Cutting-edge education for the Craft of Writing for screenwriters, playwrights and novelists
Monday, February 9, 2015
The Stephen King of Funny Cat Videos
“There are two ways into Hollywood –
you are going to have to write what they’re
or sell them your dream. -
Scott Meyers, screenwriter
came back from a conference in sunny San Diego where I ran a writer’s workshop
for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror writers with author Peter Clines (Ex-Heroes,
14, website )
We had an
excellent group. Writers of all ages and experiences.
enthusiasm. Lots of talent.
Most of the writers who attend these kinds of
workshops are new, pre-published and still trying to find their voice. One can
hear the resounding echoes of other writers in their works – Rowlings, Collins,
King, etc., and I expect this at the beginning of many careers.
Because these writers are each in the process of
developing his/her own process.
But there are a couple of dangers here.
The first is about VOICE:
Some authentic voices were emerging out
amongst these writers, but many tried to write the way they believe writers
should sound, instead of sounding like themselves. So what you end
up with are very clever people trying to sound clever when they could simply unclench a
bit – and just let their very clever, talented, and interesting selves shine
The second problem is about PERSPECTIVE:
Now, I don’t mind zombie stories – I believe
whatever genre and sub-genre excited these new writer enough to actually write
is a good thing . . .
. . .In the beginning.
But – for example – did you know that, when
you enter the phrase “funny cat videos” into the search engine for YouTube, you
get something on the order of 3,600,000 hits . . .
3.6 million variations on the same theme. And
over 1 billion entries if you so the same search on Google.
All cute, all adorable – and all pale
variations on a theme.
Voice and perspective. Hard to
develop, harder still to mainstain, but vital to the soul of the writer.
Without them, you are just another guy with a
video camera documenting the hilarity of something that is not quite human. And
in that lies the real problem: Nothing in the known universe has ever been more
human than Story.
Now . . . you could become
the best at this. The most popular, most universally loved, the
absolute Stephen King of Cat Videos if you like.
The nature of drama and story is breathtaking
and powerful, unique and emotional. The real estate of the page is some of the
most precious in the world and your time and treasure are severely limited. Why
spend it writing about something that looks like any of the 3.6 million other,
similar, non-unique cat stories.
When one person’s writing becomes
indistinguishable from another and these two people have never met, it is the culture
speaking and not a person.
You have to know – you have the power and the
spark in each of you.
There are things that you want to say, need
to say and they can come out through theme and subtext – blatant and true at
the heart of your story. You have to always say what you believe needs saying.
In short, you have to sell them your dreams.
Your goal should not be to be a great
craftsman of something entertaining but ubiquitous. You’re better
than that. The popular vampire and zombie stories that fill the
popular media today are the high-calorie fast food of our time – not because of
their genre but because they were written as attractive products and not as
works of Craft and Art. And while some excellent writing has been
done in their names, there can be but one Bram Stoker, and one Mary Shelley and
one William Seabrook or George Romero.
These types of stories are akin to working
with licensed properties. The constraints can be invigorating but they
don’t allow the writer to tell your story – because you are
telling their story
Because, at some point, what they’re
buying is no longer likely to be the same as what they’ve
You can’t control or predict what they’re
buying. Trends change, sometimes on a dime and one would have to be clairvoyant
to know where the industry and the public’s desires are going in advance.
But, in the end, here’s what everyone really
wants: A good idea, excitingly told and competently written – that
they can’t get anywhere else.
Give me a new perspective. Meet the story
with conflict and drama. Take me out of myself.
All these things are within your control.
In the end, the only person who should be
writing a classic Stephen King story is STEPHEN KING . . . and perhaps not even him.