Here's a FAT, JUICY link to one of the best reads you've had in a long time.
It's a transcript of THE story conference that created Indiana Jones, and it's writer gold. How often do we get a chance to see inside a meeting like this? NEVER! And here is 90 pages of goodness.
I'm so happy!
Chapter 1. A story is experience translated into literary process.
Chapter 2. A story is words strung onto paper.
Chapter 3. A story is a succession of motivations and reactions.
Chapter 4. A story is a chain of scenes and sequels.
Chapter 5. A story is a double-barreled attack upon your readers.
Chapter 6. A story is movement through the eternal now, from past to future.
Chapter 7. A story is people given life on paper.
Chapter 8. A story is the triumph of ego over fear of failure.
Chapter 9. A story is merchandise that goes hunting for a buyer.
Chapter 10. A story is a larger life, created and shared with others by a writer.
Ultimately when reading we are left alone a lot with the lead character, so it is imperative that the lead character be someone we want to hang out with.
Literally, that's what I wanted to say. Make your lead character someone you want to hang out with. That doesn't mean he/she's a "nice guy." It means they are interesting. It means they are beyond interesting; they are fascinating.
Think to A Confederacy of Dunces. For those of you who've read it Ignatius is a character you won't soon forget. But why? Is he someone you would like to hang out with? Perhaps not one-on-one, but you would certainly like to be around when he's acting up, because something awful is going to happen and it will be hilarious.
I was stuck in some small airport - Sanford I think, but that isn't important - it was early in the morning, something like 5 a.m., and I was in line at the only place open which sold coffee, standing behind a man from Chicago. It must have been his first time outside of Chicago, because he couldn't understand why there wasn't a fully-operating airport waiting at 5 a.m. in Sanford for the twelve or so people standing in line at the solitary open coffee shop. Now, he wasn't fun to talk to, but as he walked through the airport complaining loudly and gesticulating madly he was a lot of fun to watch. He left a trail of wrecked peace wherever he went. It was awesome.
So, let's not forget to make our lead characters someone we want to watch. Whether they're a train wreck or a soothing comfort, the reader is going to have to spend a lot of time with them. Be nice to your reader, and make it easy.
A few points on research, and the law of diminishing returns.
Certainly one should fact check, and get things as accurate as you can. But I can assure you, as an Air Traffic Controller, that you can write a book or a movie with GLARING inaccuracies and find a HUGE audience, because most people don't know squat about the narrow domain of knowledge to which you refer. (Die Hard 2, this means you)
What I mean is, that the extra effort/research required to not "lose" the few forensic examiners or Air Traffic Controllers in the audience probably isn't worth the effort.
Writing isn't cartography, or botany, or archaeology. It's entertainment. I say, write a good tale. Hook the audience with something interesting. Afterwards do what research you must (the bare minimum) to keep from losing most of your fish from the hook. But don't get carried away with that. The Bronte sisters never got out and experienced much, but they were pretty good anyway.
The difference between this and exaggeration is plain. Most people realize babies can't toss cars. Only a few know what eyes do when you crush a skull. So baby behavior, being commonly known, needs to be accurate. Skull-crushing or Air Traffic Control, being uncommon, only needs to have "truthiness," to quote Stephen Colbert. That is, they only have to APPEAR accurate ---intuitively, from-the-gut. If babies are throwing cars, then it's going to be plain that you are breaking rules deliberately.
Of course, all this is my opinion and I could be wrong.
“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?” ~ George Orwell.
I'd love comments on this or any post.
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