[NOTE: This post was copied over from my morning pages journal, dated 11.28.18. Be warned when I start referring to pens and writing over multiple days. I’m not crazy…I promise.]
Couple things bouncing around in my mind right now about story and writing style so let’s try to pour them out here before I slip away into a post-Thanksigiving, pre-Christmas writing rush to finish my manuscript, Project: GREY.
First, protagonist versus themselves.
Second, connecting it all.
Third, John Scalzi writing style.
[New pen. This was supposed to be finished yesterday. But “real life” keeps popping up like a festering, cheating ex that just does NOT get it so I’m gonna try and make this morning’s pages extra EXTRA today.]
Yesterday, I caught an old episode of the ‘Scriptnotes’ podcast where screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin broke down “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” You know, that old Indiana Jones diddy. I won’t go into detail about the entire episode, but I will focus on one point Mazin brought up.
Jones is NOT hunting for treasure. Jones is fighting himself.
See, the worst aspects of Jones’ character are manifested in his rival character, Belloq. Belloq is a treasure hunter too, but is unafraid to get his hands dirty to secure the ultimate treasure. Kill people? Sure. Work with Nazis? Abso-toot-ly! And the scariest thing to Jones is deep down he knows he’s one step away from becoming this kind of adventurer.
For the entirety of the movie we’re led to think Jones is hoping to find the treasure but, in reality, every step he takes is an attempt to keep himself from becoming Belloq. That’s a classic example of “man vs. self,” conflict. You might have heard of it in your middle-school English class from an over-enthusiastic teacher (…it me…).
We WANT to see our heroes overcome something placed in their way and that works most effectively when it’s a variation of themselves.
Their own problems made real.
Connecting it all.
Tie it all back to the beginning.
Back on Jones, who’s established in the beginning of his film as a man who only cares about one thing and that’s treasure. On top of that, he’s not that big on hoodoo-voodoo mystic magicalism. Nothing about the artifacts or mysteries he uncovers appeal to him because they might have magical properties.
Just that they’re there.
For us to go along on Jones’ journey, we have to be open to him changing. He has to change. Accepting that there are more important things in the world than artifacts (like his love interest, Marion), and that his belief in something is more important than his sight.
Maybe that’s why at the end of the movie he closes his eyes?
The way John Scalzi writes.
In his weekly newsletter/my second church, Warren Ellis reviewed John Scalzi’s novel, “The Consuming Fire.” (Amazon)
“…John pretty much perfect his frictionless, high-speed platinum-pulp science fiction storytelling. I read it in two sittings. John’s stripped his style down to what people are saying and what people are thinking, with the bare minimum of staging, and the thing flies along on magnetic rails.”
I’ve become too lost in other writers.
I’m admitting that openly.
That’s not to say it’s not important to listen to published authors’ knowledge on structure and the world of publishing, but I must always remember:
This style, Scalzi’s style, sounds an awful lot like the way I’d love to write. In fact, the first three novels I completed were done in a manner such as that.
All pomp, with little circumstance.
There were pacing and grammar issues all over the place, but the style was there. Simple set-up, fast paced execution. Feelings and thought pulsing through. I tried to think of it as a faster execution of Ellis’ modern style or the old Bendis’ “Ultimate Spider-Man” arcs. The stuff I loved the most and burned in my mind as I wrote.
High speed execution.
Nothing wrong with admiring and following other writers, but nothing says I have to write a setting or a scene like them. No one can write like me but me, and that’s the only way I’m going to make it.