Sometimes, I find myself sick and tired of writing. It’s not writer’s block that I suffer from but rather a desire to do anything else but write. My days are often filled with Facebook, emails, the weekly blog that I’d like to make a daily activity, and writing fiction. I also occasionally still write nonfiction in the form of interviews and articles. And an important part of writing is also research. Add editing to that plus all my daily outside activities such yard work for my home, my father’s home, and sometimes for my church and pretty soon I just want to get away from it all.
So, I decided to take a holiday from writing. Several weeks, actually. I took time to read books, especially fiction. I rarely read fiction while writing fiction. I don’t want some other authors words influencing my words. The exception to that would be author Ray Bradbury, of course. His prose is almost poetry.
And their are a few others that I’d make an exception for as well.
However, while there are many good story tellers, they’re not always very good writers. And those are the ones whose words and dialogue I don’t want to find drifting into my writing.
So I read a lot and watched a lot of movies and television. Remember, writers write those movies and television. And you can learn a lot about pacing, dialogue, characterization, and plotting it you watch TV and movies. You can learn a lot from plays, too.
But be careful what you watch and what you learn from it. A retired screen writer said a few years back said: “Nowadays, all you have to do is throw in some jokes, some sex, lots of fighting and chases and violence as well as computer graphics and blow up a few buildings and you make mucho money. Who cares how well it’s written or even who the writers were, so long as has special effects!”
I’m with that screen writer. Hell, I love movies like that, too. But you can’t learn how to write better watching buildings being blown up and monsters eating people. So watch some of the classics, where action means dialogue and not running around beating up people and being shot at. There’s a reason why so many bad movies are made and why most kung fu movies are a joke.
Recently, I watched two bad movies. One had the worst dialogue and the worst villain I’ve ever seen. It was a fantasy set in mythical England. The writers knew nothing about the druids and the Celts. Likewise, the villain was over the top, boring, and so one dimensional that I wanted to climb into the film and put a bullet into his head–not the actor, just the film’s character.
Worst, there were two main characters in the film (the villain was not one of them) and the second one didn’t show up until the last third of the film. All of your main characters should be introduced by midway through your story. Don’t wait until the end to throw another main character in–unless of course the story is part of a trilogy. And even then, don’t throw one in. Let that main character show up in the next story.
Now, you probably want to point out that Luke Skywalker shows up in the last moments of “The Force Awakens”. But he’s not a main character. You might want to argue otherwise. He’s still not a main character. He has no dialogue and he’s not really influential to the story–as yet.
He’s a tertiary character at best. Accept it and move on.
The other film I watched was a cop movie about revenge. Revenge is the most common theme in all American stories. We, as a people, seem to feel justified in “getting even” with our tormentors and perceived enemies. But what good does that do? If look at the Middle East, you see honor killings of girls who are raped or just seduced. And you see blood feuds that go back a thousand years or more.
Don’t just do a revenge story because it’s simple and easy to do. Do something different, something unique. Why not portray the victim of revenge?
Anyways, this story had potential, but the first fifteen minutes was devoted to what should have been back story. Many writers start too early in their stories. Most successful writers toss out their first few chapters and continue on from there. But once you learn where to begin, you no longer need to worry if you’re beginning too early.
Something that will also help you with where to begin is figuring the ending before you sit down to write the story. You don’t need to know the exact scenes for the Crisis, which leads to the Climax and the Resolution. But you do need to know where you want it to go and when and where you want it to stop.
And it’s okay to throw in a plot twist at the end.
I’m a big fan of The Flash series on the CW network. Last season ended with a wormhole opening up over the hero’s city. This season ended with Flash going back in time and stopping the murder of his mother. That should erase the Flash from the universe and everything that has happened in these two seasons. It’s the kind of game changer that J.J. Abrams did with he first of the new Star Trek movies when renegade Romulans came back in time and killed off Kirk’s father and destroyed the planet Vulcan.
If you can figure out something like that, more’s the power to you. But make certain you end your story where you want it to end before you throw in a game-changing plot twist.
Obviously, my vacation’s over.
See you out there.