04 June 2010

Hey, it's that guy Brian Cox played in Adaptation

Like many amateur writers, I semi-frequently get sucked into the directionless realm of writing about writing. It's where someone says, Hey, here the five simple steps of becoming a successful writer! And I think, Gee whiz, maybe this will be how I find the magic key to the room of glorious flowing prose and natural dialogue that engages AND enlightens. Generally, though, these endeavors are pretty much a waste of time.

In reality, the best way to grow as a writer is to read good writing and then write. A lot. Maybe talk about that writing with a friend. And then re-write. And then write some more. And...repeat. (I know, a stunning lack of "check Facebook" and "play addicting flash games" steps in there.) The only real positive experiences I've had with writing about writing are Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Story by Robert McKee.

Yeah, that Robert McKee, who was a character in Adaptation. ("...and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.") I confess, I've only read parts of McKee's Story in Barnes & Noble. I've found him to be a good dose of don't-try-to-be-too-poetic-just-tell-a-story.

The other day, I stumbled on an hour-long interview with McKee on BigThink.com. He covers a wide variety of topics, but as always, he grasps why good story-telling is important.

Human beings... a great critic said once, Kenneth Burke said, “Stories are equipment for living.” Human beings need storytelling in order to make sense out of life, in order to live as well and civilized as a human being can. And so they will go to the storyteller for meaningful emotional experiences that they cannot get from life.
Here's the full video:

1 comment:

  1. The quotation above made me think of the This American Life episode "Saves the Day." Did you listen to that one? Anyway, the last act there is a debate between academic disciplines about which would be most necessary for post-apocalypse reconstruction of society. The English department got dispatched, ironically by an English professor playing the devil's advocate. That occurred to me as a contrast of the above blurb.