By Steven Pressfield
Published: January 18, 2017
A case could be made that many, many books and movies are about one thing and one thing only: getting Person X to say to Person Y, “I love you.”
The trick is our characters can never use those blatant, overt words. That wouldn’t be cool.
It wouldn’t ring true to life.
And it wouldn’t possess the power and the impact we want.
In fiction, “I love you” has to come in subtext, not text.
Here’s one of the ways William Goldman did it in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
It’s the final scene. The outlaws are shot up and bleeding in a cramped hideout in a town square somewhere in Bolivia. Surrounding them, outside, are hundreds of uniformed, rifle-toting Federales. The instant our two “bandidos yanquis” step out through the door … well, we all know what’s coming.
I got a great idea where we should go next.
Well I don’t wanna hear it.
You’ll change your mind once I tell you.
It was your great ideas that got us here in the first place. I never wanna hear another one of your great ideas.
Australia. I figured secretly you wanted to know so I told you: Australia.
What’s so great about Australia?
They speak English there.
BUTCH tells Sundance about the banks, the beaches, and the women Down Under.
It’s a long way, though, isn’t it?
Aw, everythings’s always gotta be perfect with you.
I just don’t wanna get there and find out it stinks, that’s all.
In Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, junior exec Baxter (Jack Lemmon) has been in love with elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley Maclaine) for the whole movie. But Shirley is blind to Jack’s infatuation. Instead she’s in a doomed affair with married exec Mr. Sheldrake (Fred McMurray). When Shirley tries to poison herself after Sheldrake dumps her, Jack saves her life by getting her stomach pumped and sitting up all night with her playing cards. Next day he stands up to Sheldrake (who’s his boss), quits his job, etc., all the while believing Shirley still has no romantic interest in him.
In the final scene Shirley sees the light, races to Jack’s apartment just in time to catch him before he packs up and leaves town.
What’d you do with the cards?
Shirley gets the deck. sits beside Jack on the couch.
What about Mr. Shelkdrake?
We’ll send him a fruitbcake every Christmas. Cut.
He cuts a deuce, she cuts a ten.
I love you, Miss Kubilek
You got a two, I got a ten. I win.
Did you hear what I said, I absolutely adore you.
Shut up and deal.
Billy Wilder topped this of course with the last line of Some Like It Hot, when Jerry (Jack Lemmon), hiding out from the mob in drag with a girl band, explains to his zillionaire suitor Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) that he can’t marry him.
You don’t understand, Osgood. I’m a man!
Well, nobody’s perfect.
Subtext beats text every time.
Posted in Writing Wednesdays
By Callie Oettinger | Published: January 20, 2017
I received a question following my last post (“Common Sense“), which is tied to writers being paid for their work, and I’m still thinking about the question, and my answer, almost two weeks later.
Here’s the question:
You argue that writers shouldn’t work for free, but isn’t that exactly what they are doing when they spend time on social media? What about their blogs?
I see both as examples of writing as marketing, and no one is paying them.
Doesn’t that go against your point?
Here’s my answer:
On your question, I approach it as I do my yard.
If I mow/rake/weed/etc my own yard, I have to do the work, but I benefit in the future. In the beginning, my yard might be crap, but in a few years it could be a glorious masterpiece due to all the work put into it. I don’t get monetary payment up front, but I learn how to do things on my own, gain professional experience, and benefit from the hours of repeated actions, which help me trouble-shoot in the future, and make me more knowledgeable about the craft. When I sell my house, that yard becomes a selling point and thus has monetary worth.
If someone else maintains my yard, he goes home after doing the work, and doesn’t get any of the future benefits – but, he does get paid, and my neighbor might hire him because he likes the look of my lawn.
So if my site/book/etc is my lawn, I can choose to do the work myself or hire someone else – but in the end the site/book/etc is mine and I benefit from the growth (and possible future sale), which is a type of payment itself.
If I write for someone else’s site, however, there’s no ownership in the future, so I want payment now, kind of like the guy/crew maintaining yards. I can’t count on a neighbor hiring me. I need something that pays the bills.
So both models offer a form of payment — one more immediate than the other. As the person doing the work, I decide which form I’ll take. If I’m writing for “exposure,” I’d rather do it on my own terms instead of helping to drive traffic to people who have money to pay – Huff Post – and don’t.
Going back over the question and answer now, my issue with writing for free isn’t the giving away work for free part.
Long-time readers of this site know that Steve, Shawn, and I are advocates of giving away work as a good way to reach new audiences. HOWEVER, we set the terms for what is given away — and how it is given away — and base the giveaways within the Black Irish Books and Steven Pressfield platforms, neither of which popped up overnight. We’ve been at it on Steve’s site for almost ten years, and he had a static site long before that.
My biggest issue is giving away your opportunity to build your own platform.
Posted in What It Takes | 6 Comments
By Shawn Coyne | Published: January 13, 2017
If there is one question I get more than any other it’s this:
“Could you tell me what the controlling ideas/themes, obligatory scenes and conventions are for Genre X?”
Well, I could.
And I did go through the OSs and Cs for Thriller and Crime in The Story Grid book as well as those in the Redemption story (part of the Morality Internal Content Genre) too over at www.storygrid.com.
(And I plan on analyzing each of the twelve content genres, plus some of the reality genres too, with serious coursework specificity in mind before I leave this mortal coil…click here if you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.)
But come on…part of being a writer is exploring the story universe you wish to enter all by your lonesome. And there’s no better way than reading a whole bunch of your favorite novels from a particular genre and then compiling a list of what they all have in common.
That’s a lot of work. I know. I’ve done it. You should too.
Getting the answers to the test so you don’t have to study is rather lame, but I get it.
Just like the next guy or gal, I like to know that something is worth learning before I book a long trip into the autodidact’s lonely intellectual desert for an extended stay.
So as I pick up where I left off with the mini-love story genre course I’ve been writing here for What It Takes, I thought I’d just throw down a three part cheat sheet for love story.
So here you go:
What’s the global value at stake in love story?