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What It Takes

What It Takes

Thinking Like a Writer

By Shawn Coyne | Published: November 14, 2014

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We all know this story, or some variation of it.

Will Geer teaches Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson

Back in the wilderness days, a mountain man pulls fish out of a creek bed, one after the other with seemingly little effort.  He’s made a bunch of traps out of brush and twigs and has set them in a prime fish-feeding hole. And now he’s reaping the harvest.

A starving homesteader comes upon the mountain man and begs him for help. The mountain man notices that that homesteader has on a nice winter coat, one in far better condition than his own. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Jack Lord Rule

By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 12, 2014

Remember Jack Lord? He played Steve McGarrett on the original Hawaii Five-O.

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett on "Hawaii Five-O."

Jack Lord had a rule for himself as a character. The rule was: “I don’t ask questions. I answer them.”

I learned this from my friend Ernie Pintoff, who directed a gaggle of Hawaii Five-Os back in the day. According to Ernie, every time a script called for Jack Lord’s character to ask a question, Jack would stop the scene and refuse to read the line.

“I don’t ask questions,” he would say. “I answer them.”

When I first heard this, I thought, “What an insufferable egomaniac! People ask questions in real life. Particularly detectives, which is the role Jack Lord is playing. What’s his problem? Ask the freakin’ question!”

But Jack Lord was right.

What he understood (and I didn’t) was that he wasn’t playing a real person, he was playing a hero—and heroes are different from you and me.

This is a critical lesson for any young writer. We want our characters to be “real.” We want our heroes to be “relatable.” But characters are not real and heroes are not normal. They can’t be. If they were, they wouldn’t be heroes.

The hero drives the story. That’s his job. He (or she) is the one whose choices and actions turn the narrative and propel it forward toward the climax. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

What It Takes

What It Takes

Click and Clack, the Crossover Brothers

By Callie Oettinger | Published: November 7, 2014

Happy Holiday from Tom and Ray Magliozzi (aka Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers) of NPR's Car Talk at their "law offices (aka production facility)" in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. (Tom Magliozzi, L, Ray Magliozzi, R.) Caption and image credit: Car Talk

I knew little about cars—yet I tuned into NPR’s “Car Talk” and then stuck around for years, clinging to “Click and Clack’s” words.

Tom and Ray Magliozzi (a.k.a. Click and Clack the Tappet brothers) were a mainstay in my life, introduced by my father, who was a fan of their humor, accents, alma mater, and car knowledge.

I tuned in the first time to listen to what Dad was raving about. I stayed for every reason other than for the talk of cars.

Theirs was the ultimate crossover show—a program that attracted the mechanically inclined, as well as the mechanically illiterate. The show had “car” in the title, yet the audience colored far outside that one-category border.

We’ve talked about the crossover audience on this blog in the past, those individuals who don’t seem like your prime audience, but are indeed just that. How to attract them?

Laughter is one option.

Doug Berman, Car Talk’s producer, recalled Tom’s laughter, up there with great comics who laugh at their own jokes:

It was almost a force, almost separate from him . . . It was always lurking, trying to come out. And he would see something funny coming a few sentences away, and he would start to laugh while he was talking, and he’d kind of be laughing and it would almost overtake him like a wave.

Then there’s passion—which isn’t an option, but a requirement. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes
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