In the short video below, author and screenwriting mentor Robert McKee answers the question, “How do you define the truth of your story?”
My main struggle as a writer is to express the truth of my stories or poems in a way that will also resonate with my readers.
McKee says that there are many levels of truth in a story. There’s the surface level—the how and why things happen. The facts of the story.
For example, my protagonist in my current work starts out as a veterinarian focused on healing animals with her science and medical abilities only but, as the story progresses, she is drawn deeper into the magic of her hometown and her own special healing abilities. This is the surface story.
But, McKee says, a storyteller is after how and why what happens on the surface happens. We are looking for the deep hows and whys even down to our character’s subconscious level.
In my story, my protagonist resists using her special abilities because bad things have happened to those she loved when she used her powers as a young girl. She carries this trauma forward and it is her truth.
In a good story, says McKee, you express the truth that you believe in. Someone else may see it as a totally different truth from their own experiences but this doesn’t matter. If you express your truths well and beautifully, the reader will resonate with your work. They will come away from your book or movie recognizing they are in the presence of the truth.
After a year of focusing on my business and taking care of various family members, I’m working on re-developing a daily writing habit. It feels a bit like learning a new job. I notice resistance to the actual act of sitting my bum in my chair and writing. I also notice I’ve developed the attention span of a gnat.
In my life and business, I’m an incredible multitasker. I won’t go into the details in case you’ve read them before (see my post “How to reclaim your life and energy for your art”). But I’ve been finding that multitasking can actually make you less productive—especially if you’re an artist or a writer.
As Heather Sellers states in her book, Chapter after Chapter, writing is slow work. She relates it to the Slow Food Movement that was born to counter fast food chains taking over the world. Slow food is about being conscious of what you put in your mouth, of where your food is coming from, and whose pocket you are lining when you buy your food.
Writing is a conscious art form. Sure, we can whip off an e-mail or a blog post, but poetry, screen plays, and novels take time to develop. Art takes time. During your actual writing time, you can’t multitask, you have to slow down. Sellers says she can type 137 words-per-minute but it doesn’t mean they’ll be good words. It doesn’t mean they’ll be juicy words. She says writing isn’t typing. Read more
These days, authors need to be writers and marketers. Two professions diametrically opposed to one another. There are definitely aspects of both that I least like. In writing, it’s the first draft (I prefer revision—to me it’s where the magic happens). In marketing, it’s the verbal pitch that gets me trembling like a hamster on methamphetamines.
Pitching to a total stranger who could potentially change my life scares me more than an elevator full of zombies.
I’ve read articles, blog posts, and books on pitching but I always felt as if something was missing (from my pitch, not the information). Maybe it just takes me longer to “get it.”
Fortunately, a recent article by author and professor Luke Williams in the Atlantic magazine helped me realize what I was missing: the turning point. Williams quotes master storyteller and screenwriter Robert McKee who says that, “turning points have to surprise, increase curiosity, and present a new direction.”
If you want to sell yourself and your ideas, make sure this element is part of your pitch.
I’ve never ridden a motorcycle in my life. Never even been on one. So when my hubby recently suggested we take a motorcycle class, I had no frame of reference. I didn’t even know he’d owned one when he was younger and living in Southern California. I’m not sure what prompted his sudden need for speed, but we talked about it and decided to take the two-day safety course to see if we could pass the test (back in his early riding days there were no classes, nor tests). I wanted to take the class to see if I even enjoyed riding.
Being a type A, my hubby arranged for us to have a private class and to have both days collapsed into one (to save time, of course, since we are busy business owners). We passed the written test in the morning. No problem. Then from 12:30pm to 7:30pm we went through two days of riding instruction. Keep in mind I’ve never ridden. Keep in mind I didn’t know where the brakes or clutch were or what a choke was. (Other than this is what I wanted to do to my husband by six o’clock that evening).Read more