Thursday, February 15, 2007

More advice

A funny thing has happened to me over the past couple of years. I’ve always loved writing, but could never really understand what exactly it was about it that made me tick. I now understand it. It’s storytelling. Pretty straightforward and simple answer that should be pretty obvious, but hey, sometimes these things take a while to get through my skull.

What came of that knowledge is a love for all story telling, books, movies, TV, any and all forms that tell a great story, and a need to understand how.

How did they make that so compelling that I forgot to critique and just sat back and enjoyed.

This takes up 80% of Drunk writer talk, Molly, Maureen and I discussing our favourite books/TV/movies and trying to understand what made them great. And what made things not work, because sometimes more light bulbs go off when you figure out where the storyteller went wrong.

Something I’m sure a lot of writers do on a regular basis. You learn to see your own work in a critical light, but others as well, and I can’t shut down that internal editor.

But the great things about these discussions, is that as many times as we agree, we also disagree. Again, nothing earth shattering here, either.

What I’ve figured out, is what I like best in storytelling. The elements that make me excited. Bringing this back to what my fellow drunk writers have blogged about this week. There is so much advice out there, and a lot of it good, and a lot based on what others love in story telling. Hell, we’ve given enough out on this blog.

But the crux is, I didn’t really learn what works best for me, until I sat down and really analyzed what I loved about the books, moves and TV shows that enthralled me. Me. This is really personal to each writer. Knowing what I loved, I could apply it to my work, even if it went against the general rules of writing we hear so much about.
In many ways, this is how I’ve found my voice, and will hopefully create stories that are unique to me.

So when trying to figure out what beginnings work best for me, or what character arcs, or plot developments, pacing, prose, I read the books I loved and pulled out all the common elements and came up with a blueprint that was remarkably similar to the kind of book I wanted to write.

There’s a big difference between wanting to write a certain type of book and actually managing to write it, but I have something to work towards. I also know I couldn’t have figured this out if I hadn’t at least a couple of books under my belt, but again, some people catch on much faster.

But it helped a lot, and it was kind of fun to do.


Christine said...

Wow Sinead, that is an awesome post. I'm not sure what draws me to movies/books/TV shows. I guess when I think about it, I'd have to say it's the characters. I love to see them change throughout the course of the story, either for good or bad. But good storytelling is important too. I'll have to think about this one. :)

Maureen McGowan said...

Now that's great advice, Sinead.

We need to have a DWT session soon, because I have a few things about BSG I NEED to talk to you about. One thing I actually have a criticism of, actually. (But still LOVING the series. Did you see it just got renewed for a fourth season?)

The issue I had with one of the episodes made me realize an advantage novelists have over TV series writers -- and that's if you think of something interesting for a character later on in a novel, you can go back and foreshadow so it doesn't come out of thin air.

You KNOW I love a great surprise about a character... but I also like to be able to go, after the fact, oh, that makes sense. Something with Apollo in Season 2.5 came right out of the blue for me and was important enough I htink we'd have seen a hint of it in the earlier episodes... Actually, the entire episode felt out of place to me. (the one called The Black Market)

We need to tawk.

Sinead M said...

Hey Christine,
We analayze shows and movies and often differ in our tastes, but it has helped me a ton.
Maureen, hated that episode. It felt really out of place in the context of the entire series, and was never referred to again.. my one criticism of that season is that episode.. totoally throw away.. Season 3.5 has a couple of those as well.
They really stand out in comparison to the rest of the episodes.

Molly O'Keefe said...

that's a good point maureen about writing for series -- I think writers think okay here's a pilot.Ojay they picked up the pilot here's the first year. Oh wow -- uh oh we need a second year and on it goes. You can totally tell in LOST.

But in the good shows -- when you know the creators had an endpoint in mind ie six feet under and the sopranos -- that's some tight storytelling.

Despite my new year's resolution to watch fewer reruns of friends I'm not but you could sort of tell they had an endpoint in mind when they started that series. OR at least knew they were creating situations that had to be dealt with in the only satisfying way available.

You're smart Sinead -- great post.

Maureen McGowan said...

I still think the LOST writers have an endpoint in mind. But I am very naive.

Maureen McGowan said...

And they've added a time travel element now? Cool. They had damn well better have a plan.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I know!!! I think they're getting a plan now -- and maybe the other producers had a plan before they left -- but in between the two plans lots of things have been dropped. I think.

Can polar bears even live in rainforest jungly places?

Sinead M said...

They so don't have a plan. They're making stuff up as they go along, like throwing playdo against a wall and hoping it sticks..

Give up on Lost.. it's a lost cause.. ha! I'm so not funny..

Maureen McGowan said...

No, no, no. they have a plan. We now know who the others are and the polar bears were being experimented on (in the cages). Okay some of the supernatural elements are still a bit out there... But I'm still a believer. You can't take that away from me. You can't!

Maia said...

I'm with you on LOST, Maureen. I'm a continued devotee to that show. When it's on, nobody can speak in the house. I think the writers know where they're going. Maybe the hype went to their heads, and now they're getting back on track.

I enjoyed your excellent post, Sinead, especially when you addresed how everyone has different likes and dislikes. Maureen loved completely different artists than I did on the Grammy's. What I found irritating, she found inspiring, and vice versa.

I'm trying to learn to love Battlestar Galactica, but it just isn't getting under my skin. Please tell me I have to stick with the characters to love them. This comes from a woman who considers Star Trek Voyager and Next Generation as therapy, by the way. I love anything to do with space.

Sinead M said...

Hey Maia,

I am a huge fan, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but it took me half way through the first season to be really into it. My husband had to drag me kicking and screaming through the first few episodes, but I am so glad he did.
BSG builds up the characters slowly, and they all ended up surprising me in really good storytelling ways.. ie. they don't always make the right choices, but I understood why they did why they did..

And the writers aren't afraid to let the characters have very ugly moments.. which some people may not love, but for some sick reason, I do..

Maia said...

That's it, Battlestar, I'm a gonna love you. There are not enough space dramas on TV. It took me awhile to get into Star Trek Voyager after Next Generation went off, but then I learned to appreciate the characters. I guess it's like a book, takes some time to get into the heads of characters.

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