Healthy, Vibrant, No Limits
Wow, what a weekend! Here at home (and worldwide) The Dark Knight was breaking box office records, and up in Seattle, I was speaking to the greatest group of writers Sunday at the PNWA conference — and believe it or not, it’s all about the same thing:
Booming! That describes the movie business. Hollywood does it better than any entity in the history of storytelling. Enlarge your tents — and tent pole movies! There is more audience than we can squeeze into theaters! Recession? What recession? Perhaps it’s times of trouble that lead to greater ticket sales — that has always been the accepted wisdom.
My theory is we’re just creating and marketing our stories better than ever before. The intersection of art and commerce is widening to include more of us, and whether we are veterans with movies already in the works, or fresh-faced aspirants striving for our first brass ring, there are more chances for success than we can gather into one bushel basket.
While the cineplexes loaded up with ticket buyers this weekend, I got to speak to a really generous and receptive audience of writers thanks to Pam Binder, who’d heard me speak earlier in the year and arranged to have me come back up to Seattle for yesterday’s talk. The PNWA is mostly about books — fiction and non-fiction — but one of the theories sweeping the weekend conference was how screenplay structure can inform any kind of writing. And when it comes to codifying what that is, I think Save the Cat! explains the movie template more easily than any other method.
I spoke for 90 minutes and yes, my new suit was a hit! But what I really loved were the questions from writers — what a smart group! By the time we were finished, I felt that I’d made a few hundred new friends — and hopefully new converts to this common-sense structure.
What’s it all about?
Tell me your story.
But bring me into your world as if I don’t know anything about what’s on your mind — because I don’t.
Have compassion for me, your potential ticket buyer or reader, who really wants to give you the benefit of the doubt, but will only give you my attention as long as you intrigue me with a grabber of a headline, a hero, or theory I can identify with — and a progression of ideas that lead me from one stop to the next in solving “the problem” you told me about up front.
How do my old ideas die for having come along with you, and how have you replaced the old with something truly new, and a little bit divine? Every story, essay, or argument must have that spark, that life-giving and mysterious bolt of lighting that renews my faith — and leads me to something I never dreamed possible.
There is no ceiling on the number of movie theaters we can pack with ticket buyers, and no boundaries on our creativity, whether we are movie writers or novelists, short story tellers or essayists supreme. If you can communicate, your horizons will have to be raised and readied with greater expectations.
There are no limits — and no time like the present — to expand our skills and enlarge our tents!
That’s funny because last week I also learned something important about communication in storytelling. I submitted one of my scripts to ScriptShark for evaluation, as I’ve heard they are pretty tough to please, and I got a PASS — a real humility lesson.
What was wrong? Not the story concept, the reader really liked it and even saw a movie trailer as he/she (?) wrote. The problem was with the characters’ motivation believability and contrived plot twists. Now I see very clearly what mistake I have made. The very same one Blake writes above — communication. I was focused so much on coming with a plot that would completely astonish the audience, constructing a double climax that no-one could ever predict, and squeezed in all of this an over-intellectualized message, that I lost the picture how it looks from a different point of view than my own. And it doesn’t look so good as I hoped for. Too complicated story leads straight to the confusion of what’s contrived and what’s accidental, understandability of characters’ actions and logic of presented events. I still believe there’s a perfect logic in that story but to see it you probably need to know what’s on my mind. And how can you possibly know that?
The moral is simple; less contrived the plot, more plain the goals, and the believability of character’s motivation will speak for itself giving the audience a pleasure of enjoying the action without any misunderstandings of writer’s intentions.
- Mike Rinaldi
Blake wore a suit? It would have been worth it to go to Seattle just to see that!
- Brenda Wilbee
Yes, Mike, Blake wore a suit. About the first thing out of his mouth was, “Do you like my suit?” He could have said anything after that and we’d have scarfed it up. Not that we needed to love his suit. He was caviar.
- Alex Moore
They say that when you are trying to learn a new language that you should combine it with something emotionally charged: it sticks better that way. Blake nailed it (in Seattle) because he combined kick-butt humor with the new ‘language’ he was teaching us…and it stuck. I’m in awe of the man. I think there must have been a bit of hypnotic suggestion in the talk, too, because I drove six hours straight to the bookstore and bought his first book. (The only one available there — I’ll have to go on-line to buy the second.) I’m definitely a convert, Blake, so keep up the evangelizing!
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Thanks Blake! I’m really jazzed about the opportunity available to us storytellers, now more than ever. No matter what the economic climate may be, people are showing the world with their pocket books that they still need stories. They need entertainment as much as they need food. I truly think our industry is recession proof. As long as we deliver the goods. So let’s get out there and tell great stories. I’m so excited about the future, I only wish I could type fast enough!