Los Otros Planes
Every scene is either a fight, a seduction, or a negotiation.
— Mike Nichols
It’s tricky because you have to walk that line between staying open to feedback, to criticism, to all the things that are going to make you a better writer and make the material better, but you also have to come into everything, not with an arrogance, but with a confidence in your skillset and your craft and what you’re bringing to a project. It’s a brutal job. You’re constantly writing things to give to people, whether it’s a reader, an executive, an agent or an actor, people are constantly coming back with feedback and criticism, and a lot of the time it is negative, or it is critical and you have to toughen your exterior. Take your ego out of it. Otherwise you’re going to get eaten alive by it. Because that’s what the job is: you write stuff, you turn it in, and then people tell you what they think of it. And a lot of the time it isn’t what you think of it. You can’t let it get to you.
50 ADVICE FROM WIM WENDERS TO ASPIRING FILMMAKERS
1. You have a choice of being “in the business” or of making movies. If you’d rather do business, don’t hesitate. You’ll get richer, but you won’t have as much fun!
2. If you have nothing to say, don’t feel obliged to pretend you do.
3. If you do have something to say, you’d better stick to it. (But then don’t give too many interviews.)
4. Respect your actors. Their job is 10 times more dangerous than yours.
5. Don’t look at the monitor. Watch the faces in front of your camera! Stand right next to it! You’ll see infinitely more. You can still check your monitor after the take.
6. Your continuity girl is always right about screen directions, jumping the axis and that sort of stuff. Don’t fight her. Bring her flowers.
7. Always remember: Continuity is overrated!
8. Coverage is overrated, too!
9. If you want to shoot day for night, make sure the sun is shining.
10. Before you say “cut,” wait five more seconds.
11. Rain only shows on the screen when you backlight it.
12. Don’t shoot a western if you hate horses. (But it’s okay to not be fond of cows.)
13. Think twice before you write a scene with babies or infants.
14. Never expect dogs, cats, birds or any other animals to do what you’d like them to do. Keep your shots loose.
15. Mistakes never get fixed in post!
16. Final cut is overrated. Only fools keep insisting on always having the final word. The wise swallow their pride in order to get to the best possible cut.
17. Other people have great ideas, too.
18. The more money you have the more you can do with it, sure. But the less you can say with it.
19. Never fall in love with your temp music.
20. Never fall in love with your leading lady!
21. If you love soccer, don’t shoot your film during the World Championship. (Same goes for baseball and the World Series, etc.)
22. Don’t quote other movies unless you have to. (But why would you have to?)
23. Let other people cut your trailer!
24. It’s always good to make up for a lack of (financial) means with an increase in imagination.
25. Having a tight schedule can be difficult. But having too much time is worse.
26. Alright, so you’re shooting with a storyboard. Make sure you’re willing to override it at any given moment.
27. Less make-up is better.
28. Fewer words are always better!
29. Too much sugary stuff on the craft table (or is it Kraft?) can have a disastrous effect on your crew’s morale.
30. Film can reveal the invisible, but you must be willing to let it show.
31. The more you know about moviemaking, the tougher it gets to leave that knowledge behind. As soon as you do things “because you know how to do them,” you’re fucked.
32. Don’t tell a story that you think somebody else could tell better.
33. A “beautiful image” can very well be the worst thing that can happen to a scene.
34. If you have one actor who gets better with every take, and another who loses it after a while, make sure they can meet in the middle. Or consider recasting. (And you know whose close-ups you have to shoot first!)
35. If you shoot in a dark alley at night, don’t let your DP impose a bright blue contre-jour spotlight on you, even in the far distance. It always looks corny.
36. Some actors should never see rushes. Others should be forced to watch them.
37. Be ready to get rid of your favorite shot during editing.
38. Why would you sit in your trailer while your crew is working?
39. Don’t let them lay tracks before you’ve actually looked through your viewfinder.
40. You need a good title from the beginning. Don’t shoot the film with a working title you hate!
41. In general, it’s better not to employ couples. (But of course, there are exceptions!)
42. Don’t adapt novels.
43. If your dolly grip is grumpy or your electricians hate the shot it will all show on the film. (Also, if you’re constipated…)
44. Keep your rough cut speech, your cast and crew screening speech and your Oscar speech short.
45. Some actors actually improve their dialogue in ADR.
46. Some actors should never be forced to loop a single line. (Even Orson Welles wasn’t good at that.)
47. There are 10,000 other rules like these 50.
48. If there are golden rules, there might be platinum ones, too.
49. There are no rules.
50. None of the above is necessarily correct.
John Waters’ Golden Rules of Moviemaking
Writing the Script
1. No comedy should be longer than 90 minutes. There’s no such thing as a good long joke.
2. Thinking up characters is easy; the narrative (what makes a hit) is always the hard part.
3. Never make a film about your grandmother unless she’s a serial killer.
4. The first draft of your script should never be read by anybody. What you call your “first draft” should be your third, fourth or even tenth pass.
5. If you can get an NC-17 rating without using any sex or violence, you’ll be called a genius.
Raising the Budget
1. Never hate the rich. Poor people are not known to invest in movies.
2. Pot dealers are usually movie buffs and make for good silent partners.
3. Never ask a friend or family member for money for your film if you don’t think they have a chance to make it back.
4. When you try to sell your film with a treatment, always include a mock-up of an ad campaign so you look like you’re thinking like a money person.
5. Pay for the music you use in your soundtrack now. It costs a lot more later if you don’t.
1. No matter what you’ve heard, contention on the set does not lead to creativity.
2. Go to a lot of trouble to make friends with the neighbors before you shoot on location. Throw them a party. Let them think they’ll be discovered.
3. Having sex with any member of your cast is a bad idea—crew is better.
4. Teamsters will beat up people off the set if you ask them quietly and politely.
5. When directing a big star, never show fear. They want you to tell them what to do.
Promoting the Film
1. Who cares which photographer shoots you for each magazine? It’s the retouch budget that counts.
2. If you are a bald director, make sure you have a baseball cap handy to wear on set because electronic press kit crews will always want to film you from behind to “see what the director sees.”
3. On international press tours, never tell customs inspectors you’re in their country for “business”—the red tape hell will smother you like an avalanche.
4. You can’t be friends with film critics, no matter how much they like your first movie.
5. Movies people like at film festivals are not always the ones they like in real life.
No scene is ever about the words being spoken.
– Del Close
Jack Kerouac Lists 9 Essentials for Writing Spontaneous Prose
Jack Kerouac wants you to turn writing into “free deviation (association) of mind into limitless blow-on-subject seas of thought, swimming in sea of English with no discipline, other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement….” Think you can do that? Find out by following Kerouac’s “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose.” He published this document in Black Mountain Review in 1957 and wrote it in response to a request from Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs that he explain his method for writing The Subterraneans in three days time.
And for a theory of Kerouac’s not quite theory, visit the site of Marissa M. Juarez, professor of Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English at the University of Arizona. Juarez raises some salient points about why Kerouac’s “Essentials” bemuse the English teacher: His method “discourages revision… chastises grammatical correctness, and encourages writerly flexibility.” Read Kerouac’s full “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose”here or below. [Note: If you see what looks like typos, they are not errors. They are part of Kerouac’s original, spontaneous text.]
SET-UP: The object is set before the mind, either in reality. as in sketching (before a landscape or teacup or old face) or is set in the memory wherein it becomes the sketching from memory of a definite image-object.
PROCEDURE: Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image.
METHOD: No periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas-but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)– “measured pauses which are the essentials of
our speech”– “divisions of the sounds we hear”- “time and how to note it down.” (William Carlos Williams)
SCOPING: Not “selectivity” of expression but following free deviation (association) of mind into limitless blow-on-subject seas of thought,
swimming in sea of English with no discipline other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement, like a fist coming down on a table with each complete utterance, bang! (the space dash)- Blow as deep as you want-write as deeply, fish as far down as you want, satisfy yourself first, then reader cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning-excitement by same laws operating in his own human mind.
LAG IN PROCEDURE: No pause to think of proper word but the infantile pileup of scatological buildup words till satisfaction is gained, which will turn out to be a great appending rhythm to a thought and be in accordance with Great Law of timing.
TIMING: Nothing is muddy that runs in time and to laws of time-Shakespearian stress of dramatic need to speak now in own unalterable way or forever hold tongue-no revisions (except obvious rational mistakes, such as names or calculated insertions in act of not writing but inserting).
CENTER OF INTEREST: Begin not from preconceived idea of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in subject of image at moment of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion-Do not afterthink except for poetic or P. S. reasons. Never afterthink to “improve” or defray impressions, as, the best writing is always the most painful personal wrung-out tossed from cradle warm protective mind-tap from yourself the song of yourself, blow!-now!-your way is your only way- “good”-or “bad”-always honest (“ludi- crous”), spontaneous, “confessionals’ interesting, because not “crafted.” Craft is craft.
STRUCTURE OF WORK: Modern bizarre structures (science fiction, etc.) arise from language being dead, “different” themes give illusion of “new” life. Follow roughly outlines in outfanning movement over subject, as river rock, so mindflow over jewel-center need (run your mind over it, once) arriving at pivot, where what was dim-formed “beginning” becomes sharp-necessitating “ending” and language shortens in race to wire of time-race of work, following laws of Deep Form, to conclusion, last words, last trickle-Night is The End.
MENTAL STATE: If possible write “without consciousness” in semi-trance (as Yeats’ later “trance writing”) allowing subconscious to admit in own uninhibited interesting necessary and so “modern” language what conscious art would censor, and write excitedly, swiftly, with writing-or-typingcramps, in accordance (as from center to periphery) with laws of orgasm, Reich’s “beclouding of consciousness.” Come from within, out-to relaxed and said.
Oh, and for authenticity’s sake, you should try Kerouac’s “Essentials” on a typewriter. It’s all he had when he wrote The Subterraneans. No grammar robots to distract him.
WELCOME TO NANOWRIMO PREP SCHOOL, WORD-NERDS
National Novel Writing Month — aka the gibbered Lovecraftian utterance, “Nanowrimo.”
It fast approaches.
You may be partaking in this epic endeavor which asks that you write a novel-length work of fiction of 50,000 words (or more!) during the month of November. (I suspect I will inadvertently be partaking, actually. I’ll need to get 50,000 words down that month, too!)
If you are partaking, I’ll be here all November, and I think I’ll keep the blog posts during that time shorter and sweeter — a month’s worth of motivational boots-in-your-boothole to keep you on track and slugging away at the word count.
(Worth noting that NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. Everyone has a process unique to them, a way to get things done that is particularly and peculiarly their own. If NaNoWriMo feels like hammering a circle peg in a square hole, don’t sweat it — find another way forward.)
If you are getting ready for the wordery-nerdey coming up –
I got some quick tips for you.
RAMP UP THE WORD COUNT
If you are not yet putting words down daily, you need to flex them penmonkey muscles, so that, come November, you can pop open your word processor and say, “TWO TICKETS TO THE PEN SHOW,” which will earn you weird looks because:
a) you’re saying this to the cat and b) are pen shows even a real thing?
You need to work out. You need to exercise.
You must practice writing every day.
And build on the quantity of words you put down.
Start with 100.
And add a 100 more words every day until you’re approaching 2000 per day.
Doesn’t matter what you write, though I’d advise you keep it in the “fiction” category — fiction writing is a discipline all its own, I find.
Build that muscle. Gain momentum.
TAKE YOUR CHARACTERS FOR A TEST-DRIVE
NaNoWriMo doesn’t give you a lot of time to get to know your characters. As such, it’s time to take those bad motherfuckers out for a test drive.
Take a character and write them into fiction unrelated to the novel you plan to write. Plop them into conflicted, challenging situations. You’ll find the character’s voice, demeanor, you’ll get to see what kind of choices they make. Run them through fictional gauntlets.
It’s a good way to learn about your characters before you actually drop them into your proper novel. (And, hey, bonus points: you might find that you’ve written some dialogue or some description you might actually want to keep and use later.)
PREP YOUR STORY IN WHATEVER WAY TICKLES YOUR PINK PARTS
(Related: 25 Ways To Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story.)
No one perfect planning-and-plotting method exists when it comes to your novel. Outlines, mind maps, Pinterest boards, hallucinogenic dream journeys into the world of the machine elves — hey, whatever makes your grapefruit squirt. But find a way. NaNoWriMo requires working to a schedule and hammering out word count in a relatively compressed amount of time, and you’ll find that comes a lot easier when you have some kind of map — even if that map is just a series of cryptic Post-It notes Scotch-taped to the family dog.
(One thing I would suggest, however, is that when plotting a novel, let the characters lead the way. My oft-repeated refrain is that plot is Soylent Green — it’s made of people. Characters will do things and in their actions and dialogue will create the events and complications that build the plot of your story. Don’t fit characters into a plot. Characters are the plot.)
PITCH YOUR STORY IN A SINGLE TWEET
One of the questions I ask in the Thursday interviews here at the blog is for the writers to describe their books in a single 140-character tweet.
And I actually think many have some up with some really cool loglines, this way.
You need to distill down your story to a single sniper’s bullet — this idea isn’t meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive or tell the entire story. It’s just a hook. That hook is ideal for selling the story later on — but right now, it’s also ideal for crystallizing the idea in your mind.
(You don’t need to be married to the 140-character limit, but I’d say to keep the description to 100 words or less. From a logline to a very short synopsis.)
NARRATIVE INCUBATION TIME
Take time to think about your story.
This is, for me, narrative incubation time where you let your brain off its leash to frolic in the meadow and roll around in whatever creative poop it can find.
How you accomplish this — the task it takes to unlock this Creative Mode — is on you. I like walking, running, showering, mowing the lawn. You might like chopping wood, lifting weights, and currying a horse. That guy over there might get in the right headspace during acts of vigorous masturbation, algorithmic hive-mind design, and hunting humans for sport HEY WAIT YOU’RE ONE OF THOSE FILTHY ROBOTS AGAIN OH SONOFABITCH.
(And yes, I’m suggesting that robots masturbate a lot. TRUE STORY LOOK IT UP.)
25 WAYS TO PLOT, PLAN AND PREP YOUR STORY
I’m a panster at heart, plotter by necessity — and I always advocate learning how to plot and plan because inevitably someone on the business side of things is going to poke you with a pointy stick and say, “I want this.” Thus you will demonstrate your talent. Even so, in choosing to plot on your own, you aren’t limited to a single path. And so it is that we take a look at the myriad plotting techniques (“plotniques?”) you might use as Storyteller Extraordinaire to get the motherfucking job done. Let us begin.
THE BASIC VANILLA TRIED-AND-TRUE OUTLINE
The basic and essential outline. Numbers, Roman numerals, letters. Items in order. Separated out by section if need be (say, Act I, Act II, Act III). Easy-peazy Lyme-diseasey.
THE REVERSE OUTLINE
Start at the end, instead. Write it down. “Sir Pimdrip Chicory of Bath slays the dragon-badger, but not before the dragon-badger bites the head off Chicory’s one true love, Lady Miss Wermathette Kildare of the Manchester Kildares.” Rewind the clock. Reverse the gears. Find out how you build to that.
A story in your head may require certain keystone events to be part of the plot. “Betty-Sue must get sucked into the time portal outside Schenectady, because that’s why her ex-boyfriend Booboo begins to build a time machine in earnest which will accidentally unravel space-and-time.” You might have five, maybe ten of these. Write them down. These are the elements that, were they not included, the plot would fall down (like a tent without its poles). The narrative space between the tentpoles is uncharted territory.
BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END
Write three paragraphs, each detailing the rough three acts found in every story: the inciting incident and outcome of the beginning (Act I), the escalation and conflict in the middle (Act II), the climactic culmination of events and the ease-down denoument of the end (Act III). You can, if you want, choose the elemental changes-in-state you might find at the end of each act, too — the pivot point on which the story shifts. This document probably isn’t more than a page’s worth of wordsmithy. Simple and elegant.
A SERIES OF SEQUENCES
The saying goes that an average screenplay usually offers up eight or nine sequences (a sequence being a series of scenes that add together to form common narrative purpose, like, say, the Attack On The Death Star sequence from Star Wars or the Kevin James Makes Love To All The Animals In Order To Make The Audience Feel Shame sequence from Paul Blart, Zoo Abortion). So, chart the sequences that will go into your screenplay. If you’re writing prose, I don’t know how many sequences a novel should have — more than a film, probably (or alternately, each sequence is granted a greater conglomeration of scenes).
For novel writers, you can chart your story by its chapters. A standard outline is more about dictating plot and story without marrying oneself to narrative structure. This, however, puts the ring on that finger and locks it down tight. A chapter-by-chapter outline is visualizing the reader’s way through the novel.
This one’s for you real granular-types, the ones who want to count each grain of sand on your story’s beach (or, for a more terribleminds-esque metaphor, “count each pube on your story’s scrotum”). Chart each beat of the story in every scene. This is you writing the entire story’s plot out, but you’re writing it without much dialogue or narrative flair. It’s you laying out all the pieces. The order-of-operations made plain.
Happy blocks and bubbles connected to winding bendy spokes connected to a central topical hub. Behold: example. You can use a mind-map to chart… well, anything your mind so desires. It is, after all, a map of said mind. Sequence of events? Character arcs? Exploration of theme? Story-world ideas? Family trees? The crazy hats worn by your villains? Catchphrases? Your inchoate rage and shame made manifest? Your call.
AKA, “The Vomit Draft.” Puke up the story. Just yarf it up — bleaaarrghsputter. A big ol’ Technicolor yawn. You aren’t aiming for structure. Aren’t aiming for art or even craft. This is justyou getting everything onto the page so that it’s out there and can now be cleaned up. You’ve puked up the story, now it’s time to form it into little idols and totems — the heretic statuaries of your story.
IN THE DOCUMENT, AS YOU GO
AKA, “The Bring Your Flashlight” technique. You outline only as you go. Write a scene or chapter. Roughly sketch the next. Then write it. Onward and upward until you’ve got a proper story.
WRITE A SCRIPT
For those of you writing scripts, this sounds absurd. “He wants me to outline my script by writing a script? Has this guy been licking colorful toads?” Sorry, screenwriters — this one ain’t for you. Novelists, however, will find use in writing a script to get them through the plotting. Scripts are lean and mean: description, dialogue, description, dialogue. It’ll get you through the story fast — then you translate into prose.
Let the characters talk, and nothing else. Put those squirrely fuckers in a room, lock the door, and let the story unfold. It won’t stay that way, of course. You’ll need to add… well, all the meat to the bones. But it’s a good way to put the characters forward and find their voice and discover their stories. Remember: dialogue reads fast and so it tends to write fast, too. Dialogue is like Astroglide: it lubricates the tale.
Characters often have arcs — they start at A, go to B, end at C (with added steps if you’re feeling particularly saucy). Commander Jim Nipplesplitter, Jr. starts at “gruff and loyal soldier boy in the war against the Ant People” (A) and heads to “is crippled and betrayed by his country, left to die in the distant hills of the Ant Planet” (B) and ends up at “falls in love with a young Ant Squaw and he must fight to protect his ant-man larvae” (C). A character arc can track plotty bits, emotional shifts, outfit changes, whatever.
You might think to write your query letter, treatment or synopsis last. Bzzt. Wrong move, donkeyface. Write it up front. It’s not etched in stone, but it’ll give you a good idea of how to stay on target with this story.
Index cards are a kick-ass organization tool. You can use them to do anything — list characters, track scenes, list chapters, identify emotional shifts, make little Origami throwing stars that will give your neighbors wicked-ass paper-cuts. Lay them on a table or pin ‘em to a corkboard. Might I recommend John August’s “10 Hints For Index Cards?” I might, rabbit. I might. See also: the Index Card app for iOS.
A whiteboard represents a great thinking space. Notes, mind-maps, character sketches, drawings of weird alien penises. Get some different color pens, chart your story in whatever way feels most appropriate.
THE CRAZY PERSON’S NOTEBOOK
Once in a while a story of mine demands a hyper-psycho notebook experience. My handwriting is messier than a garbage disposal choked with hair, but even still, sometimes I just like to put pen to paper and scribble. And I sometimes print stuff out, chop it up, and tape it into the notebook. (Example!)
You’re like, “What’s next? A shoebox diorama of the Lincoln assassination?” That’s a different blog post. Seriously, on my YA-cornpunk novel POPCORN, I took a whole corkboard and covered it in images and quotes that were relevant to the work. Then I’d just wander over there from time to time, stare at it, get my head around the story I’m telling and the feel of the world the story portrays. Surprisingly helpful.
Stare too long into the grid of a spreadsheet and you will feel your soul entangled there — a dolphin caught in a tuna net. Even still, you may find a spreadsheet very helpful. Track plots and beats to your heart’s delight. Seen JK Rowling’s spreadsheet for Harry Potter? High-res version right here.
Everything and anything goes into the story bible. Worldbuilding. Character descriptions. The “rules” of the story. Plot. Theme. Mood. An IKEA furniture manual. (Goddamn Allen wrenches.) The BIOSHOCK story bible was reputedly a 400+ page beast, which means that yes, your story bible may be bigger than your actual novel. The key is not to let this — or any planning technique — become an exercise in procrastination. You plan. Then you do. That’s the only way this works.
THE POWER OF TEMPLATES
Film and TV scripts already follow a fairly rigorous template, but you can go further afield. Look to Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT beats. Or Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. Go weirder with the Proppian morphology of fairy tales. You may think it non-imaginative but the power of art and story lives easily within such borders as it does outside of them.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS STORY BABBLE
Slap on a diving bell and jump deep into the waters of the stream of consciousness. Order, you see, is sometimes born first from chaos, wriggling free from a uterus made from fractal swirls and Kamikaze squirrels. Open yourself to All The Frequencies: get into your word processor or find a blank notebook page and just scribble wantonly without regard to sense or quality. You may find your story lives in the noise and madness and that on that snowy screen you will find structure. Like a Magic Eye painting that reveals the image of a dolphin riding a motorbike and shooting Japanese whalers with twin chattering Uzis.
Sometimes the words only come when given the bolstered boost of a visual hook. Sketch it out yourself. Get an artist friend. Find images from the Internet. Ingest some kind of dew-slick jungle mushroom and paint your story on the wall in an array of bodily fluids. Sometimes you really need to visualize the story.
THE TEST DRIVE
Take your characters, storyworld and ideas, and run them through a totally separate story. Let’s call it apocryphal, or “non-canonical.” It’s not a story you intend to keep. Not a story you want to publish. You’re just taking your story elements through their paces. Run them around a test drive. “This is where Detective Shirtless McGoggins solves the murder of the goblin seamstress.” Sure, your Detective lives in the real world, a world not populated by goblins. Fuck it, it’s just an exercise. A test run to find his voice and yours.
PANTS THE SHIT OUT OF IT
All this plotting and scheming just isn’t working for you, so go ahead and pants the hell out of it. (Me? I don’t wear pants. Pants are the first tool of your oppressors.) Sometimes trying to wrestle your story into even the biggest box is just an exercise in frustration, so do what works for you and what doesn’t. Once again, however, I’ll exhort you to at least learn the skill of outlining — because eventually, someone’s going to ask for a demonstration of your ability.
If you’re a boy writer, it’s a simple rule: you’ve gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women and that the worst women writer can write a better man than the best male writer can write a good woman. And it’s just the minimum. Because the thing about the sort of heteronormative masculine privilege, whether it’s in Santo Domingo, or the United States, is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity. And because you grow up with this, it’s this huge surprise when you go to college and realize that, “Oh, women aren’t people who does my shit and fucks me.”
And I think that this a huge challenge for boys, because they want to pretend they can write girls. Every time I’m teaching boys to write, I read their women to them, and I’m like, “Yo, you think this is good writing?” These motherfuckers attack each other over cliche lines but they won’t attack each other over these toxic representations of women that they have inherited… their sexist shorthand, they think that is observation. They think that their sexist distortions are insight. And if you’re in a writing program and you say to a guy that their characters are sexist, this guy, it’s like you said they fucking love Hitler. They will fight tooth and nail because they want to preserve this really vicious sexism in the art because that is what they have been taught.
And I think the first step is to admit that you, because of your privilege, have a very distorted sense of women’s subjectivity. And without an enormous amount of assistance, you’re not even going to get a D. I think with male writers the most that you can hope for is a D with an occasional C thrown in. Where the average women writer, when she writes men, she gets a B right off the bat, because they spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity. In fact, part of the whole feminism revolution was saying, “Me too, motherfuckers.” So women come with it built in because of the society.
It’s the same way when people write about race. If you didn’t grow up being a subaltern person in the United States, you might need help writing about race. Motherfuckers are like ‘I got a black boy friend,’ and their shit sounds like Klan Fiction 101.
The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons. And if you want to be a good artist, it means writing, really, about the world. And when you write cliches, whether they are sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, that is a fucking cliche. And motherfuckers will kill you for their cliches about x, but they want their cliches about their race, class, queerness. They want it in there because they feel lost without it. So for me, this has always been the great challenge.
As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track. They tell you, “You know what? You’re a bit of a fucking homophobe.” You can’t write about the world with these simplistic distortions. They are cliches. People know art, always, because they are uncomfortable. Art discomforts. The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real. And sexism is a way to avoid the real, avoiding the reality of women. Homophobia is to avoid the real, the reality of queerness. All these things are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that.
— Junot Diaz speaking at Word Up Bookshop, 2012 (via clambistro)
(Fuente: ofgrammatology, vía neil-gaiman)
Top 10 tips for writing a Hollywood blockbuster
Alison Feeney-Hart met the man whose 2007 film Michael Clayton saw him receive Bafta and Oscar nominations for best original screenplay to find out his Top 10 tips for writing a Hollywood blockbuster.
I don’t think there is anything you can learn from courses or books. You have been watching movies since you were born. You have filled your life with narrative… and food. It’s already way down deep inside you.
Going to the movies, having something to say, having an imagination and the ambition to do it is really all that is required. You can learn how to do anything.
This is imaginative work - screenwriters make things up. Everything I have in my life is a result of making things up. There is one thing that you have to know that is a deal-breaker - human behaviour.
The quality of your writing will be directly related to your understanding of human behaviour. You need to become a journalist for the movie that is in your head. You need to report on it; every scene has to be real.
Big ideas don’t work. Start with a very small idea that you can build on.
With Bourne I never read any of the books; we started again. The very smallest thing with [Jason] Bourne was, “If I don’t know who I am and I don’t know where I’m from, perhaps I can identify who I am by what I know how to do.” We built a whole new world around that small idea.
You just start small, you build out and you move one step after the next and that’s how you write a Hollywood movie.
Gilroy directed as well as wrote The Bourne Legacy, the fourth Bourne film
My father was a screenwriter but it’s not some pixie dust creative family thing. I learned from watching how hard he worked and learned about the tempo of a writer’s life - you have to live by your wits.
If you are living with someone who lives by their wits, it seems normal to you, it doesn’t scare you as much and you understand the rhythms of it.
It’s getting harder and harder to make good movies. TV is where the ambiguity and shades of reality live, it’s where stories can be interesting.
A lot of writers are very excited about TV right now and it’s a writer-controlled business. When writers are in control, good things happen. They are more rational, they are hardworking, they are more benevolent.
Every time writers have been put in charge of entertainment, things have worked out, so with TV maybe we will see a writer-driven utopia.
House of Cards is seen as part of a new era in quality television
I have an office at home, I’ve written in a million hotel rooms, I can write anywhere now. My whole goal is to want to be at my desk.
If the writing is going well, I don’t want to quit. I’m older and wise enough now that if something is going well, I don’t stop. I call and say I’m not coming home for dinner and just keep going.
More than anything else, I want to want to go to my desk and to not be afraid of going to work.
I spent six years tending bar while I figured out how to write screenplays.
If you want to write, if you are a young writer and nobody knows you, find a job that pays you the most amount of money for the least amount of hours, so that you have the most amount of time left over to write.
You want to live some place where you have some sort of cultural connection and can see as many films and be around as many people as possible. You want to be some place where you can just write and write and write.
If you don’t have anything to say and if you haven’t done anything except see a bunch of movies, then what’s the point? You can only write what you know about and that will either limit you or open the possibilities to everything.
Be interested in lots of things and stay interested. My knowledge is very wide and incredibly thin. It’s much more interesting when journalists and cops and doctors and bankers become screenwriters than 20-year-old film students.
There are some exceptions, of course, but if you don’t have anything to say, then why are you here?
I don’t think there is any reason to live there, I think LA is probably very bad for you. It’s a bad place to feed your head.
In LA you are driving around all the time, surrounded by people who are making you depressed. I don’t think Hollywood really helps a young writer feel any sense of romance about their life.
Even if it’s a delusion, you want to feel special when you go to work in the morning.
I have assumed both positions of the Hollywood Kama Sutra - top and bottom.
It’s very important to be able to handle rejection. I think one of the reasons writers are shy is because we are all very suspicious of our own process because it fails so often.
It’s no different from being a novelist or a composer or a painter. When you get rejection from the outside world, you either move on or you don’t.
But I think the hardest times are all the days when nothing happens and everybody who has ever written anything knows what I’m talking about. A great day of writing tops everything.
Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you—the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.
— Screenwriter William Goldman on the Terrifying Act of Writing
We tell ourselves stories in order to make sense of life. Narrative is reassuring. There are days when life is so absurd, it’s crippling–nothing makes sense, but stories bring order to the absurdity. Relief is provided by the narrative’s beginning, middle, and end. Without an end, you have an obsession, a constant circling around a fact or situation that cannot be put in place.
– Norman Mailer
To me, a mystery is like a magnet. Whenever there is something that’s unknown, it has a pull to it. If you were in a room and there was an open doorway, and stairs going down and the light just fell away, you’d be very tempted to go down there. When you only see a part, it’s even stronger than seeing the whole. The whole might have a logic, but out of its context, the fragment takes on a tremendous value of abstraction. It can become an obsession.
— DAVID LYNCH
Si no te sale ardiendo de dentro,
a pesar de todo,
no lo hagas.
A no ser que salga espontáneamente de tu corazón
y de tu mente y de tu boca
y de tus tripas,
no lo hagas.
Si tienes que sentarte durante horas
con la mirada fija en la pantalla del ordenador
ó clavado en tu máquina de escribir
buscando las palabras,
no lo hagas.
Si lo haces por dinero o fama,
no lo hagas.
Si lo haces porque quieres mujeres en tu cama,
no lo hagas.
Si tienes que sentarte
y reescribirlo una y otra vez,
no lo hagas.
Si te cansa sólo pensar en hacerlo,
no lo hagas.
Si estás intentando escribir
como cualquier otro, olvídalo.
Si tienes que esperar a que salga rugiendo de ti,
Si nunca sale rugiendo de ti, haz otra cosa.
Si primero tienes que leerlo a tu esposa
ó a tu novia ó a tu novio
ó a tus padres ó a cualquiera,
no estás preparado.
No seas como tantos escritores,
— Charles Bukowski
no seas como tantos miles de
personas que se llaman a sí mismos escritores,
no seas soso y aburrido y pretencioso,
no te consumas en tu amor propio.
Las bibliotecas del mundo
bostezan hasta dormirse
con esa gente.
No seas uno de ellos.
No lo hagas.
A no ser que salga de tu alma
como un cohete,
a no ser que quedarte quieto
pudiera llevarte a la locura,
al suicidio o al asesinato,
no lo hagas.
A no ser que el sol dentro de ti
esté quemando tus tripas, no lo hagas.
Cuando sea verdaderamente el momento,
y si has sido elegido,
sucederá por sí solo y
seguirá sucediendo hasta que mueras
ó hasta que muera en ti.
No hay otro camino.
Y nunca lo hubo.
That faith, that if you just put the bad, easy version of a scene on the page, the good version will come to you tomorrow. That’s writing.
– Justin Marks