13 June, 2013

What Do You Build Your Church On?

                                                                  I ran across this picture on Facebook today and a lot of these things have been popping up lately.  The Three-Act Structure, Plot Point One, The Character Arc, Protagonist Vs Antagonist, The Story Conflict, The Character Conflict (they're different) and it couldn’t help but make me think of this bit from William Goldman (who I’ve written about here and here so won’t go into detail again here).  Look, I don’t knock any weapon in a writer’s arsenal.  If any of these help – and, yes, Robert McKee really is that good – use it.  Honestly, whatever keeps us staring at that blank screen, typing something on it, continue staring, continue typing – it really does make us nuts – do it.   I just think Mr. Goldman – and, yes, he really is that good – keeps us all in check so well.  Hope you enjoy …
[One afternoon I was back at my alma mater, Oberlin College, where I] met with a bunch of student writers to answer their questions about Hollywood.  I remember the moment so clearly.  This girl stood up.  Slender, wearing red, so obviously bright and intense, and before she spoke I realized whatever she was about to ask mattered.  She was leaning in toward me and she was almost trembling, and when she spoke it was with such clarity and power.  These were her words:  “Mr. Goldman, Mr. Goldman, do you always begin your second theme by page seventeen?—”
           I was so stunned.  The question would not stop echoing inside me:  “Mr. Goldman, Mr. Goldman, do you always begin your second theme by page seventeen?—”
           Because, you see, I didn’t know what a second theme was.  I literally did not know what language she was speaking.  But she had this nugget, this bit of data, and she was going to build her church on it – and it would not stand.  Her church would crumble the moment weight was applied.
           But she made me realize, truly she did, that I would have to write another book about screenwriting [Which Lie Did I Tell?].  Because movies are not about second themes or dialogue or pretty stars.  If screenplays are structure, and they are, then movies are story.

            Keep telling stories ...

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