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!
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