It's Christmas, Tell Your StoriesComplications Ensue
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Saturday, December 23, 2006

These days you're probably going to a bunch of holiday gatherings. (If you're not, I sympathize. Time to submerge yourself in a spec!) And if you're like me, you're a bit shy about talking about your projects.

Most writers I know are shy observers, not outgoing salespeople -- that's why we're not agents and producers. Me, you'd never know I'm shy. Most people probably think of me as outgoing. I'm not really. I find it exhausting to go to large gatherings, even parties I throw myself where everyone's a friend. I find parties full of strangers almost painfully difficult, until I can find some people to talk to.

So if you're like me, you have a tendency to hide a bit. And if you're not making a living with your writing, it's particularly hard to talk about what you're writing. It's a little embarrassing to say you're writing your sixth spec feature, or a "House" spec that you hope will get you an agent.

But you'd be missing a huge opportunity to bounce your ideas off new ears.

I hope I never get tired of saying it: there is no single more useful technique for developing a good movie or TV story than to tell it to people out loud, off the cuff.

Many things happen when you tell a movie story or the plot of your new spec script out loud. You get to test how much it draws in an audience. You see how excited you actually are by the story -- does it keep your interest? Your listener may ask you questions and you can see where the story is too complicated or not well motivated enough. But most importantly, you get your story up off the page and alive. Every time you tell your story off the top of your head, you have a chance to tell it better -- or tell it worse -- to try it different ways. When it sits on the page, you may not notice the dead spots; your eyes will just blip over them. You won't be inclined to fix things that already work. But when you tell it to an actual human being at a party, you'll probably come up with new stuff every time.

A story told out loud is a living, growing thing. A script on the page is just a blueprint.

Also, this time of year, your listeners will be drunk. So will you, maybe. So you don't have to be embarrassed.

Next time you're at a party, tell people you're writing a script. Don't apologize -- everyone loves a good story. Don't ask them to judge it. Just tell them the story. You'll know if they dig it. You'll figure out how to make them dig it more.

And if no one digs it -- and you don't -- or you can't even figure out how to tell it -- maybe you should be working on something simpler, clearer and stronger.

Do this a lot. I guarantee your stories will get better.

Merry Chrismukkah!



Happy holidays, Alex. All the best for the season.

By Blogger wcdixon, at 12:13 PM  

It's like you read my mind. Or my post. Or we're all just more alike than we like to admit...

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:55 PM  

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