Learning from Scripts

I just read the script for The Devil Wears Prada and was blown away by the storytelling. JMS left us nine scripts to read and that was the least scary to me, so I started with it first. And couldn’t stop reading. My iPad’s power slid down to 4% but I couldn’t tear myself away. Excellent writing. Excellent storytelling.

I used to love to read plays and librettos as a kid. Now I wonder why I ever stopped. The story structure is so much clearer in scripts and it really underlines for me just how much of the emotion of fiction comes from story and not from the encrustations of prose we use to make story happen in the reader’s mind. (Yes, Dean said this. But I didn’t get it until now.) I look forward to reading the rest of the scripts, which are primarily for action movies that JMS is using to illustrate how to write action scenes.

The last three weeks I’ve taken a pause from novel-writing to work on short stories and in the process I’ve discovered something interesting. I write short stories completely differently than I write novels. With short stories I write several beginnings trying to find my way into the story or into a character I like or a setting. I procrastinate. I poke at my muse trying to get her to give me the goods. Finally I find one and can write the beginning, but then need to pause as I contemplate the trap I’ve written myself into. Finally I write the middle and the end in a white heat, recognizing that I am late, late, late!

Having standard characters and settings that I re-use makes the first step easier and sometimes I can just write clear through with a familiar setting and set of characters. But short stories are always more emotionally involving for me to write.

With novels it’s much easier to simply plan that I will write a set number of words each day. It’s a calmer way to write. Both are difficult, so I’m not saying that novel-writing is easier. In fact the dreadful middle is much harder in a novel than a short story for me. But it is more relaxed on a daily basis.

This year will be a year for craft, for storytelling, for longer form stories. That’s what I’m going to concentrate on. I will be examining my goals to conform with the larger plan. Also, there is a small chance that we may buy a new house this year, so I need to keep my powder dry to allow me to continue to work through that disruption if it occurs. Last year was ambitious. This year will be quieter, but still productive and will move me toward what I want.

I hope you are also finding your way to what you want most. Be well, friends!

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