How to Write for Hollywood

Over at the blog Big Hollywood, Russ Dvonch deconstructs Charlie Chaplin’s picture, The Kid, to better understand what the ingredients are in great screenwriting.

Over at the blog Big Hollywood, Russ Dvonch deconstructs Charlie Chaplin’s picture, The Kid, to better understand what the ingredients are in great screenwriting. Using a lobby card handed out to the audience before they went into the the theater to see the film back in 1921, Dvonch illustrates how that card addressed the three essential questions viewers have for any movie (whether they are aware of them or not).

Though aimed at screenwriters, the post can be appreciated by writers of any medium, as they really pertain to structure than the art of filmmaking.

NaNoWriMo

In addition to the panelists at the Writing Show last night, there was a representative for NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month.

In addition to the panelists at the Writing Show last night, there was a representative for NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month. I had first heard of this event last year but didn’t participate. It’s held every November, challenging all (non-)writers to write 50,000 words beginning midnight Nov. 1 through 11:59 Nov. 30.

Learn more at the NaNoWriMo website. There appears to be a lot useful stuff there, including pep talks and community support. I intend to sign up and give it a shot. It may be the kick in the tuchas I need.

Will you participate this year? Have you in the past? What was your experience?

Jean Anderson, the Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo here in Richmond was on hand to answer questions.
Jean Anderson, the Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo here in Richmond was on hand to answer questions.

Thematic Significance

From the Plot Whisperer blog, Plot Your Story’s Theme, comes a homework assignment: Make a list of recurring themes in your work.

From the Plot Whisperer blog, Plot Your Story’s Theme, comes a homework assignment: Make a list of recurring themes in your work.

Hmm. Well I don’t know if I can connect my stories with a theme per se. I have noticed I enjoy writing about absurd situations or points of view that are off-beat. I suppose one theme might be ordinary people grappling with something outside their everyday experience. I think what I am trying to do is show something we see all the time, but in a way that is for the first time. Maybe the themes are wonder and awe and apprehension.

My novel though is consciously thematic. The themes are love, faith and identity. Plot Whisperer promises a follow-up post for taking our theme list and building ideas from them.

Do you start your writings with a theme in mind and tailor the story to them, or do your themes emerge from the writing process?

To Outline or Not to Outline: That isn’t the Question

Larry Brooks at Write to Done posted an article, Solved: The Outlining versus Organic Writing Debate. Writers for and against outlining their novels are missing the point, Brooks contends.

Larry Brooks at Write to Done posted an article, Solved: The Outlining versus Organic Writing Debate. Writers for and against outlining their novels are missing the point, Brooks contends. Structure is what matters. Be sure to give it a read.

For myself, I am in the organic camp. I have an aversion to outlining because I procrastinate well enough and outlining is another distraction. Brooks’s point on structure is well taken and recently I have been warming to the idea of outlining afterall. I so enjoy writing without preconceived ideas of where to take the story moment to moment. I discover more about characters and feel free to let them take me down alleyways. They may lead nowhere or somewhere.

Of course there is underlying direction in my head and I have to get there if there is ever to be an end to the writing. Outlining would help with ensuring that themes, plots and revelations unfold at the right time. Also, my understanding is that outlines have utility for more than just the writer. Literary agents and/or editors have need of outlines for the novels they are representing. They aren’t reading the manuscripts as readers, but as professionals with deadlines and way too much on their desks.

I just want to finish up the current and next chapters before I re-examine the novel’s structure.

What do you think of outlining and Brooks’s article?

How Fiction Works

Writers know that an essential part of honing our craft is reading the works of others. Not simply reading one word and sentence after another through the end, but pausing over passages, re-reading, picking apart, unpacking to understand what makes the work good, great or bad.

Writers know that an essential part of honing our craft is reading the works of others. Not simply reading one word and sentence after another through the end, but pausing over passages, re-reading, picking apart, unpacking to understand what makes the work good, great or bad.  (I don’t do this often enough myself. I’ll use this post as a reminder.)

So consider this as a recommendation, passed from a friend in my writing group to you.

Literary critic James Wood wrote a book called, How Fiction Works (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Wood applies his skill at helping his audience understand the fundamentals of great writing by going through concrete examples of literature’s estimable works.

Wood writes in an engaging, almost conversational style. At times I had felt as though I were a guest in his private library. There he plucked books off shelves and tapped his finger at passages that exemplify his points on narration, dialogue, characterization and so on.

The 288 pages are a quick read and worth your time.