Even though I am a writer of stories, I’m fascinated by the idea of thinking like a physicist. The way a physicist tackles a problem seems remarkably like the way an original story is constructed; first there’s a question, then an exploratory phase. Eventually, the problem is stripped down to the purest essence until a pattern emerges. You experiment again and again until you have enough data that you can draw a conclusion, make a statement, or derive a premise. I’ll explore this physics/storytelling connection later when I have more time. In the meantime, take a look at this: “How to Study Physics” by Seville Chapman, copyrighted in 1949, is a fascinating primer on how to be a scientist. It is broad-minded, friendly, with a tight style. Check it:
It is astonishing how few students actually can do arithmetic properly, i.e., accurately with moderate speed. You should be able to multiply 8,642 × 9,753 and get 84,285,426; without making a mistake; and you should be able to do it within two minutes. You are not good at arithmetic unless you can do it in one minute. (Some modern electronic calculating machines can do it in less than a thousandth of a second!) For most students, three to six honest hours of mathematical review represents an adequate brush-up; some students may need a dozen or more hours of practice, especially in arithmetic, high school algebra, geometry, and perhaps trigonometry. It is a delusion to blame physics for being difficult when you don’t know your math.
One of the problems with telling other people’s stories is that you bear the responsibility for the telling. Technology invites each of us to tell our story in many mediums. When is it stealing? When is it exploitation? When is it empathy? When is it giving the gift of meaning–the only gift writers have to give? Language, that puckish knave, can sometimes express meaning well outside of the writer’s good intentions. That is why to write is both brave and foolish. For me, the act of empathizing with another human, of becoming them in my imagination, of wresting meaning from brash reality, that is the payoff.
Still, times change. We must listen to others and take heed. Here: http://nyti.ms/1XRvsz8
You know it’s a good day when you find yourself in a room full of cool people hungry to tell stories and humbled before a new and exciting technology. Projection Mapping, Holograms, Augmented and Virtual Reality…it was a lot to take in. But man, so worth it. Matthew Ragan from Obscura lead the workshop, while Roberto Buso-Garcia of the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund at Johns Hopkins played host in Baltimore’s beautiful Centre theater. I just wanted to give a shout out to all those awesome people I met today, including Toroes Thomas, Laura Wexler, and so many others. Keep up the good work!
It’s is probably one of the most famous screenwriting classes of all time. On the spectrum of experience, it falls somewhere between international flight, marathon, therapy session, and college class. Were the 33 hours of lecture informative? Was it worth the money? Are the disciples of McKee studying the secret of good writing? Here’s my review of Robert Mckee’s Story Seminar.
I’m really looking forward to going to Robert McKee’s Story Seminar in New York. I’ve read his book a few times and found it really useful not only terms of composition, but also in teaching fiction and literature. Writing is madness; McKee offers something like a method. And though many will say that great writing can never come out of formula, such an insight comes after the fact. I’ll let talent speak for talent. For me, there is only work and that is enough.
I’ll be sure to share the experience on this site and put together a thoughtful review when I am finished. For those of you who don’t know who Robert McKee is, the movie Adaptation has an adaptation of one of his lectures.
I was in a funk. It was an ambitious project with an impossibly short deadline. But here’s what I learned writing my first feature screenplay. 1) Be naïve 2) Embrace Genre 3) Plan first, write second 4) Deadlines are your friend 5) Stop thinking. Anyway, I feel pretty good about it and come what may, I know I’ll be at it again soon. Read it here.
There is a rule I hold very dear when it comes to matters of work: no excuses, no explanations. The story of how you completed something, or worse, why it is not what you hoped it would be is an indulgence. It is dull. The work should speak for itself. This is a useful rule to follow during those weak moments when you feel ready to quit a project. It is a rule for school children who are far from the master years. But let’s put rules aside for the moment.
A few years ago, a moments discovery was made: the 1967 Charles W. Norton lectures of Jorge Luis Borges at Harvard University. These lectures are a delight, especially “A Poet’s Creed.” To listen to Borges is to feel for a brief moment what it is like to be someone who is possessed by a timeless and immortal memory. What makes a great scholar a wonder—and here I think about someone like Erich Auerbach or Carlo Ginsberg—is the fact that they seem to experience the past as if it were an eternal present. But listening to the final lecture, it occurred to me how aware Borges was of his memory and the predicament of modern literature.
Here is a technique for the representation of foreign speech chosen by Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Not often imitated, it is notable for its unconventional and mixed methodologies including 1) Archaisms, 2) Anglicization or direct translation of idiomatic elements, 3) Italicized foreign words.
Here’s an example:
As they came up, still deep in the shadows of the pines, after dropping down from the high meadow into the wooden valley and climbing up it on a trail that paralleled the stream and then left it to gain, steeply, the top of a rim-rock formation formation, a man with a carbine stepped out from behind a tree.
I know a man who, at the age of sixty, retired to devote himself to literature. Naturally, he took up the habit of writing and one day, after having spent a week studying the venerable literary magazines —through the 70’s the 80’s the 90’s until today—it occurred to him he should abandon writing altogether. The reason? There were so many names that he did not recognize, so many minor, unheard of talents that he finally understood that he would never escape oblivion.
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