I think the closest I’ve come to declaring a favourite book is Markus Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief’. This was another book I came to thanks to the top 100 books I’m trying to read and it grabbed me from the first page through to the last. I loved that it was narrated by death and I loved it was presented through the eyes of a young girl despite the horrors it was showing us.
I have read some of Zusak’s other books (The Messenger and The Underdog) and the thing that struck me was the author’s amazing grasp of character. They feel so real, and I don’t know if it was just me, but they feel like they tap into a facet of yourself that resonates so personally that it is as if the author knows you. That is a great skill. So when that character development was married to such an amazing story, then you can see why I loved The Book Thief so much.
Markus Zusak is touted mainly as a young adult author, in fact The Book Thief was marketed as YA in the US, but like so many other young adult books, his stories can be enjoyed by everyone. He captures the pain of the teenage years so well that it was almost uncomfortable venturing back there. They brought back memories.
Just writing this review makes me want to go back and read his work again, I hope that sells it for you. It also makes me want to be a better writer. You can’t ask for more than that.
I’m in the middle of my next novel, and after the success of my last attempt at pantsing, I was tempted to try that again. This time, however, I’m on a very strict timeline, so I can’t run the risk of running totally off track. If I do that I might not be able to finish it before I’m forced to go back to work.
So in an effort to capture the speed and agility of pantsing, but have the dependability of planning, I’ve come up with a marriage between the two which I’m calling croquet writing. I’ve set some target events that have to happen, but how I get between those is anyone’s guess. So like the hoops on a croquet lawn, I know what I’m aiming for at any point in the story.
Yeah, yeah, I know, I haven’t invented anything, it is just planning but with a bit less plan, but it might be exactly what I need. So far it is working, I have the same feeling of having no idea what I’m going to write when I sit down at the keyboard that I had when I was pantsing, but unlike pantsing, I can clomp through a rough patch to get onto the next plot point and then run from there.
I suspect there will be a lot of editing required for the rough patches, but maybe not as much as for the pantser where I had to cut out whole chunks of stuff that went off on a tangent that was never realised, or where I had to go back and insert foreshadowing for stuff I didn’t know was going to happen.
I’m at the half-way point now, which is past my usual fall-over spot in a novel, so with any luck I’ll be writing those magic words soon; The End.
The other day I accidentally started watching a movie I had seen before with the director’s commentary turned on. It was fascinating. You get a whole different view of the movie, and no matter what the genre or special effects I think the commentary takes the magic away and turns it into a product, so if you are going to do it, make sure you do it with a film you already know.
Intrigued by this experience I tried it again with an old favourite of mine; The Princess Bride. The edition I have has a commentary by William Goldman the author of both the book and the screenplay. How have I not done this sort of thing before? I also have the screenplay book, so not only did I get to hear Goldman’s commentary as the movie played, but I could read along and see the script directions, the deviations from the script and truly see how the script formatting translates into a movie. I think I learned more from that session than I had from the four or five screenwriting books I own.
It probably seems blatantly obvious to all of you out there, but I can see there is so much to learn about this industry from those oft-ignored commentaries. I think I might just have to revisit all of my favourites and see what gems can be uncovered.
Maybe scriptwriting is not so out-of-reach after all?
The past two weeks I’ve been trying to write a movie script. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve wanted to write a movie. I actually wanted to make movies before I learned that books could be just as cool and so I changed my target to novels instead. So thirty years later I thought I’d go back to the original goal.
‘Show don’t tell’ is never as true as in a script, because telling isn’t really an option given that the audience watch the movie. True, you could do a voiceover, but people don’t go to movies to listen to a story, they’d get a talking book if they wanted that.
This means most thought, self-talk and observations are out the window. It also means quick bits of back-story need to be said aloud, not glossed over in a sneaky paragraph. All this is fine, I’ve watched plenty of movies in my time so I think I’m across all that, but movies have something books don’t have; viewer point-of-view.
This means you not only have to think about what the viewer is seeing, but how they see it. The story doesn’t just unfold for you as a writer, you have to know from which direction you are looking at it, who is sitting where in relation to what and all sorts of other things that I rarely ever mention in a story.
I know the director takes on a lot of this work when they actually film the movie, but if I want the viewers to notice something, in the script I have to do a CLOSE UP of it. I also have to CAPITALISE all the visual and sound effect as well as every character and any major props. It is very different to writing a novel where I just capture what is happening any way I can.
I’m not going to give up on the script, it is something I would like to master, but I’m not progressing very well and my time off is limited, so I’m going to spend it on what I know I can do. So back to the YA novel writing for me, the script has waited over thirty years to be written, a few more weeks or months won’t do it any harm.