Two Books, Two Outcomes
Upon recommendation from a writing colleague, I picked up a book — you know the type. The kind of book that is supposed to help guide you through the trials and tribulations of being a writer. The kind of book that will give you great insights into the world of scribedom, and helps you hope that one day, you too will be a paid laugh-maker, scream-inducer, or tear-jerker.
Just putting it out there now, I’m not even going to name the book of discussion, or the author, because this world is SMALL.
When I started reading this book, I told my husband that it was probably the most intelligent book I’ve ever read about screenwriting. Now, I’ve read a few, as you can see from the photo above. And those don’t even count the additional books I’ve borrowed from the library, or given away, or can’t find at the time that I took this photo. I like to really understand my craft. I did the same when I was starting out as a journalist, and the tradition continues when it comes to screenwriting. And, admittedly, I did get a few great insights from this book — certain scene settings to avoid, and grand overarching methods when crafting a screenplay. Even still, I felt like I was constantly waiting to hear the real nitty-gritty on craft and story building. It didn’t come.
But then the business side came along. And that’s when I realized how out of touch this person is (and this book is NOT old!!). The ridiculous (reputation busting) schemes to get gigs, and off-the-charts anecdotes about agents were off putting. It got to the point where I nearly threw my book into oncoming traffic as I was reading it (I read and walk. A lot.).
As I was reading this book, my husband was reading another book that I bought on clearance from Borders thanks to its nationwide shutdown, but has not yet had a chance to read: The Anatomy of Story, by John Truby. When I first told him how awesome my unnamed book was, he said Truby was amazing, too. When I was about to dropkick the unidentified book out of frustration, he was still in love with John Truby. And here’s why:
Truby does not want to give you get-rich-quick schemes.
Truby wants you to write from the heart.
Truby encourages an organic, logical crafting of story and character, using ideas that you’re already passionate about.
Truby’s writing is clear and smart.
Truby doesn’t masturbate with words for hundreds of page.
Are his methods a little esoteric? Yes, there are theories that look like math equations. But, they’re not formulas — he’s not saying “plug this in here, plug that in there, and now you’ve got a script. Wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am.” And he doesn’t assume you’re an idiot. He assumes the readers of his book are beyond the rudimentary Save the Cat (sorry, but I don’t 100% buy the STC way of doing things, either). Personally, I prefer it. Screenwriting is harder than barfing out a bunch of funny stuff onto your keyboard. It should require thinking. If you’re not a thinker, you’re not a writer. Sorry.
So, this book has become my bible as I write an outline for a screenplay I’m hoping to start tackling before the end of 2011. I’ve been working on it for months, but this book has actually helped me spur up some great ideas and get past a few blockages. I highly recommend it, with a warning that it’s not for imbeciles.