I last posted several months ago, declaring that big changes were coming to this blog. I wanted to give the blog a pointed focus, and I knew exactly what it was going to be. Then I proceeded to do almost nothing about it for three or four months, because, well, I’m lazy.
The idea was this: Start anew with stories, and follow them with stories of stories. Meaning, write new pieces, either fiction or non, and post them along with some insight into the writing process. I love writing and notice that when I’m writing, I often have to edit out sections where I write about what I’m writing. Obviously you don’t need to read that in the story, but perhaps it might be interesting to see how something takes shape? Well it would be to me. I’m not sure how much of a service this will be. I’ve been working on a piece for a while now that I can’t seem to get quite right. Perhaps I am out of practice, perhaps it is just a tricky piece. But I hope to post it soon with a secondary post about how it got to its finished form.
Not only do I love writing, but I did just finish a master’s degree in digital communication, wherein my interests fell to the storytelling side of communication. I thought it might be a good idea to put my money where my mouth is and see if I learned anything at all. It is true that there are all sorts of ways to tell stories now with all kinds of new fangled technology, but there are still fundamental principles of storytelling and themes that echo through the ages. It becomes clearer and clearer to me as I get older that a good story is one of the best forms of art. I don’t care if it’s a novel or a film or a TV show or an article or something that crops up on the web. Anything will do as long as it meets my criteria. More on that in a bit.
I was talking with a friend earlier today about the new version of “True Grit” by the Coen Brothers, a movie I really liked. I thought the idea of a western wherein the main character is a 14-year-old girl was ingenious, and I loved the fact that she’s traveling with two cowboys who won’t shut up. I think most stories would portray the grizzled old West types as people who wouldn’t have much use for talking, but wouldn’t they have great stories to tell? I digress. My friend mentioned that while she liked the movie, she didn’t really learn anything from it and she felt like for a film to be worth its salt, it should teach you something new. I saw this as a more complex take on a story needing a moral. My initial thought was that I disagreed, but my second thought was that everyone wants different things from a story. She wants a moral and that’s fine. Personally, I want a connection with at least one character. That character doesn’t necessarily have to be like me (though that helps), but I have to identify with them, and that often hinges on the character’s sense of morality and justice. Maddy Ross’s eye for an eye need for revenge in “True Grit” may be a bit crass but I can accept that she wants justice for being wronged and therefore I can continue on the journey with her.
I also feel that a story has to be much more than plot. Just today I watched the excellent film “The King’s Speech,” about King George VI and his speech impediment. This film is comprised almost entirely of the King (Colin Firth) struggling to overcome his stammer with minimal plot points, and yet it is compelling down to the last frame. It’s compelling because the characters are compelling. The pacing is also good.
Pacing is another critical element to me. It does not have to be fast, it just has to be consistent. You must at all times be pulled into the story and free from thoughts that reside outside the story. If the story gives you time to think about what is happening inside the character’s mind, that’s a good thing.
So those are a few of the things I like and I invite comments on what you like. It’s difficult to put a fine point on it, but it’s now my mission to try. I think perhaps the reason this post is occurring now and not four months ago is that is has been ages since I have had any stories to speak of, really. I haven’t seen this many films in a row that I’ve liked so well in a very long time. But I don’t want to be a critic because one of the things I have come to truly hate is spoilers, and most reviews give a pretty significant plot synopsis. I find it so much easier to immerse yourself in the story if you don’t know what’s going to happen. And so I must thank my public school education for not ruining “The King’s Speech” for me because I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen in that movie and it was a work of historical fact.
At some point on this blog we must dive into my complete lack of suitable endings. But not today.