A fragmented day, never settling on anything, but buzzing round various bits and pieces like a summer-drunk wasp.
After a lazy morning in bed dreaming about scimitars and other swords, I’ve spent a good part of the day with the film I watched last night haunting my brain. It was Telstar: The Joe Meek story – an adaptation of a stage play, and despite it focusing on Meek’s developing insanity and megalomaniacal tendencies, I found it quite affecting. So today I’ve been unearthing a few old CDs with early Ritchie Blackmore recordings produced by Meek and some other great obscure British Psychedelia. It’s a shame that the film didn’t highlight a little more the groundbreaking work he did for sound recording, instead of painting the tragic, damaged side to him. That said, the performances in the film are excellent and the dramatic focus is elsewhere, but if you didn’t know who Joe Meek was and what he did for music it might not be clear why he was so revered.
With such tunes in my head, we spent an afternoon at Stockbridge market where there is so much tempting food you may just die rather than choose what to buy, or go with a lot of money in your pocket. Salami pretzels, some Bombay street food chicken curry, German cheesecake fruit pastry thing. So great to have such an amazing local market that I will be helping out there next week for Alexis Southam Jewellery on her debut appearance at the market!
And slowly my head turns toward writing. I have a document open of The Last Photograph, which seriously needs something good done with it as it still reads well for an unfinished first draft and deserves some quality time.
As an intermission, I have been reading this rather excellent list of writing advice by Pixar story artist Emma Coats, originally tweeted by her one by one, and sourced here. I’ll reproduce the list below – by no means a bible of story rules, as any writing advice always is an opinion, in this case a very interesting and probably quite valid opinion to help story creation.
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.