Writing By The Book

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August 18, 2011 by David Gillaspie

STORY, THE FRIGHTENING TRUTH

 

Writers inspired by Inspirational Writers lean toward inspirational writing. It seems natural.

Buying Gabriele Lusser Rico’s Writing the Natural Way felt just as natural. Who doesn’t need ‘A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Writing Confidence.’ 

I know I do. I feel more creative and confident just saying the words.

“Creative.”

“Confident.”

Did I read it? Barely took a look.

Natural Way is a right-brain technique, a similar approach used in the book about drawing.  That one spooked me after I drew a Russian composer upside down.

The right-brain drawing turned out well, I’m sure the right-brain writing would too, but since it’s hard enough coordinating your brain at all, why complicate it?

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maass was a planned purchase. It had the look and feel of a good tool. It came highly recommended. I recommend it myself.

Did I use it? No.

I tried, but I can’t make myself write in a book. So I took notes until it got in the way of my regular writing. I’m looking through it now; it has everything a story could need. 

Will I start it again after I finish this?

The Screenwriter’s Bible proves the allure of large format books with soft covers. King James could take design notes from David Trottier. Even though it isn’t a real Bible, people swear by the Screenwriter’s Bible.

I bought it to add to the tool shelf. It’s the standard rules of Hollywood. It’s expanded and updated. Who wouldn’t buy it?

Breakout Novel Workbook and the bible have more in common than their size on a bookshelf. Both drill story, of capturing a reader’s attention and directing it where the story needs to go.

One question you want answered by an inspirational writing book is ‘Where does a story go?’ We already know how all the good ones start, “Once upon a time…,” but where do they go?

That’s the mystery.

Break down a nursery rhyme for example: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water, Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. 

What we know is either Jack or Jill are extremely motivated to get a pail of water. We don’t know the back story, but someone needs water, and it’s up a steep hill.

How bad do they need it? Real bad. Bad enough to make Jack run and fall and crack his head open; bad enough for Jill to ignore Jack’s dire emergency and run with the water until she falls like him, two still heaps on a hillside.

While we certainly don’t think of Jack and Jill going up the hill as a death march, they’re willing to risk everything for a pail of water. We know they’re getting some water, not storming Mt. Suribachi, but story needs the same force.

Stakes can’t be any higher than life or death, story just makes that life or death the most important thing in the universe. Story makes it matter.

Make your readers want to know more about your characters by knowing more about them than anyone in history. These are your people, no one can ever know them better than you before you sell the film rights. Until then, keep showing as much about them as you can, as much as story requires.

FIRST ACT:

Where do Jack and Jill live? Which side of the tracks? What sort of cars sit in the driveway?

How old are they? Can they be older? Younger? Harold and Maude?

Jack and Jill are a boy and girl. Do they have to be? Transgender? Pre-op? Siamese twins?

Where did they meet? How long have they known each other? Is this their first time up the hill together?

SECOND ACT: 

The Journey Up The Hill.

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