You Don’t Gotta Have Hart

Mark Evanier, one of TVWriter™s favorite creative forces, is the possessor of a talent this particular TVWriter™ minion wishes with all her heart she had: The ability to see through Hollywood B.S. and say so.

The most recent case in point:

Oscar and Kevin Hart, image via theringer

by Mark Evanier

Okay…so Kevin Hart is out as Oscar Host because he might offend people and Ricky Gervais is trying to place himself in the running. But of course, the whole point of picking Ricky Gervais would be to get more people to tune in because he would be offending people. I don’t think so and it all begs the question of just what the job requirements today are to host the Academy Awards. I’m not sure anyone is clear on this. I’m not sure there really are any.

Some of those involved in the selection probably aren’t interested in anything else besides “Who’d get the most people to tune in?” America’s interest in award shows has fizzled a lot in recent years, perhaps because there are way too friggin’ many of them. But maybe it’s also because your top movie stars are paid so, so much money (and it’s not a secret) that a lot of people really view the show as a lot of undeserving, easy-to-resent, overpaid people celebrating the awesomeness of each other. Which, of course, it is.

To some extent, the Oscars these days are like watching Jeff Bezos play Deal or No Deal. Even winning the top prize isn’t going to change his life one bit. We don’t have a lot of rooting interest these days for actors, even for our favorites. If your career has been such that you’re up for an Oscar, you’re probably to the point where you’re so rich and famous that it won’t make a bit of difference. I mean, you might get $20 million for your next film instead of $15 million but why should anyone who can’t afford health insurance care?

So maybe what the Oscars need is a host who can puncture all the pomposity and bring it back down closer to the real world. In that sense, maybe Ricky Gervais wouldn’t be a bad choice, just as Kevin Hart wasn’t a bad choice. But then the show won’t so much be about Who will win? but about about Who will Ricky insult? Hell, if all we want is controversy and puncturing, forget about Ricky and bring in Gilbert Gottfried.

Read it all at Mark Evanier’s outstanding blog

Why The More Successful Writers Fail The Most

Now this is a truly interesting – insightful even – article. Read this one closely, kids. It’s your futures that are on the line:

by Lucy V Hay

Successful Writers

Sometimes, we meet/discover a writer who is super successful.  We think they must have been super lucky, too. Right place, right time and all that. If only we were so lucky!

But what if I told you they’re super successful BECAUSE they failed … A LOT. Seems like an oxymoron, right? Except it isn’t. Many amazing writers are ‘successful failures’.

The above quote is from J K Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech, The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination. Being as successful as she is, it’s hard to think of her as a writer who failed. But she did and so have countless other success stories.

Failure Is Not Fatal

Maya Angelou is another amazing writer. She came up against huge obstacles in her life, yet she saw the value of failure. Every time life smacked her down, this courageous woman got right back up. Does failing the most equate with learning the most? Maybe.

I think the key to getting past failure is this … None of us know how long the thorny path is. It could take two years, five years or ten years to become successful. Even then, the thorns are still there … Except now they’re entwined with ‘success flowers’ and the path is a nicer walk!

The Value Of Mentors, Allies & Moral Support

You don’t HAVE to have a mentor, but there’s a reason they play such a big part in The Hero’s Journey. Mentors can be helpers and facilitators in writers’ journeys….

Read it all at Bang 2 Write

Things Labeled ‘American’ in Other Countries

“American” words aren’t necessarily American, and vice versa. How do we know? Because Etymologist Extraordinaire Arika Okrent knows, and she isn’t afraid to share:

More about Arika, YouTube’s Patron Saint of Wordsmiths

How David Fincher Hijacks Your Eyes

This TVWriter™ dweeb minion hates to admit it, but sometimes directors really do add to what writers write. For example:

This wouldn’t exist if Nerdwriter hadn’t created it. Check out the Nerdwriter site!

 

John Ostrander: Writing 101 — Contradicting Your Characters

by John Ostrander

The most oft repeated dictum about writing that I’ve heard is: Write What You Know. The question is – what do you know? To take a literal meaning to the question suggests that you can only write within your own experiences which is awfully limiting. I’m a white middle class male and yet I created Amanda Waller who is black, female, and from the projects. What did I know that allowed me to do that? And yet, Amanda is one of the best, most realized, characters I’ve ever created.

My view of Write What You Know is – what do you KNOW as opposed to what you were TAUGHT. What has your own experience taught you to be true? An unquestioned belief, in my opinion, is not worth having. Only by testing that belief – by doubting, questioning – does a belief become your own even if you come to the same belief that you started with. Now it’s your own.

What do you know of life? Not what you were told or taught but what have you experienced? What do you know that is true? That should be in your writing. 

For example, take Character. For me, the essence of character is to be found in contradiction. Take a piece of paper. On the left hand side, list a series of attributes. Such as:

Friendly

Courteous

Kind

Obedient

Cheerful

Thrifty

Brave

Clean

Reverent

In other words, a Boy Scout.

On the right hand side of the page, write down the opposite of what you wrote on the left hand side. You cannot use un-.dis-, or ir-. In other words, no Unfriendly for Friendly. Be creative in your choice of words. With “Clean”, what do you mean? It’s how YOU define the word; it’s what that word means to YOU. How does it resonate? Be creative.

If everything you wrote on the left hand side of the page is true, then in some way, in some place, everything on the right hand side is also true. I have invariably found that the essence of character is found in contradiction. Again, it’s how you define those words. What do you MEAN by them? HOW are they true?

No one is all one thing all the time. Our personal characters are tidal; they ebb and flow. The sea is always the sea but is also always in motion and so are our natures. What is true of us should be true in our characters.

However, we don’t show all those aspects of ourselves every moment of the day or night. Different people, different circumstances, bring out different aspects of ourselves and should do the same with the people we create.

That’s part of the purpose of the supporting characters. Different people in your lives bring out different aspects of your own character. There was this guy I knew many years ago who I just did not like and for a long time I didn’t know why. He wasn’t a bad guy but I just felt uncomfortable around him. I finally figured out that it was because he mirrored sides of me that I did not like, that I was uncomfortable having.

Circumstances and events can also bring out different sides of you. Kim used to ask me how I would react in such and such a circumstance; I told her I wouldn’t know until I got there. We like to think we know what we would feel or how we react in a given situation but the truth is we only know how we think we would behave or how we’d like to believe we would act. You can’t know for sure until you’re actually in the situation.

So – how do we show all these contradictory emotions in a story? First of all, you use one at a time. In a comic, that might be for one panel. Try to use more than one in a panel muddies the story and makes it unclear. One at a time, please.

That said, you can switch to a completely different emotion in the next panel. Don’t try to “transition” from one feeling to the other. I’ve seen inexperienced writers do it; I’ve seen inexperienced actors do it. The ones who don’t do it are people in real life; the emotions flow, one to the next. Something hits you, you react. That’s what you want in your story.

What makes a person or a character react, have a certain emotion, tells you something about them just as it does in real life. What annoys you, either a situation or a person? You can go further – why does that person or situation annoy you? Every writer is something of a detective; you follow the clues to get a clearer picture of the character you’re writing. Do it right and so will your reader. That’s something that you want.

Do you have to create a character this way? Of course not. Different writers have different methods. You can do it completely by mechanics. I was once watching an interview on TV and a writer told his acolytes that the first thing you needed was a good name. I threw things at the TV.

I like stories that seem to emanate from character. Learning something from a well rounded and created story can tell me something about myself or the people around me. It makes, I believe, for a better story.

Writing a better story? That’s the job.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but now John’s back with a new column at a new blog, PopCultureSquad, where this piece first appeared (with lots of pictures even). You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE