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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Writer Fortune Cookies

It's Lucy Hay's fault. She asked for some twitter-length quotes for her forthcoming Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays book so I went through my folder of old interview responses - because yes, I hoard such thoughts like unspent pennies - and picked out anything that might fit the bill. And now I'm left with this useful-looking list that serves no useful purpose.
    Fortune Cookie Image
  • Audiences show up for story, not for big themes or great characters. But it's the big themes and characters that send them away happy.
  • Flawed heroes. Complex villains. Mythic everyman figures in classically-structured story forms.
  • Stuff happens that obliges someone to action. The action generates incident. The developing effect of those incidents is the drama.
  • Link every beat with "So then they have to..." or "But they can't because..." If it's, "Then they decide to..." then your story is weak.
  • Everybody wants to be edgy and relevant and issue-driven. And no one wants to see it.
  • I can see a place for professionally-done exploitation in any healthy industry.
  • A feature film is a one-off universal myth. TV’s a continuing parade.
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps, in its combination of personal conflict and open landscape, is the closest thing we have to the Great British Western.
  • Does the anti-hero even exist as a concept any more? It seems to me that yesterday's antihero is the model for all heroes now.
  • Research is about continuing to write with authority after you've detected the limits of what you know.
  • Never use someone else's fiction as research. It's already been diluted or corrupted to the author's purpose.
  • It’s a terrifically delicate thing to manage suspense and darkness without falling into the trap of mere unpleasantness.
  • Postwar British thrillers took the war story ethos (protagonist has to improvise/survive in enemy territory) and gave it a peacetime spin.
  • The prose writer and the screenwriter live in two universes that move at very different speeds. The screenwriter who doesn’t get it will turn out books that read like novelisations. The novelist will write a script that can’t be shot.
  • All kinds of people can make changes to your work, but you don't get to change what anyone else does.
  • American TV has its flaws but a failure to understand showbusiness isn't one of them. It makes a lot of our stuff feel like school homework.
  • (And this one's over-length but won't be cut down:) 
  • Getting the money for a production is like getting a celebrity to show up for your party; all your timing needs to be just right, because if things ain't ready then neither will hang around.

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