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Writing Workshop #1

CuddleBuggery: Writing Workshop #1

This page has moved to a new address.

Writing Workshop #1

CuddleBuggery: Writing Workshop #1

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Writing Workshop #1

Writing is a skill that grows with time and practice.  Which is also why I'm a good person to teach you.  Not because I'm a writer with great writerly wisdom like you.  But because I'm a reader and there are some tips that can only be gained by reading a few hundred novels with a critical eye.

For some things, it takes a Kennedy.  A Kat Kennedy, that is.

There are certain things you can learn from DVD Director's commentary and not just that your favourite director is a giant dick with an ego the metaphorical size of the Earth's rotation around the sun.
I feel like a Whedon reference is appropriate here.
But even if they are a pain in the ass with all the tactile charisma of the creature of the Black Lagoon, there is no denying that if you like their movies, they probably know a thing or two about story-telling.

Story-telling is important because it's not always something you can teach but it is something you can learn.  Most of the writing technique can be taught by anyone and you'll find a thousand useful guides to constructing sentences and and prose.

But story-telling isn't like that and sometimes finding good advice is hard which is why it's sometimes interesting to try a different medium for examples.  That is exactly where movies and TV shows come into it.

Sometimes authors, because of the book-medium, think they have all day to get about making an idea or passing on a point to their reader.  Whilst technically, they do, that doesn't always make good writing.  TV shows and movies have a very limited format to get across some big ideas and a good director, on a good commentary track, can have some really insightful things to say.

On the director's commentary for season 2, episode 14 ("Innocence") for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon makes a comment on a scene between Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Oz (Seth Green).

"A very important scene and I've talked about this before, but, people not loving Oz, people very angry that Willow was not with Xander because she was so clearly into him.  We introduced the character of Oz who was based on an actual guy I knew, uh, in college.  Somebody just so cool he that he would just see how cool Willow was, even if she was wearing a big Eskimo outfit.  In fact, because she was wearing a big Eskimo outfit.    People not responding and so I wrote this scene very specifically as the scene that would make them love Oz.  because it's the scene that makes Willow loves Oz.  Where he turns her down and refuses to kiss her.  Again, kind of gauging the audience's reaction is a big part of the show and making things not just work, making you not just accept a plot twist or character, but making you need them.  Making you feel about them the way your character's supposed to.  It's the most important thing and, of course, Seth is so beautifully restrained and so completely charming and, look at Aly.  Fall in love with him.  Right now." 

You see, Joss had a problem and it was that he needed the audience to sympathize with and invest in Oz quickly and effectively but he couldn't waste a lot of time building their relationship.  He had to do it quickly and effectively in one scene.  Here is a transcript of that scene:

Willow: Do you want to make out with me?
Oz: What?
Willow: With me.  Make out.  Do you want to?
Oz: That time you said it backwards.
Willow: Forget it.  I'm sorry... (beat) Well do you?
Oz: Sometimes when I'm sitting in class, I'm not thinking about class, 'cause, that could never happen, and I'll think about kissing you and then everything stops.  It's like, freeze frame.  Willow kissage.

She is drawn in by this -- so a bit taken aback when instead of kissing her, he just looks out the window again.  There is a moment of confused wilence before he remembers himself and speaks again.

Oz (cont'd): I'm not gonna kiss you.
Willow: What? But... freeze frame...
Oz: Well, to the casual observer, it looks like you want to make your friend Xander jealous.  Or even the score, or something.  That's on the empty side.  You see, in my fantasy, when I'm kissing you... you're kissing me.

She can't reply -- she's touched, but she knows he's right about Xander,  Oz smiles at her, serene.

Oz (cont'd): It's okay.  I can wait.

I'm not saying every part of your novel needs to be snap frame, but sometimes you need to get an important emotional resonance across, or an important point.  Instead of spending fifty pages and three different scenes trying to get it across, find a way to bring out the emotion in one, significant act.  Sometimes it's just so much more powerful.



Blogger Rebecca Christiansen said...

Just reading that transcript of the scene made me swoon. *sigh*... and I don't even know what show that is or who those characters are. It's just perfect.

December 17, 2011 at 9:52 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Point Taken. :)

December 17, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Kat Kennedy said...

Becca - it is, isn't it? The scene is so perfectly done!

Kate - oh goodness! I'm so sorry! This post is NOT aimed at you or your novel! I've been working on it for an entire week and I'm only posting today because I finally got a transcript of Whedon's commentary. I had to find someone with a Buffy season 2 disk 4 DVD. I swear!

December 17, 2011 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

LOL, STILL. It IS a good and valuable point. Honestly, I love these posts and I hope there are more of them. Any writer who doesn't want to get better at what they do is a fool. I am no fool.

December 31, 2011 at 8:32 PM  

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