Articles on Writing  

Posted by Unknown

One of the conservative sites I like to read from time to time is Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood. The conceit behind the site is that it's primarily a collection of articles on political and cultural commentary written by conservatives in the entertainment industry, a fairly small crowd of folks, but with a spectrum of convictions (from libertarian to Objectivist to atheist to Christian to homosexual to etc., etc.) and coming from a range of professions and fields (screenwriters, authors, comics creators, musicians, etc.). Doug TenNapel frequently posts articles there.

Though my urge at the moment is to get screedy and political ("20/20"'s upcoming gun control propaganda piece which promises to tell us why the 2nd Amendment and self-defense are such foolish ideas immediately springs to mind, as well as a slew of President Obama-related behaviors and deeds), that's not really what I wanted to draw attention to. Besides, I alienate my friends often enough as it is.

No, instead, Big Hollywood contributor and screenwriter Russ Dvonch has written two articles on writing plot that I think are worth reading. In the first installment, he discusses the notion of hope and heroism in stories, drawing from such sources as "The Lord of the Rings" amongst many others. In his second installment, he discusses the notion of the moral as it relates to the plot, asserting that every story moralizes, every story has a moral point to make, and the question is not whether your story is going to preach a moral view, but whether it's going to do so aimlessly and messily, or whether it will do so convincingly and well. Given that the second issue is one I've personally struggled over for quite some time, it was refreshing and encouraging to hear someone with some writing experience under their belt explain these things with clarity and conviction.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 09, 2009 at Thursday, April 09, 2009 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

2 comments

I like Dvonch's basic idea and utterly agree with his premise: it's impossible to write a story that does not have a moral stance or convey a moral message. So kudos to him there.

The article itself I found a bit simplistic, and while the issues he raises are well worth thinking about, I don't think I could sit down to write with them in the forefront of my mind. To calculate out, "Hmm. I need an immoral character to represent the moral evil I'm going to come out against," is far too mechanical for me, and my writing ends up very stilted when I try. I can apply that kind of logic later, looking back at what's been created (and it might even help me to make minor adjustments), but as a guiding idea I think it would kill of creativity pretty quickly.

Again, that may just be me.

Also, why use a bad movie to make your point? I think a far more provocative and worthwhile article could be written about, say, The Return of the King (though, admittedly, that would have required far more space to take in all the characters). And much as I don't like many (or even most) of his moral messages, looking at Moore's Watchmen would prove a fascinating study.

I suppose Dvonch is speaking more to writers looking for mainstream success, so perhaps his example suits.

Dunno—just some thoughts. Thanks for pointing out the article, though. Interesting stuff.

12:26 PM

Also, why use a bad movie to make your point?

In this case, I think you need to justify your contention that "Jurassic Park" was a bad movie. It was financially quite successful, and is listed as 86% Fresh on RottenTomatoes.com.

So, you see, your opinion is wrong. It's a scientific fact.

The popularity and essential simplicity of "Jurassic Park" make it easy to use as an illustration for a brief article like this. It's something most everyone remembers seeing, and something most people think of as a special effects movie, so it makes a good model to point to and say, 'See, it's not just flashy FX; there's a moral being told here, too.' Based on his first article, I suspect that Dvonch would agree with you in saying that "LotR: Return of the King" would make an excellent source to study.

Anyway, the articles on that site are usually brief, so I don't think I went into it expecting a deep dissertation. I think I was just glad to read something on the topic of plot and moral theme from someone who had some commercial experience with it.

I think you're right about going into a story with the moral first, though. I'm with Lewis on this (like most things, drooling fan that I am) in that I think such an approach would result in something obnoxiously preachy, unpleasant to read as well as to write, and creatively stultifying. But it seems like a good thing to examine when you're going back over your first draft.

6:18 PM

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