Are you writing in the right genre?

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  • #31
    Originally posted by Bono View Post
    However, on the same lines -- I think John August said this -- not sure if he was quoting someone else -- but why Alien works is that the characters think they are in a movie called Truckers and it's just about this crew doing their job in space. They don't realize they are in a horror movie.

    And that's true for comedy and horror my two favorite genres. If you notice a lot of the time -- why most of them aren't very good -- is that reason. The characters are way too aware they are in a movie. Crazy things can happen and still feel real -- it all depends.
    I'd describe this slightly different. The best genre films are drama disguised as genre. For eg. The Empire Strikes Back isn't really about sci-fi stuff -- cool ships, space battles, alien worlds. There's more of a Shakespearean drama at its core, hence, space opera. The sci-fi elements only support it.

    Conversely, the second Independence Day is literally about giant alien ships, dogfights and explosions. That's about it. It's a sci-fi videogame.

    I'm never wrong. Reality is just stubborn.

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    • #32

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      • #33
        This was a good explanation for how you see "write what you know" except you picked Die Hard which was written by 2 screenwriters and more importantly adapted from a book which set most of the movie up. Not saying Jeb didn't use his personal experience to add to the movie version -- but it's not the same as writing a new spec with just the blank page and write what you know mantra.

        https://www.denofgeek.com/movies/the...e-hard-movies/

        https://www.slashfilm.com/book-that-inspired-die-hard/

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        • #34
          I think "write what you know" is sometimes misinterpreted. It's not saying if you're 20 something to only write 20 something stories and it doesn't mean if you're a construction worker that you're best suited to write about that type of work, thought it can be a strength.

          What it really means, to me, is write based on your experiences. Some might say that if you're young you don't have many experiences, and it's not about the sheer number of experiences but rather the quality of those experiences. Plenty of young people experience poverty, discrimination, bullying, sacrifice, loss, abuse, fear, failure, despair, addiction, depression... things we relate to.

          Regardless of your age, we are all human, which means we can relate to similar life experiences. If a 16 year old endure the pain of losing a parent to cancer, I don't have to have experienced that to empathize with it. I empathize because I have parents, I have a child and now how horrifying it would be to lose someone you love at any age. If you've lost the love of your life to another, the writer can be 24 or 74-- it's universal to us all. Whether the loss is to death or to another, the pain is similar and intense.

          Write what you know is about your relationships and how you navigate them successfully or fail completely. We all have goals and desires: we all struggle to achieve them-- regardless of whether they are shallow or vital to our existence. What you DO can establish setting and context. Your attitudes, values, ethics, and morality establish tone and voice. Your age may offer a point of view.

          "Write What You Know" is about understanding yourself, about who you are, about what you feel is your place in the world and having something to say about it.

          Two cents.

          PE: i've also given up on facebook and twitter. Only listen to a few people and post little. It's such a vile place at times. Better to avoid it most of the time. It's a playground for bullies and mob-mentality "followers."
          "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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          • #35
            To me it has nothing to do with lived experiences. Instead it's knowing more about a given situation than the audience. I'll give an example.

            I remember a college writing workshop where a peer's protagonist was a very successful tennis player, but it was presented almost like the character was a savant and didn't work extremely hard for it. I've played tennis badly a handful of times. However, I have read probably all of David Foster Wallace's work. He wrote an essay piece on a pro tennis player ranked like 500 in the world. It was clear that playing tennis at an international level requires a lifetime of extreme dedication - hours of practice, tournaments, no social life. It's not something you can do casually and reach those levels. Tennis comes up in a lot of other DFW pieces as well. Now, I think I could have a professional tennis player in a story because I've developed a pretty good understanding of what that actually entails, yet as I said, I suck at tennis. The peer ended up changing the character to a pro in equestrian I think, to which I could offer no feedback to her unchanged characterization.

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            • #36
              Well speaking of genre and write what you know -- I also think about writing about specific things that happened in my life -- most of it medical. So I think of a movie like The Big Sick which is "write what you know" in a great example.

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              • #37
                Originally posted by zetiago View Post
                To me it has nothing to do with lived experiences. Instead it's knowing more about a given situation than the audience. I'll give an example.

                I remember a college writing workshop where a peer's protagonist was a very successful tennis player, but it was presented almost like the character was a savant and didn't work extremely hard for it. I've played tennis badly a handful of times. However, I have read probably all of David Foster Wallace's work. He wrote an essay piece on a pro tennis player ranked like 500 in the world. It was clear that playing tennis at an international level requires a lifetime of extreme dedication - hours of practice, tournaments, no social life. It's not something you can do casually and reach those levels. Tennis comes up in a lot of other DFW pieces as well. Now, I think I could have a professional tennis player in a story because I've developed a pretty good understanding of what that actually entails, yet as I said, I suck at tennis. The peer ended up changing the character to a pro in equestrian I think, to which I could offer no feedback to her unchanged characterization.
                I could've written this post. Yes to all of this. I've read most of DFW work as well. I remember the piece on the pro, low-ranked tennis player and how that grind is the same weather you're low-ranked or higher up. I wrote a YA novel and got it published about a tennis prodigy (it's been out of print for years now). And yes, I suck at tennis!!

                So, yeah, it's not lived experiences so much, imo, it's what you WANT to find out about. I'm not a vice detective, but I wrote a really good noir-ish script about one. I'm not a jockey, nor have I ever been to a live horse race, but I researched the crap out of that world and wrote a great, fun script about a jockey that's still one of my better scripts.

                I think when people say "write what you know," it's more about your understanding of emotions -- I've said this before, but there's a Tony Gilroy interview (Bafta lecture series) where he says you can never write above your understanding of the human psyche.(I'm paraphrasing). That you need to be able to understand people in order to write them. The rest of that stuff you can research.

                ETA: here's the Bafta lecture: tony-gilroy-lecture-transcript-2058.pdf (bafta.org)

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                • #38
                  I think there's some merit to experiencing stuff. I used to jump out of airplanes, wearing a parachute mind you, so I have some stories that a lot of people don't have. And obviously I can tell those stories because I was also successful at it.
                  Until I can find a quote from Pope Francis regarding one licking one's butt in the Vatican I'll post this:
                  Halloween Writing Contest 2021.
                  Halloween contest 2021 - Done Deal Pro

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                  • #39
                    Originally posted by figment View Post

                    ... I think when people say "write what you know," it's more about your understanding of emotions -- I've said this before, but there's a Tony Gilroy interview (Bafta lecture series) where he says you can never write above your understanding of the human psyche.(I'm paraphrasing). That you need to be able to understand people in order to write them. The rest of that stuff you can research.

                    ETA: here's the Bafta lecture: tony-gilroy-lecture-transcript-2058.pdf (bafta.org)
                    Thanks for this link. And I totally agree, btw.

                    EDITED TO ADD:

                    This Gilroy lecture should be required reading for every aspiring screenwriter.
                    Last edited by sc111; 03-11-2021, 04:44 PM.
                    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                    • #40
                      Originally posted by sc111 View Post

                      Thanks for this link. And I totally agree, btw.

                      EDITED TO ADD:

                      This Gilroy lecture should be required reading for every aspiring screenwriter.
                      Yeah, he's good, right?!

                      I get more out of it by reading the transcript, but here's the link for those that want to WATCH it rather than read it: Tony Gilroy Delivers his BAFTA Screenwriters' Lecture | BAFTA

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                      • #41
                        Originally posted by Mark Somers View Post
                        I think there's some merit to experiencing stuff. I used to jump out of airplanes, wearing a parachute mind you, so I have some stories that a lot of people don't have. And obviously I can tell those stories because I was also successful at it.
                        You have a lot of good real life stuff to draw from. All writers do this in some way, don't we?

                        I mean most of us just have to steal it from our friends and other people's lives.

                        Write What You Are Interested In and What You Can Research On Wikipedia? Good update?

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                        • #42
                          Originally posted by Bono View Post

                          You have a lot of good real life stuff to draw from. All writers do this in some way, don't we?

                          I mean most of us just have to steal it from our friends and other people's lives.

                          Write What You Are Interested In and What You Can Research On Wikipedia? Good update?
                          I know a lot of writers haven't dug ditches to make a living. Maybe in their backyard for homicide research or not necessarily for research but burying the past with a competitor.

                          I've never served in the military so I steer away from writing about military stuff. I haven't lived anywhere but in the western part of the US. I haven't lived in a large city either.

                          I stick to writing sci-fi mostly since it's all pretend and I've had some college level science training.
                          Until I can find a quote from Pope Francis regarding one licking one's butt in the Vatican I'll post this:
                          Halloween Writing Contest 2021.
                          Halloween contest 2021 - Done Deal Pro

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                          • #43
                            To add: I know Derek Haas has never even interviewed an assassin ( I can't believe I just spelled assassin the first time through ) even though he's written a trilogy about one. I on the other hand I knew a guy who was hired to kill someone but never carried it out.

                            Yea Wikipedia.
                            Last edited by Mark Somers; 03-16-2021, 01:51 AM.
                            Until I can find a quote from Pope Francis regarding one licking one's butt in the Vatican I'll post this:
                            Halloween Writing Contest 2021.
                            Halloween contest 2021 - Done Deal Pro

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              My life experience is pretty boring. I'm either at home in my bedroom or running around on movie and TV sets in New England. That's it.

                              But you wouldn't know it by reading my scripts. Half of them take place in LA, which I've never been to.

                              I've written about serial killers, MK Ultra, the bureaucracy of Heaven, stalking your ex-girlfriend with spy gadgets, government conspiracies, the LAPD, religious cults, stealing the Hope Diamond, corporate negotiation deathmatches, alternate universes, being on a reality show, sailors on a cargo ship, the dread of taking your kids to children's parties even though I have none, a whole bunch of crazy stuff that I have zero experience in, and no one ever questions it.

                              And the stuff I do have experience in, like being on movie sets, I take creative liberties with and skimp on the finer details.

                              Point is, if you can do a good job of immersing your reader in the story world with good characters, an engaging plot, and some basic research, they're not going to care that you just gave them a step by step blueprint on how to actually bypass the Smithsonian's security system and steal their most valuable artifact.

                              I'm guessing the copyright office doesn't communicate with the FBI, which is a good thing, because the FBI doesn't need to know how much porn I watch on my phone.

                              They already have a guy at the NSA for that. It's just a waste of government resources.

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                              • #45
                                Agreed with Prez. Nobody eats popcorn while they're reading technical manuals. Our goal is great cinema, not necessarily realism.

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