Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

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ARCHIVES OF January, 2016

What It Takes

What It Takes

Finding Atticus

By Callie Oettinger | Published: January 29, 2016

To Kill A MockingbirdAfter Atticus pulled Calpurnia away from Aunt Alexandra and the Maycomb missionary circle ladies, Aunt Alexandra asked Miss Maudie when it would stop. (Chapter 24, To Kill A Mockingbird)

“I can’t say I approve of everything he does Maudie, but he’s my brother, and I just want to know when this will ever end.” Her voice rose: “It tears him to pieces. He doesn’t show it much, but it tears him to pieces. I’ve seen him when — what else do they want from him, Maudie, what else?”

“What does who want, Alexandra?” Miss Maudie asked.

“I mean this town. They’re perfectly willing to let him do what they’re afraid to do themselves – it might lose ‘em a nickel. They’re perfectly willing to let him wreck his health doing what they’re afraid to do, they’re —“

“Be quiet, they’ll hear you,” said Miss Maudie. “Have you ever thought of it this way, Alexandra? Whether Maycomb knows it or not, we’re paying the highest tribute we can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple.”

It wasn’t just that Maycomb trusted Atticus to do right, they expected him to DO, period. They knew he was a man of action, that he’d do something – and that they’d be alright with whatever that something was because they knew well what to expect of Atticus.

(more…)

Posted in What It Takes
8 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Choreographing a Fight Scene

By Steven Pressfield | Published: January 27, 2016

The first movie I ever got sole writing credit on was one of the worst pictures ever made. I’m not kidding. I won’t even tell you the title because if I do you’ll lose all respect for me.

No, this is not the movie I'm talking about. But this shoot-out DOES illustrate the principle.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” No, this is not the movie I’m talking about. But this shoot-out DOES illustrate the principle.

But …

But I learned one enormous lesson on that movie.

We were shooting a gunfight scene. The scene took place in a warehouse. It involved the hero and his girlfriend and about a dozen bad guys. Dudes were dropping from the rafters, plunging through skylights; cars were blowing up, the warehouse was going up in flames, not to mention gunfire was ripping in all directions, coming from half a dozen different kinds of weapons—.45s, nine-millimeters, shotguns, machine guns.

In the script, all it said was “X shoots it out with a dozen bad guys.”

But in actually filming the scene, the stunt coordinator and the Second Unit director had to block out and choreograph every gunshot, every fall, every explosion, every vehicle crash. It was an amazingly complicated operation, with absolutely nothing left to chance.

Here’s what the Second Unit director told me:

 

Any time you film a guy firing a gun, you MUST also film where the bullet hits and what effect it produces. Otherwise the scene becomes totally confusing to the audience. And it looks fake.

 

I had never thought about that before. But I could see at once that the director was absolutely right.

I thought about fist fight scenes, even sword fights. Don’t you hate it when one guy slashes with a samurai sword and you don’t see where the blade goes or what it hits? Or those horrible fakey kung-fu fights that just look like a blur of kicks and punches and you can’t tell who’s winning or losing?

I thought about dance scenes. How bogus is it when you see the star start to do a pirouette or a flip and then the camera cuts to someone who’s obviously a stunt double doing the move, then they cut back to the star (close up of course, so you can’t see her body in motion) as if she had just performed the move herself.

Bad.

Bad!

I thought about the great old Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies (or Fred with Cyd Charisse or Eleanor Powell or Rita Hayworth, or Fred with anybody) and how not only does the camera never show anything but both dancers head-to-toe, but it never cuts away. Every scene is shot in one take, so you know there’s no cheating. This is Fred. This is Ginger. They really did it, and with no tricks.

The same principle applies, of course, to any setup and payoff in any story. The old saw that says

 

If you show a gun in any scene, that gun has to be fired in some subsequent scene

 

could not be more true.

If the gun is not going to be fired in the story, don’t show it at all.

If you start any narrative thread anywhere in the story, that thread has to be paid off later. Otherwise don’t start it.

I remember watching the final cut-together version of the shoot-out in the warehouse. Forget that the movie was terrible. The scene played great.

One Bad Guy pops up from behind a barrel and fires a shot; we see the bullet strike and shatter the windshield of the car the hero and his girl are hiding behind—and we see them react as the glass blasts all over them. Next a villain plunges through the skylight firing a machine gun. Rat-a-tat: a row of bullet strikes is stitched along the wall, just missing hero and girl as they flee.

The scene looked absolutely real and made complete sense. You could follow what was happening. The action looked authentic and convincing.

The director’s axiom worked.

When you fire a gun (or throw a punch or open a narrative thread), make sure the audience sees where it lands and what effect it produces.

Otherwise the scene looks confusing and fake. It looks like a cheat.

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
16 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

The Iceman Cometh

By Shawn Coyne | Published: January 22, 2016

No Steve, No Ice Rink

No Steve, No Ice Rink

Many moons ago when I worked for “the man,” I’d reached a state of utter burn out. There was absolutely no water left in my creative well. I’d peered into the abyss and fallen in. Even mine own private Resistance had gone on vacation. Even he knew I was toast. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes
25 Comments
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