Secrets of Giants

15 Feb

What is the one thing we all hope to do, as writers?Get our stories straight and get published, right?  (Okay, so that’s two things, but bear with me)

I think that may be why I enjoy watching the “behind the scenes” documentaries of my favorite movies.  Which of you has popped in that second disc?  C’mon, be honest. ;D I think we’ve all done something similar, being writers.  We’re constantly asking the questions: What? Why? How?

How many of you turn on the director’s or writer’s commentary of your favorite movies that you’ve watched so many times?  My friends get irritated with me for being near obsessed with finding out every little tidbit of information, anything wrong, anything right, the what, the why, the how.  I’m constantly looking for symbolism and double meanings and foreshadowing, both in books and in movies. And it comes as no surprise when I’m the one they turn to when they don’t understand a part of a movie involving a deeper meaning or a twisted plot. ;D  How many of you are that person (the one they turn to for explanation).

I just watched a very intriguing documentary on the making of M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water.  Of course, the behind the scenes footage tells you about his characters and their development from script to storyboard to movie.  But one of the things that made this one different was that Mr. Shyamalan talked about his writing process. 

We all know his projects; The Sixth Sense, and Signs to name a couple.  But what I hadn’t heard before was his writing process.  This is one of the premiere storytellers in American cinema.  He is able to conjure such strange and unpredictable things that he has managed to do the one thing most modern moviemakers fail: to surprise the American audience. How does he do it?  What methods does he use?  What can we, as fledgling writers, learn from him? I was overwhelmed to hear about his process.  Read below and tell me what you think:

1. He gets an idea he wants to develop and buys a specific journal only for that story.
2. He makes notes on that story in that journal for up to a year, involving random details and rants.
3. After he is satisfied with his notes, he starts an outline, breaking it down into puzzle pieces and fitting it all together.  He now involves others’ opinions for the first time.
4. Once he has a viable outline, he starts the story or script, writing out the first rough draft.

Lady in the Water went through at least THIRTEEN drafts (!!!) before the final script.

Okay, I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda feeling a tad bit novice.   However, this does give me a swift kick in the pants, allowing me to see that while my story is taking forever and has been redone many times… as long as I stay true to the story and get it written down, then I can work and rework and rework and make it happen!

I can do this!

Show of hands: How many of you feel better now that you know that one of the best modern storytellers has to take a really, really long time and lots of drafts to get it right.

I remember watching a documentary on the making of Star Wars, where George Lucas walked into the studio with his first rough draft of Episode III.  Everyone was super excited, but he played it down by saying: There’s a lot of “they fight”.

Meaning he glossed over a lot of his story, not filling in mere physical fights and instead concentrating on plot and dialogue.  Honestly, how many of you have seen a Star Wars movie where there wasn’t a lot of fighting?  It doesn’t exist.  I daresay that fully 1/3 of all the Star Wars’ saga has fighting in it.  So he didn’t sweat the details at first, got the main idea down and worked from there.

Easy right? Yeah, especially if you’ve got a trillion dollars in the bank and can spend all day every day doing nothing but working on your MS. [insert rolling eyes here] Not to mention it took him twenty years to tell the entire story.

So my challenge to you is this:  When you feel down and out, write something—anything—as a descriptive phrase and work out the puzzle later.  Keep yourself positive, knowing that the right thing WILL come to you.  Obviously it’s what the professionals do. :D

I even remember Eloisa James mentioning this as a tactic of hers.  Only, I think her omissions read something like “they have sex.”

Chin up, Writers!


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