01 April 2008

the magic

I ain't no expert, but I ain't no doorknob neither, and it seems increasingly clear to me that there are two critical Truths to this whole screenwriting thing:

1) it's not really that complicated until and unless some babbling morons shows up and works double damned hard to make it seem so

and

2) there is some odd element to the process which for lack of a better word I'll just call "Magic" and then leave others to argue about.

I do NOT mean magic in the rabbit-out-of-the-hat kind, nor of the actual conjuring impossible bits of metaphysical weirdness, but magic of the sort that is the spark of inspiration and creativity—that thing that tells one artist to paint the sunset in THIS manner and another artist of equal experience and technical ability will paint that same sunset THAT way.

We are all each of us the flickering momentary quantum result of every thought and experience which has led to this moment. We bring an infinitely weird and varied pile of memories and impressions and fears and dreams to every issue, and when you tell the psyche to sit still and create an Entire New World out of sheer thought and imagination, the results are going to show wild variations, and some of these variations are going to be critically important to making one particular vision of this potential world somehow more alive, more fascinating, more deserving of our thought and attention as audience members.

There are any number of paintings of Christ's last supper with The Disciples, including great many by undeniably talented artists and craftsmen, yet when we speak of "The Last Supper" it almost always refers to a specific singular imagination of this moment: the one which Da Vinci's peculiar and specific genius gave us.

We can sit around and argue and theorize the whys and wherefores of his specific genius, or we can just as effectively wrap them all into a bundle and label it "Magic" (or choose your own damned word) and wind up with much the same results when we try to sort out how and why inspiration works the way it does.

The trick—such as it is—is to develop the skill of putting yourself in whatever specific mindset it takes for you to enjoy maximum possibility of that divine spark finding your brain and then catching that spark in words, or pictures, or dance, or seafood cooking, or stainless steel welding, or whatever.

The Magic is not what's rare. What's rare is the awareness to recognize it and the willingness to improve our skills at receiving it and channeling it into some durable medium where anyone else—"the audience"—can share in our little glimpse of the magic that surrounds us.

If you can do that—if you can recognize where your Magic is strong and where it needs work and then set yourself down a dedicated path to improving what can be improved and finding ways to overcome and circumvent what weaknesses you are truly incapable of improving—then you have a fighting chance so long as you refuse to quit.

Maybe.

Meanwhile, shut up and write. Product is the point.
.
.
.
B

12 comments:

MoviePen said...

What's equally rare is the ability in others to sense that spark, and encourage you to see it for yourself (and then further encourage you to pursue what the spark has to offer).

They're the true teachers, or mentors, or life coaches, or parents and can be equally important in this equation.

Speaking from personal experience, where a teacher did find my spark, enlightened me, and set me on this crazy, wonderful, frustrating and rewarding path.

Brett said...

But that then leads me to wonder...

'If it's great and goodful to notice and nurture the spark when it's there, is it just as great and goodful to pull someone aside and tell them—sadly, lovingly, wwith your best Hugh Beaumont running at full speed—'just not your day, kid. Hit the showers and find a new fantasy, as you just ain;t got no spark. See ya.'"?

IOW, can any of us trust our own judgment and understanding of that magical spark (especially in OTHERS) enough to not just encourage when appropriate, but to discourage when equally appropriate?

Scary thoughts on the early side of the morn this gray day....
.
.
.
B

Matt said...

"it's not really that complicated until and unless some babbling morons shows up and works double damned hard to make it seem so"

I'm really curious as to who this refers to. I have an idea, at least of the type, and I couldn't agree more. I've read a couple of blogs by a couple of guys that seem to think screenwriting should be as complicated as splitting an atom or something else if splitting an atom isn't really that tough.

Brett said...

Oh, I'm sure I was not referring to any real person or even any real type of person. More likely I was just filling dead air with words. I'd not read this stuff with a mind to actually remember it or let it touch that part of your brain that does my amount of intellectual lifting.

BUT... if I were pressed under penalty of Uwe Boll filmathon to make up some sort of amplification or elaboration for the specific phrase you queried about, I'd say that it probably was a totally unfair and unjustified reference to that class of no-talent clue-starved trolls, morons, and assorted dipshits who linger around discussion boards preferring to comment and muddle and defile potentially useful threads with asstastically moronic comments, theories, claims and wild guesses. Who demand that everyone else always explain everything about every aspect of writing, yet who themselves have no real desire nor ability to write, and whose existence is defined almost entirely by their ability to create rancor and discord among a gathering of strangers, who treat any amount of success or progress or achievement by others as cause to attack and denigrate, who have never done anything os use or notice or relevance, are not working to do so now, and have zero likelihood of ever doing so.

Or something like that.
.
.
.
B

Matt said...

I knew you were gonna say that.

marcoguarda said...

You're right. Magic. A story's own life, its soul, what makes it a whole. (Its sense?)

I begin to think that the little sparkle comes when the story is ready.

The trouble is that the story is never ready.

There is a moment when you're tangled with dead things, loads of dead words.

Then, sometimes, it happens.

It comes the day when you see something, and every single word has a meaning.

And you have such clarity of vision you wonder why you didn't see your story that way before.

Maybe good writers are able to summon that magic. But for me, I have to crank and hammer away at the story until I'm almost defeated.

Then, when you are ready to throw everything away, sometimes, it happens.

And you catch yourself going through your characters' lines like it's the first time, looking for more, wondering what they are going to say next, even if you wrote those lines a dozen times, and you should know those words by memory.

Or when you're supposed to find typos on the page, and instead you start to read the story, and you only stop ten or fifteen pages later, and you ask yourself what you are doing.

It hardly happens, but when it does it's incredible.

But I cannot control it. The only thing I know is I have to write until it happens.

...

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Such disdain for lower life forms in that last reply. Thank goodness for evolution.

Brett said...

Interesting point to consider: there is no particular requirement that all members of a species evolve upwards. In fact, downward evolution is every bit as valid as upward evolution, and given the way the Internet empowers and ennobles paste-gobbling stooooopidity, I'd say there is considerable environmental pressure for some folks to devolve.
.
.
.
B

MoviePen said...

"'If it's great and goodful to notice and nurture the spark when it's there, is it just as great and goodful to pull someone aside and tell them—sadly, lovingly, with your best Hugh Beaumont running at full speed—'just not your day, kid. Hit the showers and find a new fantasy, as you just ain't got no spark. See ya.'"?"

I would say many times yes, if the recipient simply can't get it and you are giving the advice from the truest of intentions (no jealousy or malice of heart).

Those are the self-actualization moments where the recipient walks away, looks into their hearts, and decides whether or not to believe you. Some people come to this moment without intervention, but some people need an honest moment of truth.

Sometimes they believe you, and (right or wrong) pursue something else. Sometimes they don't and (again, right or wrong), keep at it.

But if you know the recipient can't or won't listen, there's no sense in alienating him. No sense in overly encouraging him, either. Either way, someday someone is going to give him the cold hard truth. I think it's better to have that truth come from someone who cares.

Stephen said...

coulda left out the "maybe."

just for us starry-eyed optimists.

Brett said...

No, that little word "maybe" is important.

"Maybe" is the shaker ball in the spray can of life, that thing which stirs it all up and keeps things happily mixed and muddled. Without "maybe," Life wound become just a series of boringly consistent "if-then" situations, where everything is clear and forseeable and well-understood.

No, "maybe" is both good and proper. "Maybe" is what keeps things interesting, what keeps that refreshingly terrifying possibility of tragic demise as a potential outcome in almost all important and worthwhile endeavors. "Maybe" is the Universe's way of saying "don't get cocky, kid."

I love Maybe.
.
.
.
B

MoviePen said...

"Maybe" means hope!