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“Grammar is a piano I play by ear, since I seem to have been out of school the year the rules were mentioned. All I know of grammar is its infinite power. To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object being photographed. Many people know about camera angles now, but not so many know about sentences. The arrangement of words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in you mind. The picture dictates the arrangement. The picture dictates whether this will be a sentence with or without clauses, a sentence that ends hard or a dying-fall sentence, long or short, active or passive. The picture tells you how to arrange words and the arrangement of the words tells you, or tells me, what’s going on in the picture Nota bene: It tells you. You don’t tell it.”
“You have to ignore a certain amount of stuff. The thing I keep saying to them lately is: “I have to love you, and I have the right to ignore you.” When my kids ask what I want for my birthday or Christmas or whatever, I use the same answer my father did: “Peace and quiet.” That was never a satisfactory answer to me as a kid — I wanted an answer like “A pipe.” But now I see the wisdom of it: All I want is you at your best — you making this an easier home to live in, you thinking of others.”
There was an old lady of Ryde
Who ate some green apples and died.
The apples, fermented
Inside the lamented,
Made cider inside ‘er inside.
as tweeted by Emma Coats : via
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
Lines from W. S. Di Piero :
My night-watch hot girl, moon-maiden, mom,
let me get just one night’s sleep without regret.
Secrete dark matter’s sheen
on our smarting skin
and a poem : The Green Man
There’s always a place in my heart for Rita Dove : November for Beginners
And here’s a pretty funny/scathing poem from Stevie Smith: Miss Snooks, Poetess
Great quote from Will Oldham: “A poem makes me feel ignorant and insane.”
Ali G: “How many words does you know?”
Noam Chomsky: Normally, humans, by maturity, have tens of thousands of them.”
Ali G: “What is some of ‘em?”
Aboard Voyager 1 and 2, for the purpose of communicating our world to extraterrestrials, is a 12-inch gold-plated copper phonographic record containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.
The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University, et. al. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute. It contains the spoken greetings, beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect. Following the section on the sounds of Earth, there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music, including both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of ethnic music. Once the Voyager spacecraft leave the solar system (by 1990, both will be beyond the orbit of Pluto), they will find themselves in empty space. It will be forty thousand years before they make a close approach to any other planetary system.
Jane Espenson, Game of Thrones writer and consulting producer of Once Upon a Time :
1. “Room Service,” season five, Frasier:* A sex-farce episode that turns into a genuine and bittersweet exploration of character. A master class in sitcom writing.
2. “Hush,” season four, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:* Hysterically funny and genuinely creepy with nary a word spoken.
3. Twin Peaks pilot:* Looked and felt like nothing that came before it and instantly established a sense of place and character.
Damon Lindelof, executive producer of Lost :
1. First four episodes of season three, Battlestar Galactica:* Proves great sci-fi can feel like it’s happening now.
2. “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space,’” The X-Files; and “Pine Barrens,” The Sopranos:* Most outside-the-box brilliant demonstrations of storytelling.
3. The Wire, season three:* Perfection.
4. “Flip,” The Larry Sanders Show:* Best finale. Emotional, hysterical, nonapologetic.
Graham Yost, executive producer of Justified, suggests:
1. Hill Street Blues:* Begin with episode one, then keep going. Every quality cop show since is in its debt.
2. Lost:* The first two seasons have more jaw-dropping moments than most series have in their entire run.
3. The West Wing:* Shining example of creator as auteur, with the most identifiable “writer’s voice” in TV history. Just as you can tell a Mamet play after reading five lines, every scene is an Aaron Sorkin scene.