Support

Where would we be without love and, most importantly, support in our lives? I could get all intellectual and look up the word support, but, nah, I'm too damn lazy right now and, besides, what if Mr. Webster doesn't “support” the idea I'm trying to convey? So, anyway, let's just run with the hypothesis that we all know the real definition of support.

Okay, okay, I'll define it for you - the person(s) who has got your back. However, beware of said person(s) who is all about shoving knives in the back, or the person(s) too damn busy worrying about their own backs. In other words, these people look to either hold you up, tear you down, or keep you fully entertained (i.e. distracted), while life feeds you crap pie.

Now, if you’re willing to accept my revised, remixed and redistributed definition of support, then how does it apply to creative writing and character development? Is this even an issue? Well, those Oscar people thought it important enough to give a little statue man to the sidekicks, villains, and comic reliefs who help round out the leading man/lady, so why don't you? How much attention are you paying to your supporting characters? Are you just throwing in caricatures and stereotypes to fill up the pages and cover up plot holes?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Don't Care

Kimble: I didn’t kill my wife.

Gerard: I don't care.

One simple line, delivered with pinpoint precision, by Tommy Lee Jones to Harrison Ford's character in The Fugitive. As a writer, I have been trained to make my protagonist, my hero, if not down right lovable, at least redeemable in some “kiss-the-baby-save-the-cat-confess-undying-love-to-the-girl-with-major-self-esteem-issues” way. In a nutshell, we must care about our hero. But there, Tommy Lee stands defiantly as our hero desperately pleads not to have to do a nosedive into the frigid, icy, hypothermia-inducing waters. And, to paraphrase Rhett Butler: Frankly, he doesn't give a shit.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Guilt-Free Pleasure

So, I discovered Breakout Kings last season. Tomorrow night, season 2 begins. Yeah! Sure I started watching for the eye candy (Laz Alonso), but then the characters grew on me. Lloyd is one funny dude. If you haven’t caught this show, check it out.