I can’t speak for other writers, but all my ideas came to me after I’d signed a contract with a strange fellow named Mr. Scratch.
A group of guys in my improv class had dragged me to a cabana party in the Hollywood hills. We found ourselves in an endless pool with a breathtaking view of West Hollywood. This was at the Chateau of a big director with an appetite for young actors. He was snorkeling through the shallow end dressed like a lifeguard. My buddies didn’t mind. They were hoping the situation would score them a role. I was hoping to score a drink. Good thing there was a bartender in the water. I drank until I was good and beached-whale-drunk. I propped myself up in my palm as everyone gossiped around me.
“Hey Drew, what do you think of all this Lindsay Lohan controversy.”
“I literally couldn’t give a shit.”
“So you’re constipated then?”
“You said that you ‘literally’ couldn’t give a shit. So I took it to mean that you were incapable of shitting due to your use of the adverb literally.”
I found myself wandering through the woods in my swim trunks, ranting about how I’d be hot shit too if only I could put my thoughts into words.
“I’d literally be the toast of Hollywood, or wait, does that mean I’d be burned to a crisp?”
That’s when Mr. Scratch staggered into my path. He walked with a limp, because one his legs had been replaced with custom cloven hoof prosthesis.
Most of us avoid doing anything out of character. We don’t want our routines to get broken. If our lives have to change we want it to be so gradual that we don’t even notice. If we’re stuck in a rut we try to make ourselves comfortable with it. It doesn’t matter if every day feels the same, we choose to live in Groundhog Day scenarios because it’s what we know.
We predict how we’ll manage in tough spots, overlooking the difference between our ideal selves and our applied selves, between our routine self and our chaotic self.We gossip about other losers who fell apart under pressure, patting ourselves on the back for how we assume we’d react differently. We’d like to believe we wouldn’t panic from the comfort of our love seats. Continue reading Use Your Darkness: How Writers’ Shortcomings Benefit Their Characters→
A lot of people avoid moments of quiet contemplation for fear they’ll get stuck in them. They don’t see the therapeutic value in journaling. Some writers even discourage the practice, saying that an abstract record of your thoughts won’t enhance your ability to write narrative fiction, but what if journaling could benefit your writing and your state of mind with the right direction?
When I started journaling it looked like I was transcribing the ravings of dizzy man pacing a bus station. I switched from the past tense to the present tense without sensing a disturbance in the time space continuum. I switched from the first person to the second without warning. I started sentences with confusing modifiers. I left my particles to dangle. I was less concerned with good sentence structure as I was with getting my free floating feelings out there. Continue reading How to Use Writing as a Remedy→
Audiences love watching characters in dire situations work their way out. We want to believe that with enough determination anyone can lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. More than that, we want to believe that people have the power to look inward and turn themselves into someone better.
A character’s growth should account for shifts in his attitude, but if his personality does a complete 180 it will affect his believability.New situations should nurture the hero’s evolution, while his nature should remain the same. Inconsistencies in the hero’s essence will feel like a betrayal to the audience. The more the hero changes, the more parts of them need to remain the same. Continue reading Characterization Lessons from Pop Culture (Updated)→
An author tries to solve a mystery from inside the pitch of his own story.
My story’s pitch starts in the parking lot. The lot is empty apart from a lone convertible, a rusty old stepladder, and a thick layer of slush from last night’s snow.
The convertible is a classic, fully restored to its original mint green. Too bad someone thought to wheel it out in this nasty weather. The fenders are caked with black slush. There’s an awful mess in the interior. The windshield does little to hide the line of cocaine on the dashboard. There’s nothing but powder from the wheel to the glovebox. It looks like last night’s blizzard happened on the upholstery. A log sits on the passenger seat, too small for a support beam, too large for kindling. It leans forward. Its bark is nose deep in the fresh fallen blow.
I pace around the vehicle and wonder why the log was staged to look like it overdosed. This is the weirdest damn crime scene that I’ve ever seen. What business does a log have with such an epic line? Then it occurs to me. This is a terrible pun. It’s a “log-line.” Every pitch has got one.
A logline is the main idea sentence of a story’s pitch. It’s the bait that get’s the audience on the hook. I must have staged this mobile drug den to remind myself to lead with my logline. Continue reading The Memory Palace Mystery→
Persuading yourself to write is like pulling off a long con. You play the parts of both the mark and the convincer. The mark has something you want, time and dedication. Neither you, nor they, want to give those things up willingly. Time scheduled is time spent, and you want to keep your options open. You’ve got a Netflix queue that isn’t going to watch itself. Dedication requires persistence, and you already have enough on your plate. No one wants to feel like they’re clocking into a second job.
You’ll have to swindle the time and dedication out of yourself. You’ll have to get yourself to write without realizing that you’re doing it.
Don’t spend too much time on foundation work, or you’ll get wise to what you’re up to. You’ll see all of those character biographies and get nervous about meeting new people. You’ll see the settings mapped out and your agoraphobia will kick in. You’ll see the scene list and imagine your calendar filling up with X’s. If you let yourself realize how daunting the task of writing can be, you won’t want to do it. Continue reading Grift the Words Out of You→
(Download the instrumental version of the song here.)
This was originally posted on lorenkleinman.com a source of much inspiration. This whole piece is the product of a conversation we had on Twitter. You should definitely follow her at @LorenKleinman
“In writing, you must kill your darlings.” –William Faulkner
What are Darlings?
When Faulkner says, “Darlings” he’s talking about the poetry that wanders into our novels. He’s talking about the colorful descriptions in our black and white detective stories. The hyperboles that get lost inside our stark realism. The esoteric language that finds its way into modern thrillers.