I was just saying, “Modern screenwriting lacks innovation. There’s no one person writing now, really, including Charlie Kaufman, that pushes the boundaries of narrative storytelling. The modern screenwriter is fluent in 3 act, 5 act, Truby-ese, the sequence method, Seger-ese, McKee-ese, Chinese, etc. Kaufman, for example, is so fluent in all of these languages that his work (like Tarantino’s) is based on a criticism of any and all known screenwriting/literary methods and theories. They get meaning by deconstructing these languages. It’s meta-screenwriting. And, of course, it’s valid and entertaining because thought is being applied in a non-typical way. It’s ‘fresh’ because it allows us – the audience - to puzzle but also provides us with life preservers. I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s a non-linear sentence:
‘…for the crime I did indeed commit, and put in prison, before I was arrested, and stole three apples, I ran to the market.’
It’s natural for us to piece the puzzle back together again. And, of course, we find some sort of relief in solving these puzzles. Perhaps not emotionally, but intellectually. The life preserver in the case of this syntactically challenged sentence is English grammar. You read the sentence and begin to realign it to your understanding. But this sentence does nothing to really push our understanding of, say, anything. It plays solely with ‘knowns’ and leaves nothing to the imagination (it lacks any ‘unknowns’).
But true innovation, and I mean where the storyteller has to tell its story by the story’s own set of specific rules, dictated by its subject, without precedent, is truly lacking in modern filmmaking (I might extend this to all literary/music/entertainment forms).
Where do we think these ‘screenwriting languages’ originated? Our ancient storytellers had to muse - yes, I said it - on how to tell their specific stories. They had to innovate. And then they had to refine. And then they had to push the boundaries of what came before. And, sometimes, they had to not just deconstruct what came before, they had to abolish it. Cinema is dying because its cabal of creatives are not interested in innovation and, like all of us, fear the freedom of the unknown.”
Okay, I didn’t say this to anyone in particular, but I thought it! And I wrote it down! And, of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Abbas Kiarostami is an exception. CERTIFIED COPY is an exception. Not that he obliterates the screenwriting language(s), not that what he does isn’t comparable to Kaufman or Tarantino, but that, in this specific instance, it is his story (his thesis) that dictates its telling. And, unlike his contemporaries, he leaves a lot to the imagination.
- SML -
(Note: previously published. Found it looking back at my favourite movies of 2011)
As an artist, you are always striving toward an ultimate achievement but never seem to reach it. You shoot a film, and the result could have always been better. You try again, and fail once more. In some ways I find it enjoyable. You never lose sight of your goal. I don’t do my job to make money or to break box office records, I simply try things out. What would happen if I were to achieve perfection at some point? What would I do then?
—Woody Allen (via The Talk)
Interview: Seth Lochhead (Part 3) by Kieran Murphy for Brig Newspaper (University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland) (source:brignewspaper.com)
We have already touched on various aspects of how you go about writing a screenplay, but that was mostly in the abstract. This section concerns the nuts and bolts of writing.
Although it’s a routine portion of almost any interview with a writer, I’m nevertheless always interested in writing routines and the writing process.
I am an insomniac. It’s 3 in the morning now and I need to be on a plane in 6 hours!! I used to do it on purpose. I would stay up all night. I’m not sure why it’s happening now. I’m hyped up and excited for HANNA’s release I guess. I’m at an existential point in my career where I need to be aware of the paths I go down and what is the best way for me to keep on doing what I’m doing or even if I should keep on doing what I’m doing. I’m debating moving to L.A. for a short time. I’m debating if I want to direct and what are the best avenues for me to pursue such an endeavour. It’s a hard fucking job and if I’m afforded the opportunity in the future to take on the mantle of director, well, I want to be prepared and I want to respect it. I haven’t been a student of directors the way I have with writers, in a practical sense. Directing is a public art, everybody is watching you. It’s not a place where, right now, I could see myself falling into my artistic trance. I’m not sure it would be helpful to anyone (especially me). I do really like the idea of being the ultimate reader of my screenplays. It’s very appealing to me. But also not at all. There’s a safety in being the writer. You’re shielded from the criticism and the praise.
What can you tell us about the writer’s role in film production?
The spec screenwriting vs. the production rewriter. There is a big difference. A lot of what I described above applies to me coming up with stuff out of thin air. Production work (even though it shares elements with origin work) is a completely different animal. Like I said, after creation, I’m a reader and I’m working with a whole crew of readers (actors, directors, grips, everyone) and it’s our job to interpret and render practical while also maintaining the art and the subtext of the origin work. So the writing, for example, becomes less about an open reading and more about creating a list of instructions. In the production draft of HANNA, I am ashamed to say, I would actually fully write out emotion. Like literal emotion “she feels bad, she feels all warm inside, etc.” It wasn’t exactly like that, but, still, ugh. I got very fucking detailed. I know I blew the script up to 160 pages at one point. At the table read, at my first table read ever, John Macmillan (he plays Lewis) read the action lines. He read them so fast because if he didn’t we would’ve been sitting there for 4 hours (at least). I remember Jason Flemyng made a joke about the amount of detail, I must have turned red because he patted me on the shoulder after and said, “All kidding aside, it’s a really great read.” Or something like that. I wanted to point out that, actually, in the real world, not in Berlin, I’m a freakin’ minimalist and the stress of writing under immense pressure has forced me to overwrite the shit out of the action lines. But I didn’t. I guess I did just now. We’ll have to somehow guarantee Jason Flemyng reads this.
To write convincing dialogue, do you act out every part as you go?
No. Not the dialogue. My dialogue is pretty barebones. My screenplays don’t hinge on dialogue (in my reading of them anyway). Not that you don’t need great actors to perform it, just that the dialogue is not the performance. Joe kept telling me to write a play and I kept giggling (he probably thought I was insane). I love dialogue and maybe, one day, I will write a play, but I write screenplays.
I do sometimes act out some of the action. Just to get the physics of it in my head, you know. To find the emotion of it. I don’t think people realize how important the action is to me. That’s why I think I got along with the stunt coordinator Jeff Imada so well (he played Needles in Big Trouble in Little China and did a lot of Carpenter’s movies). He takes his action seriously. When I write action, I try not to write it for action’s sake. There has to be a real visceral element to it (something that you, the reader, can connect to simply – like the popping of a knuckle as an image when I break someone’s neck; everyone has popped their knuckle, not everyone has broken their neck) and there has to be an emotional element above all else. Ideally, in my scripts, this is where the “drama” happens.
Is screenwriting an organic or artificial process for you, or is it somewhere between these two extremes?
It’s instinctual, that’s the best way to put it. Intuitive, maybe. My instincts/intuition change constantly. It was a trip to come back to a script I’d written, my first script, and rewrite it as my 7 or 8th. But it is all instinct based. I am very decisive. I know what I don’t like in the moment. It might take a few hours or a few days of thinking to find what I do like, but I always find it.
How much did you know about Hanna‘sstory before you started writing it?
The HANNA you read was my first draft. I only knew what was happening as it was happening. I followed a logic path from beginning to end. Hunting the deer. Fighting the man. The man is her father. Etcetera. Same goes for her emotional thread. I examined her emotions as she faced certain obstacles. It took me 6 months (this is a relatively long time to write a first draft). But besides an edit (where I go back and clean up lines and cut words and sentences and dialogue and simplify, simplify, simplify) I didn’t do any hard rewriting until after Focus came on board. And even then, because I was, basically, a novice I didn’t do much rewriting. I tinkered. I added in the “flip the switch” stuff. And played with not killing Marissa or having Hanna not kill Marissa directly. It never felt right to me. Whatever they saw, in their notes, I didn’t see it.
I read that a good writer will come up with ten different version of a scene and then choose the most affecting: is that accurate in your experience, or just rhetoric?
Myth. That’s bullshit. You’re creating ten different ways to fuck up just as easily as you’re creating ten different ways to succeed. It’s lazy. Yes, I said it. Doing all that work, generating all those pages, is laziness. And it is emotionally confusing. The deeper you get into something, the more you read it, the harder it is to have a visceral reaction to something. Use your brain, do your drafts in your head, and when you find the emotion you are looking for, that gut reaction, write it down as quickly as possible. I’m not saying my methods will lead to “perfection”. I’m saying I’m not interested in perfection. Perfection is boring. And when all is said and done, all a writer has – no matter how many books he reads – is his gut.
What is your opinion on the modern action movie?
We go to the movies to be awed. Modern action movies to me – superhero movies, what have you – tend to think awing the audience means giving them something they’ve never seen before. I think that’s sound logic and I agree with them. But I don’t always agree with the execution.Watching earth implode, seeing giants beat each other with clubs, endlessly, it doesn’t awe me – not anymore. I have no connection to it. It isn’t real to me. Bigger is not more awesome. More awesome is thinking about who and what those giants are. It is finding something human and relatable within the workings of your fiction. I’m not just talking about the giant’s love for his giant dog. I’m talking about storytelling. About creating stakes. It’s forcing your audience to empathize – yes, empathize! – with the giant and feel bad when Jack blows his head off with a rocket launcher. You need to care. Action – no matter how inert – needs to be imbued with meaning and subtext.
You ask some great questions that, unfortunately, I’m hesitant to answer in a public forum (I don’t want to skew peoples’ interpretation of the final film). So, for you, I will write my answers in code:
I hope that helps with your screenwriting education. Also, no, I did not imagine her that way. I thought of her as being a touch softer, perhaps more regretful.
All the best,
P.S. Congrats on the agent. If you can, and you think you’re ready, I’m starting to think John August is right, you should move to LA.
Interview: Seth Lochhead (Part 2) by Kieran Murphy for Brig Newspaper (University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland) (source: brignewspaper.com)
Brig: Do you agree with Vladimir Propp when he says that characters are action (and reaction)?
Yes, I agree with him even though I have no idea who he is (you’ve shamed me… Russian Formalist…? Literary theorist…?). I think his words apply not only to characters, but to people too. Especially when you’re the hero of your own story.
Brig: Although your script was fast-paced, I would guess that characters, rather than set pieces, are of fundamental importance to you, given that you named your first film after the main character.
Characters are the most important to me. In my storytelling, they’re everything. They really are. Sure there are tricks – plot being one of them – that might keep a story “moving” but if you don’t care about the characters, if you don’t empathise with them, or find them intriguing, plot-driven storytelling is utterly forgettable.
Here’s the way I see it: HANNA, my first draft, the one that sold and is easily downloadable on the world wide web, was a plot hole nightmare. But it made it on the blacklist. It was extremely well liked and, by a rabid few, loved (including Joe Wright who invited me to come to Berlin for four months). It came down to character, to the right emotion, to a mood, to a tone. A broken plot is forgivable when your characters and the world they live in are unforgettable.
The title, well, that’s what the movie is: it’s Hanna. There were versions later that might have been entitled ERIK AND MARISSA or just MARISSA and I get that. There are not many young actresses studios would support to be their Hanna. But it’s Hanna’s story. I’m really glad they kept that title, by the way. They could’ve changed it and they didn’t. I respect that. I’m also glad Saoirse exists.
Brig: It would be great if you talked about the process of creating your characters.
Character creation. This is really hard. Actually this whole thing is really hard. We’re talking about a very esoteric thing, man. Writing is transcendent truth lived. Any art that lets you connect to the “spirits”. I’m talking about it now, with you, but it’s not a conscious act for me (and when it is – fuck, I write like shit). I’m not sure where my characters come from. Maybe they’re mirrors of myself. Maybe they’re mirrors of people I’ve met. They all start out broken. With good and bad. None is the antagonist or the protagonist. Everyone is the antagonist and the protagonist. I’m sure there are check lists out there that tell you what a good character is, and how to characterize, I don’t use them. I just know what a good character is (or, I should say, I know what a good character is to me. I know what I’m interested in).
As a man, do I find it a challenge to write female characters? No. Not at all. I study people and people aren’t that different from one another (male, female, child, adult). I think we try, maybe for evolutionary purposes, to find differences, but when you boil it all away we are so fucking alike.
I will say that I actually write children really well. Why is that, do you ask? Well, one, I think of myself as a child and, two, children are endlessly fascinating to me. We as a society truly underestimate children and we sometimes dismiss them. It comes back to this compartmentalizing again. It’s like we forget that children are always learning, every single minute of the day, that they are so much more interested in the world around them than we are. They are becoming functional human beings, sucking up and filtering every stimulus placed in front of them. Until tragedy strikes – “adulthood.” You know what I hate, I hate when someone says, “You’re being childish, Seth.” So infuriating. Of course I’m being childish. It’s like adults forget where they come from, like being a child was shameful or something.
We are all children, naked babies, learning how to walk everyday always. Just because we’ve learned how to shut off the endless flow of stimulus, that we find comfort in categories (for example), does not make us “adult.” It’s so silly to me. I really enjoy my life because I try to be a child, I try to be open to everything. Good and bad.
I read a snippet of an interview with Joe Wright – on Wikipedia so it might be apocryphal – where he talks about how fairytale archetypes were a huge influence: Marissa being the wicked witch, Erik the woodcutter (and mentor); Hanna the innocent girl/hunter hero.
He definitely connected to the Grimm element of the storyline. I also think it was a nice way to sell the film. It is a fairytale after all, but he definitely wanted to bring that archetypal symbolism to the design and look of the film (and the look of the actors). He wanted to make it literal and not leave it entirely to subtext. I thought it at the time, as he was showing me drawings and photos, a brilliant way to render the world. And seeing it in the final film, it is amazing.
Hanna is an especially compelling character, because although she is a ruthless killer, she still maintains a kind of purity; also it’s refreshing that the one archetype she is never presented as is the damsel in distress.
I completely agree. It’s impossible for Hanna to ever be in real danger physically which leaves only one vulnerability – her emotion. She’s sort of like SUPERMAN. Her kryptonite, if she has one, is her own heart.
It could be said that your script strays into a – here we go – Freudian territory: the Electra complex of a girl killing her mother to be alone with her father.
Hmm. I never thought about it that way. Although Hanna’s not a feral child in the pure sense (i.e. raised by wolves), feral children and children exposed to neglect (emotional and physical) tend to be asexual. Sexuality, it seems, is a social construct. In many ways, Erik is asexual too. But I think in hindsight you could lace in the Elektra complex. But like a lot of literary criticism, it is best left to hindsight. As a writer, I was not conscious of this element. But, as a reader, I can see what you’re saying.
What do you think about archetypes in general? I imagine that, like genre, they can both be enabling and limiting.
They’re good to reference for sure, but never as a prescriptive tool. I think you will hurt your writing if you start out saying, “I will have a hero, and a trickster, and a damsel and a Freudian underpinning.” Archetypes like genre and structural paradigms are really great in hindsight. They’re a nice way to break something apart into pieces, or, perhaps, like Joe did, a way to frame the unrecognizable (because I think of Directors as ultimate readers).
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be aware or study these categories by the way. I’m not a savant. I’ve read every book on storytelling I can get my hands on (I’m currently reading a book of literary criticism – the origins of story – based on the theory of evolution). I just never, ever use them as prescriptive tools. Does that make sense? I basically prepare myself with experiences and influences and, when the time comes, let fly.
My sister attended a semester abroad and met a fellow named Kieran Murphy. He is a mad film genius and aspiring filmmaker who decided it would be a good idea to quiz me for his Uni’s newspaper. Here is Part 1 (!) of his questions and my answers:
Interview: Seth Lochhead (Part 1) for Brig Newspaper (University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland) (source: brignewspaper.com)
Growing up in an isolated forest in Finland, trained in combat and survival by her father Erik (Eric Bana), Hanna (the preternaturally talented Saoirse Ronan) is suddenly propelled out into the modern world with one goal: kill the CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett).
Written for his film course while he was in his early twenties, Seth Lochhead’s Hanna was eventually picked up by Focus Features and found its way onto Hollywood’s Black List (despite the ominous sounding name this is actually a list of the year’s ten best unmade scripts). After being considered by Danny Boyle and Alfonso Cuaron, it fell into the hands of Joe Wright. A departure for Wright, who was best known as the director of period dramas such as Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, Hanna brought a pumping, arthouse aesthetic into the mainstream cinema and garnered rave reviews worldwide.
I was privileged enough to interview Seth over email. Instead of pursuing the typical E!/MTV line of questioning (what is Cate Blanchett really like as a person, and just how did Eric Bana get that body?), I decided to quiz Seth on screenwriting. We got carried away and the wordcount ballooned. The interview is therefore broken into three parts: Introduction and Story; Character; and the Writing Process.
Brig: What made you want to write films?
Seth: It was never about writing films for me. I loved them. I loved the way they could make you feel (that inexplicable feeling you get when you want to cry but you’re not sad, that religious feeling, the way Moses must have felt after smoking whatever he was smoking on that mountain top). It was always about the writing. I loved the writing because like the best of movies, it gave me that same inexplicable feeling. When I write, really write, when I become unconscious to all the knowledge I’ve collected, I trance out. It has been said that I rock in my chair and speak in tongues (but this can be linked to the headphones I have plugged into my ears and my poor attempts at singing along).
Screenplays were a practical remedy to a problem I was having. How to write and only write without having to be a barista or a blackjack dealer or, fear of all fears, dig a ditch. Of course I did all those things, but it was hard to go to Starbucks, throw on my apron, when I could be trancing out on my favourite drug. Short stories were not a legitimate revenue stream, novels would take too long, but screenplays, screenplays were very interesting. They were a literary form that few considered literary.
Brig: What was it like when Hanna and your other screenplays got recognised?
Seth: It was exhilarating of course. Your wildest dreams and more. But the emotion was fleeting. It was a brief rush that faded faster then it came. Writing to me is a marathon. There is no breaking in. There’s just brief moments of exhilaration that don’t add up to much. I’m currently in one of those exhilarating moments. At this moment in time, a movie I wrote, that I pulled from thin air, something that so many people – the cast and crew – worked on tirelessly, is about to be released upon the world. But I know this feeling will not last long. And that’s probably a good thing. It’s a drug in its own right – the exhilaration of recognition and acceptance.
Brig: I think, for a lot of us struggling, wannabe filmmakers here in Stirling Uni, your story could be very inspirational.
Seth: I’m going to be a bit of an asshole, cock-sucker here and give it to you straight: do not pursue this work for recognition and acceptance. You will not find it even if it’s dumped on you by the barrelfuls. Pursue this work because you love the work. David Lynch twittered this the other day: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius”
Brig: Ancient Greek dramatists treated drama as a craft. Writing for theatre was often a family trade, and story structures were taught and modified generation to generation. Is screenwriting a craft?
Seth: It can be, but I actually think that’s the problem with modern screenwriting. Writing is a craft. Painting is a craft. Carpentry is a craft. They all have tools and devices. It’s how you use them that makes it art. Screenwriting is no different (except perhaps when the script goes into production and transforms from literary prose into an instruction manual – but that transformation occurs not necessarily by the writer, instead it comes from his symbiotic partner in crime, the reader – in the case of movies, the director, the actors, the crew). Meaning, anything can be deemed the work of ‘craft’ depending on the context. Sure a writer can think of himself as a craftsman, but I think that limits the writer to a set of pre-established tools and only those tools (not that those tools aren’t necessary or helpful).
Unlike the carpenter, the writer is not bound to the laws of physics. He is bound only by the laws of his or her imagination. Yes, I just said that.
Brig: So you don’t agree with William Goldman when he asserts, ‘screenplay is structure’?
Seth: William Goldman is a brilliant guy to read. He’s not a prescriptive guru. His scripts prove he knows what he’s doing, but I would counter his statement and say, “screenplay has structure.” Words have structure. Language has structure. Human beings have this wonderful way of structuring something out of nothing, finding meaning in nothingness, staring into the abyss, and maybe, seeing something staring back (there’s nothing there… right?). The best screenplays probably have some sort of logic in their structure that starts with the writer. Does having a recognizable, pre-established structure help you get work on a practical level? Yes. Of course. Am I so noble that I don’t have these structures in my tool box? No, man. I’m most definitely a compromised whore. What I do is I try not to rely on them and if I have to blow out a wall to get at something a pre-establish structure won’t let me get at, I will blow out that fucking wall and risk having the house tumble down and crush me. Figuratively of course. Because, lest we forget, writing does not exist in the realm of reality.
Brig: In writing Hanna were you informed by the hero’s journey and what are your thoughts on the continuing significance of this myth?
Seth: Sure. The hero’s journey to me is the story of a single human life that transcends context. It’s a great structure because we all experience our own hero’s journey. We are the hero’s of our own stories after all. We’re all trained at birth, given a certain set of tools to function in the world, we meet new people along the way, some are good, some are bad, and some are undecided. We collect more tools and grow and learn. We have conflicts, we win and lose battles, and at the end of the day, if we’re lucky, we find a comfy place to return to and rest. Or we don’t.
You don’t need to study this type of structure. You’re born with it and you live it.
Brig: Did you draw on any films or novels or stories for inspiration?
Seth: Not directly. Obviously, I structured it based on my travels from Turkey (that became Morocco in the film) to Denmark (that became Sweden in the script, then Finland in the film). Those experiences were a huge influence. But those influences were secondary, they came in later. It started with an image of child running through trees. Disappearing in and out of trees. I wanted to figure out how she got there. I wanted to know what she was like. Did any films or novels or stories inspire me? Yes. Everyone I had consumed up until the time I put pen to paper. Some, like Grimm’s Fairytales and Luc Besson and Matt Damon and B.F Skinner and even a whole lot of Frankenstein, had more influence than others.
Brig: The Russian formalists distinguish story from plot (story being everything that we know happens; plot being everything we see happening); is that tension something you factor into your work? In other words, how do you decide what is a scene and what can be consigned to exposition?
Seth: Russian formalists! Man, you’re pulling out all the stops. I love it. With HANNA, since it was my first script, and I sold the first draft, it really was not a matter of consciously consigning one to the other. Looking back, I would say I was obviously not interested in exposition (I’m still not really). I find it more satisfying as a consumer of art to infer meaning and backstory as opposed to having it explained to me. There’s a balance, of course. But when I was writing HANNA my goal was to make the reader fill in the gaps with his or her own experience, their own emotion. A Father may read it as symbol for having your kids grow up and leave you. A kid might read it and fully empathize with Hanna and see the horrors of the real world and the possibilities that everything you know, the safety and comfort of your home and your parents, might one day be gone forever. Not having kids I fully identify with Hanna’s journey. By leaving gaps I opened the story up to multiple interpretations as opposed to just serving my own needs as a writer and subsequently as a reader.
Brig: Do you find the idea of “genre” enabling or limiting and were you thinking about it when you wrote Hanna, a film that combines many genres (off the top of my head: action; espionage; coming of age; and fairytale)?
Seth: Genres are tools like structure. Actually, without getting too philosophical (it’s too late isn’t it?), genre and structure are much more important to certain audience members (critics for example) then they are to the writer. They are elements that can be construed after the fact. Did I set out to write an action-espionage-coming-of-age fairytale? No. I had no preconceived notions for what HANNA would become (it’s an unawareness I desire to re-obtain). As Hanna developed as a character, as I began to examine the foundations of her personality and how the uniqueness of her upbringing would affect how she would interpret the world, I realized Hanna, like all human beings, would make the unfamiliar familiar by using her experiences and influences to fill in the gaps. The world to Hanna is a giant fairy tale with witches and ghoulish tricksters and innocents in need of protection. The balance was to show how Hanna saw the world without rendering it in caricature. Erik, to me (originally), was a Nordic woodsman, a mythic Viking, but he was also very much a real human being. He is probably the most real human being Hanna will ever know (within her POV). So when I’m rendering them, I’m kind of walking this line of caricature, of heightened reality, with real, recognizably human emotion. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose. Points for effort?
Brig: And finally what do you think about story in general? Do you agree that there are a limited number of story forms that we keep retelling (8 or 12 or whatever the count is now), or do you think we can construct more? And what exactly is a story? Like many things, the more I consider it the stranger it becomes.
Seth: I agree with you. Story is strange. I sometimes joke about how much I hate categories – don’t label me! – and you probably can sense a theme running through my answers, perhaps you might call it contrarian or I might call it pretentious. My problem, I think, lies in the limits set out by these “rules” (genre, structures, what have you). How they can constrict your imagination as opposed to freeing it. That said, I’m not sure any of us, including me, has the time or energy to truly bust down the walls and really see where the limits of storytelling lie. The writer has to remember that he is nothing without his reader. So if his reader isn’t open to exploring a new experience, a new type of story, the 13th floor, well, that writer is screwed. That’s not to say he or she shouldn’t try. Are we limited to those 8 to 12 stories? No, but we are limited by our shared experiences. New story forms will emerge as our shared experiences change.
On Writing: I suppose, technically, this picture depicts the wonder of editing. One picture taken one place, the other in another place, and with a little helping hand, an artistic touch, someone placing them side by side, presto, storytelling.
Almost storytelling. There’s one more important element to make this wondrous lie complete:
You, dear reader, with all your experiences and your twisted imaginations. You take one photo, add it to the other, fill in the folds, the details with your own experiences, imaginations, your evolutionary (revolutionary!!) ability to make sense out of chaos, and, presto, storytelling.
This is the symbiotic (not parasitic!) relationship of writer (editor, artist) and reader (audience) as exemplified by this boy and his father and their devilish game of hide and go seek… on mars… after a long, gruelling day trudging around the underground canyons gathering much needed food product that resembles something like bladderwrack but tastes something like Hungarian salami (which is a good thing) and, of course, chasing their pet monkey Mona from red rock to red rock to red rock while avoiding laser beams and aliens shaped like humans. Stupid Mona.
Photo credit: Roman Vishniac via NYT
Also, Robinson Crusoe on Mars.
Research: I find pictures, I open them up on my desk top, and float them around my final draft document.
I used this picture to help me render a gypsy camp. It is a little dated so it didn’t help me with the more practical concerns of rendering the modern-day gypsy lifestyle (but, hey, I don’t deal in practicalities!! or realities!!). What it did do, however, was provide me with a feeling I didn’t know I was looking for.
You can almost hear him clapping.