Sunday, November 19, 2006

Robert McKee comes to Toronto...

....and manages to insult Canadians, the French, the physically challenged, M. Night Shamalyn, homosexuals, modern playwrites, women, feminists, most of his audience, the Germans BUT oddly enough not romance writers.

We're, as he remembers from speaking at an RWA conference years ago are tough broads. I think I'm complimented.

Drunk Writers just spent the last three days 12 hours a day listening to the storytelling guru Robert McKee. And I'm still at loose ends. The guy is a dinosaur, he's rude, crude, burps constantly into his mic but...he is GOOD. My craft and process will be different after this weekend.

He created a way for me to help myself through the worst part of my process - writing the beginning of the book. Two concepts - that the inciting incident of your novel creates in the mind of a reader the scene that reader needs to read to be satisfied by the book - however, my job as writer is to give the reader that scene in a way they could not possibly expect. For instance in the book I have coming out in July 2007 (now titled UNDERCOVER PROTECTOR) when she decides to go undercover in the heroes house - the reader expects to see that scene when the hero finds out - I just have to give it to them when and how they don't expect.

The other concept that your protagonist as a three dimensional character has to show the contradictory sides of three different traits. If your hero is courageous at some point they have to be cowardly, if they are kind at some point they have to be cruel and if they are indifferent at some point you have to show them engaged. As a romance writer I admit -- I settle at two. I need three.

I understand as I type this that these are really simple concepts but thinking about them up front - man that changes the nightmare of the first three chapters for me.

But McKee himself is actually pretty unlikeable. He believes he invented the concept of "the inciting incident" and clearly has not read The Hero's Journey. He attempted to save European film, but sadly, not even he could accomplish such a feat. He contradicts himself 30 times a day. The stringent parameters he uses to determine a film as good can be applied to films he has decided are bad for no other reason but that he doesn't like them. IE -- The Others -- good movie. The 6th Sense -- mind fuck.

But his parameters are wide - he is deeply in love with film of all types. Borat for crying out loud! Those parameters are just inconsistent. I think like most people how have created a system and applied it to an art he sees in black and white and taste constantly falls into the mix.

What I am really amazed by is how RWA has gifted me (and most of us) with huge possibilities to learn and study craft. I think many people in that room were learning theories we know well - show don't tell, dramatize exposition, etc - for the first time.
All in all a great weekend. Is the guy a hero? Not really. He's good - but he needs an editor.

11 comments:

Maureen McGowan said...

Hey Molly!!! Leaving 45 minutes early, you missed the half hour philosophy lesson that culminated in an explanation for why so many people love Casablanca. I may have just been tired, but it blew me away. I came out thinking he's brilliant. That he's someone who knows a lot about a lot of things. (Rather than a little about a lot, or a lot about a few, like most "experts" in various fields... I mean, he was discussing Renaissance painting techniques and how it relates to Isabella Rosselini's placement in the frame in every scene in Casablanca!)
Tiring but great weekend...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fascinating weekend! Did you guys read his book? If so, would you say that the material he covered is similar? I'm so sorry I had to miss it!

Thanks again for inviting me to join the Drunk Writers. I looked after the bar while you three were away--there might be some wine missing... :)

Anonymous said...

This sounds like an interesting session. I may have to pick up his book just to see what the insanity that is Robert McKee is really about. :)

Sinead M said...

He was amazing. Exhausting, irritating beyond belief, but mind poppingly great at times.

Crazy! It's Monday morning and I'm beat, but really excited about applying his techniques to my work

Molly O'Keefe said...

I am having a zillion little revelations today...and instead of writing am rereading rthe beginning of all my favorite books and man...the dude is RIGHT!!!!

Ingrid Bergman, Maureen - he would so scorn you right now.

And as for the book class question -- the class IS the book with some tiring rants about women and "cripples" and european film and great long monologues about how many movies he's seen and how he really is an authority on stuff thrown in.

But even if you've read the book you should if given the chance go see him. It's a serious event.

Maureen McGowan said...

I have to read the book again to be sure, Kim... but I think the book is just his 36 hour lecture printed.

I just think parts may be easier to follow when delievered "live" which is why so many people go to his talks in spite of the book.

Also the analysis of Casablanca was pretty amazing. It took him 6 hours to show us a 100 minute movie.

Amy Ruttan said...

I'm with Christine, I didn't know who Robert McKee was before you guys mentioned him. Maybe I'll check out his book as well, I don't think I could have handled the burping in the mike thought, yuck.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, got the daughter. Sorry, I was tired, very tired. It's incredible how much those two women look like each other, though... Just change the hair colour...

bevrosenbaum said...

Maureen, have you seen the new ad (forget what it's for) with Isabella Rossellini and her teenaged daughter? Now there's three of them that look identical! I'm def gonna pick up the Mckee book (think I'll skip the next seminar, though--I'm with Amy on the burping thing). Great post, Molly!
Bev

Sinead M said...

I got to put in a plug for the real live thing.
It's exhausting, and he is really aggravating, but boy, do those principles come across loud and clear.
I think it's in the examples. Not just in examining Casablanca scene by scene. The man is a walking enclopedia of movies and the way he ilustrates his points using movies makes them so clear.

In between the pointless rants...

Molly O'Keefe said...

Yeah - I keep thinking about it and you've got to see him live if you get a chance. It's really really amazing.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...