Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.
Mahatma Gandhi, as quoted in Hope in the Age of Anxiety
A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it … For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed. How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.
Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me — they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone — best outside of corporate environments, best where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee… I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.
Computer legend Steve Wozniak, better-known as Woz
If you want to be storyteller, it is important to explore your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to be a storyteller, and ultimately a storymaker.
The 7 Cs
You are what you write. What you write reflects who you are; your culture, humanity, history, point of view, and knowledge. What you write informs and influences your writing, your story, your theme, your plot and your characters.
- Change the way you see: You have to develop a writer’s eye. You have to see the world as a writer. An ordinary event will be turned into an exceptional and extraordinary dramatic or comedic situation. Dull and dreary existence will be transformed into interesting and joyful experiences. Uninspiring thinking will evolve into challenging and mind-bending discussion. You have to turn the ordinary into drama. Are you a true dramatist?
- Change the way you think: You have to be open to suggestions and allow outside perceptions and alternative points of view to inform your writing and inject your sensibility with fresh insight. As a storyteller writing mostly in isolation, it all changes when you enter a combative collaborative art such as filmmaking, television or the live arts. Are you a good listener and are you willing to collaborate during the relentless and rigorous development of your story?
- Change the way you live: You have to create a comfort zone that is stimulating and removed from your ordinary existence. This is your holy ground where angels fear to tread and outsiders will respect. Do you have a comfort zone that is your Holy Ground? A Space where you spend a lot of me time? A space that is quiet, peaceful and removed from the hustle and bustle?
- Change the way you feel: You have to become schizophrenic in your constant search to create solid characters and embody alien worlds. This emotional journey into story is one of self discovery and new understandings. Are you in control of your emotions? Are you an emotional creature that can easily turn off how you feel and adapt to the emotions your characters and story demands?
- Change your vision: If you want to be a screenwriter you have to think visually: You are writing your story in pictures. It’s a visual medium. Do you understand the language of film, television and theatre?
- Change your verbal expression: If you want to write dialogue you have to think in the language of the spoken word. Film and Theatre are dialogue driven mediums. Are you in love with words? Do you constantly read through the Roget’s Thesaurus to explore new words and alternative meanings?
- Change your sense of appreciation: Develop a sense of objective appreciation for the work of other artists. Appreciate film, theatre and the arts: You watch films on a regular basis, go to the theatre and visit art or photographic exhibitions. Don’t allow emotion to cloud your vision. As a writer every film or play you watch, every novel you read, every exhibition you attend, becomes a learning experience, delving deeper into the craft and art of film and theatre. Can you watch a film objectively? Allow yourself to give in to every demand of the storyteller and filmmaker? Never question anything until after watching the film?
Course of action
The act of creation is an organic process, a process that evolves from the seed of inspiration to the screening of the film, staging of your play, publication of your novel or story.
- Understand the creative process: Know your place in the creative process. If you are the scriptwriter, you are not the producer, director, publisher or performer, unless you cross over into the arena of producing, directing or publishing. Stop instructing and start expressing. Who are you in the creative process? Claim your identity.
- Understand the world of the writer: Know what it takes to be scriptwriter and understand the world of the writer: As a writer you are imprisoned by your fertile imagination and will never enjoy the freedom most people who live outside the creative sphere have. Do you fully understand what it takes to be a writer?
- Understand the process of writing: Writing is an organic process that needs to be nurtured and respected. Be the best writer you can be and never settle for average. Is there order in your process of writing or do you simply write and see what happens?
- Understand and respect your intended target audience: You are not writing for yourself, you are writing to communicate and tell stories that excite you. Do you know who you are writing for?
- Know how to find the right ideas: Continuously explore and develop new ideas that will be good for you to write: Find an idea that excites you and write with passion. Are you an avid explorer in making the most of your idea?
- Know what makes a great idea: Consider the criteria that breed good ideas: Make sure that your story is worth telling. Do you have a story that is worth telling?
- Know your genre: Understand the conventions of genre: Make sure that you know what type of story you are writing; if it’s a horror ensure to scare people, if it’s a comedy, and then give us at least a few laughs. Do you know what type of story you are telling?
Having a killer premise for an idea is not enough. You don’t have enough information. You’ve got to dramatise your premise. What is your story about? Define your premise. Articulate it. If you don’t know, who does?
Expressing the idea for your story gives both the storyteller and the collaborators a focal point to develop the story and the plot. You have to:
- Develop the concept: Master the art of dramatising your idea and writing high concept. Can you capture your premise in 25 words of less? If so, will your concept be intriguing, captivating and enduring?
You have to build your story. Once the what (idea) is clear, you have to build the inner life of your story, or the why (theme), the who (characters), and how the what happens (plot).
- Construct characters: You have to turn imaginary and fictional creations into real people we fall in love with or love to hate. Bring the people who live in your story to life: Make us fall desperately in love and care deeply about the people you write about. Explore elements that form the basis of solid characters: Dress the people in your story with contrasting and conflicting emotions that will make them complex and intriguing beings. Do you know who your characters are?
- Construct your story, plot and subplot (s): Understand the differences between story, plot and subplot: Story is what happens; the plot is how the ‘what’ happens; and the subplot is the internal journey that is told in relation to, and support of your main story (the external journey).
- Construct story events: Design faultless scenes and sequences that have meaning and impact: Each scene is a story on its own that needs to take the audience through a meaningful experience.
- Construct a plot: Explore the endless possibilities of different plots and using the right plot for the right story: If you want write a story that millions will want to see you will utilise a formula that is geared towards fulfilling mass entertainment; if you want to experiment and be weird don’t expect the same millions to show interest in your work. Know what plot to use for the right story: the journey of your characters has to be meaningful, filled with expectations and deliver unexpected expectations.
It is the ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic form or object. Creative writing is self-expression, self-discovery, to gain knowledge, share knowledge or heal wounds. No matter why you want to become a writer, unlocking your creativity can unlock your power to make the world a better place.
When you start writing the story you have to:
- Create information: Become an expert at research: you do not only have to know everything about what you are writing about, but become the master of your own creative universe.
- Create visual narrative that is continuous, coherent, and compelling action: You have to make it gripping to an audience by dramatising your script: You have to turn story into drama. You want your whole script to be drama and not simply story. You want each act to be dramatic and not just narrative, engaging and not merely informative.
- Create dynamic characters: Understand the differences between characterisation and true character: Never judge a book by its cover; a person is what they do not what car they drive. Employ visual dynamics to breathe life into your characters: If you are writing for a visual medium; show us what your character is thinking and brings those thoughts to life; show us what a character is feeling and allow us to share the impact of that emotion. If you are writing novels or short stories, conjure visual images. If you are writing an interview, give your reader an idea of the world of the person you are writing about, as well as what the person looks like and the person’s behaviour and mannerisms.
- Create the world of your story: the outer world you create has to present unique settings that will reflect the inner world of your characters as well as the thematic purpose. Give your characters a place to live their lives: Explore all possibilities of the world in which your characters live and make that world as spectacular and interesting as possible.
- Create meaningful and functional dialogue: Understand the difference between conversation and dialogue: Your characters are not talking for the sake of talking; what they say impacts on the story and gives us information about their histories.
- Create a professional draft: Understand format: you have to respect the traditional formats, rules and regulations that govern the world of screenwriting and storytelling.Work with confidence: You know that you are not going to confuse or irritate your reader.
You have to eventually sell your work. In order to do this, you have to:
- Present a professional manuscript: Deliver a draft that is clean, lean and easy to read: You are proud of your manuscript and writing and can hand it over with confidence. When a professional reads your story they will immediately know whether it is properly formatted or not; when a non-professional reads your script they will be bored. Write a killer top sheet, synopsis, treatment and outline.
- Present yourself professionally: Know how to sell yourself: you have to discard your writing persona and embody a business sense that will ensure your survival.
- Present the right pitch: Master the art of selling/ pitching: you have to become an expert in convincing others that what you have to say is worth listening to, watching and will make tons of money.
- Present the right script to the right market: Know the marketplace; how does this compare to the current marketplaces where stories are on sale?
- Present a draft that represents who you are as a writer: Develop the write style. Your style of writing will: Reflect your individual voice as a storyteller: When we read your story it will reflect your experience, history and culture.Separate your work from the work of other storytellers: Your writing should never be a copy of something that inspired you.
To be writer and become a storyteller is about developing the write attitude.
This is an important contract you are signing with yourself
Have you developed the write attitude?
Perhaps you are a master at configuration and perfectly understand the mechanics of structure, but if you have not fully conceptualised what it is you want to write about, or even fail to priorities the rigorous toll of the writing process, you will have difficulties in completing a successful draft.
Copyright © 1999 – 2015 The Writing Studio/ Daniel Dercksen ALL RIGHTS RESERVED