The TipspiT (Writing Tips)

16 12 2005

Clever title, eh? I actually came here to edit some of the awfully constructed sentences from my previous post. But I’ll probably end up rewriting it so much that it will become a different post. “Maybe I’ll write something new,” I found saying to myself…(cue in Theme from Rocky) “I’ll share tips on writing.”

Alright, I’ll get to it.

* Watch foreign films (other than the language(s) you speak) on DVD, with the sound turned off. The subtitles are often more articulate and easy flowing than what’s being said by the characters. Sometimes, subtitle writers have to fit in a certain amount of information on screen without getting too wordy. Good exercise.

* When you’re stuck on page X with your story, and your protaginist is not doing or saying anything you like, give him/her a rest and write from the POV of the person he/she is meeting or going to meet. Your characters need rest too after climbing mount everest and chasing after bad guys, or recouping from a bad breakup.

* Dialogue. How do you write good dialogue? My mentor Carey Harrison gave me the greatest tip about that. “Don’t try to ‘write’ anything. Just let your characters talk to each other, listen to them, and try to keep up.”

* Warming up. Before you start writing each day, before you continue the story you have been working on, take out a few minutes and write a page of material that’s a 180 degree from your style, subject and taste. It should shock, embarass, or disgust you when you read it later. Do not stop see what you’re writing. Do not stop for spell check. Do not stop, period. What you’ll have done is opened yourself up for better reception. Your characters, from your work in progress, will feel confident and willing to open up to you more. They’ll, I should say, flesh out better on paper. Which brings us to…

* …Never judge your character’s words or action. If you judge them, they will only tell you things that are PC. They will feel nervous and awkward or even stop being interesting. Does not make for interesting storytelling. Some of you may have a problem with this. ‘What is he smoking?’ will probably what you’ll wonder. If you do, you’ll have proven to yourself that you’re no imaginative writer.

* Believe everything you write about. ‘Would I, or any other real person do that?’ should never occur to you. You’ve written it, and your characters just did it. ‘Write what you know’ is a bs advice to be ignored.

* Write the movie you would like to pay $10 and go see yourself. If it’s the story of ‘A man meets the girl of his dreams…in his latest dream. He wants to be with her forever, therefore becomes addicted to sleeping pills’…then be it. By the way…what a weirdly cool idea, isn’t it? Just came to me šŸ™‚

* Read, read, read and…read some more! I cannot stress that enough. Start with classic plays, vary the styles…Chekhov, Ibsen, Pinter, Beckett, Miller, Simon. Contemporaries like Mamet, Hare, Frayn, and the list goes on. Why a play? They’re wordy! I know it’s the opposite of how you write in film, but the purpose is to hone the rhythm with which you read/hear dialogue. These playwrights have written, and some continue to write, the finest and realistic (not real) dialogue and characters that when read out loud (loud enough for you only) you begin to ‘hear’ the characters in your imagination with a certain rhythm. That rhythm is your rhythm because it’s the rhythm that defines you. Once you have that, your writing will find a rhythm of its own. Rhythm and clarity gives birth to style. A style that is recognizable as yours. Clarity is style.

* Avoid reading just any contemporary screenplays. Read good ones. If you’ve seen a film and have loved it, read the screenplay. Then again, screenplays aren’t meant as literature pieces to read, but good screenplays are good screenplays.

* Stop worrying about how millions of ‘brilliant’ writers are not making it in the biz. That’s their story. It does not affect your path, destiny or whatever you like to call it. Stop reading books, or listening to people, who promise you formula on writing and success. If they had any, they would have used it for themselves. Their formulas don’t work, which is why they agreed to share it. No one shares their ‘secret to success.’

* Listen to people you like and make you feel better. Listen to someone who gives you constructive criticism about writing. Listen to someome who listens to you, and understands your potential. Amidst all this insanity, there are wonderful people whose experience in the industry makes for valuable mentors. Find them and stick with them. Every good writer has a good reader. Be open to criticism. You’ll be angry with someone for being honest, but they’ll only do it for your own good without making it personal. Avoid people who think they know the real world and constantly warn you about the reality. Avoid bitter and gloomy people. It’s not a requisite to be an ‘artiste’…which brings us to…

* Screw the so-called ‘artistes’ and the wannabes, the type who think they’re above regular people. Just because you think you are an artste writer type and people call you one doesn’t give you the license to behave like an asswipe. Without craft there is no art, without humility there is no human. Made that one up just now, but it works. Which brings us to…

* Live life, dammit! To write is to create is to reflect is to hide is to emote is to love is to doing it all your way. Your voice is what makes you unique, your face is what makes you unique, your body is what makes you unique. Then why shouldn’t your writing? Don’t try to fit in. Fitting in is a lot of work that a lifelong struggle doesn’t satisfy.

I guess I stepped a bit away from ‘real’ writing tips, but what the hell can anyone do about it. I should exhale now. I’ll share more ‘Philosomon’ when I have them. Happy writing!




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