Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Choices: Writing Books

If you're writing fiction, then put these titles by Charles Baxter on your Christmas list, as they're invaluably insightful:
Both are available at Graywolf Press, which has an impressive library of creative writing choices.

Suggestions I've made in the past include:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pixar in Print Yields Unexpected Treasures

One of the joys of print is that it's easier to stumble upon the gems you were meant to read instead of the articles that initially drew you. So it was that I skimmed into "Second Act Twist" (New Yorker, Oct. 17, 2011), a profile of Pixar director Andrew Stanton's latest directing endeavor, John Carter of Mars.

It went from being a creator profile into becoming a primer on creating. The director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E is hardcore on expunging "lazy thinking," revising (scenes in previous films are discussed as why they worked & didn't), failing early (just dive in & "be wrong fast." You can fix it on the second draft, but you've got to have a first draft before you can fix it.) and a striving of artistic perfection ("Any scene that's an eight he'll tear up to try to make it a ten.", "What makes me care?")

More importantly, little throwaways were keepers. He keeps storytelling index-card

Inevitable but not predictable. reminders on bookshelves stating:
  • Inevitable but not predictable.
  • Conflict + contradiction.
  • How they choose is who they are.

Every one of those is vital if you're telling a story with believable characters.

Finally (and there's more worth gleaning), he re-reread Lajos Egri's The Art of Dramatic Writing, which emphasizes distilling stories to "one
crisp sentence before making them. For Finding Nemo it was "Fear denies a good father from being one," and, for Wall-E "Love conquers all programming."

All keepers as I continue to create. And yet another reason to check a pile of print culture from your library and skim anything that looks interesting. Soon enough something you didn't expect will hook you into better storytelling.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Transpositions: C.S. Lewis's Guidelines for a Christian Journal

Cole Matson has a nice summary of Lewis's thoughts about Christian literary journals. He writes, "What might be surprising here is that C.S. Lewis, famous and outspoken apologist for Christianity, is advocating that a Christian journal not wave a Christian flag."

Do you think Lewis is right?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Food for Thought: Small Men, Big Shadows

This is a meaty quote for every writer, no matter what your form:

"When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set." -Lin Yutang, writer and translator

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Food for Thought: Why Art Needs Science

"There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other. Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery. The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous." -Raymond Chandler