Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Joss On Writing

I'm gearing up for NaNo and have been wondering a lot about Joss Whedon's process, as well as experimenting with ScribeFire. I think it's a cool idea, and maybe having the ability to capture things that interest me as I encounter them will mean I blog about them more often. Maybe not, who knows? I keep waiting for light bulbs to go off in my head, for the moments when I start to understand things - I have brief flashes in Photoshop, I'm still pretty much completely muddled in Access, I still know nothing of programming or html or even how to make this blog look like I want it to or what to do if I buy my domain name... I've thought about migrating over to Wordpress, for the simple reason that last year I saw an immensely retro cool NaNo word counter that acted like PacMan :D Anyway, back to topic (not always my strongest point) my desk has a bunch of colored post it notes with things I want to keep in mind currently, about love and writing and whatnot. The majority are from three places: Will Write for Wine podcasts, the Logan and Veronica love story in Veronica Mars, and everything of Joss's that I've seen. I've jotted things down while watching the commentaries, like "I don't write so you'll like it. I don't care if you like it. I write so you love it" and "Give a character pain - take everything away - and they will become more interesting" which I noted came from Jass and David, but not where I heard it. I probably paraphrased, or got some of it jumbled - I tend to do that, sometimes. So,I went to the internet, looking for solid quotes on Joss's process, or the process of the writing teams on his projects. Reviewing them, I see that I didn't clip the fundamental question from the Buffy episodes, where a writer would pitch the story and Joss would ask, "How does Buffy feel?" again, maybe not an accurate quote, but the idea was there somewhere. I do occasionally wish for a photgraphic memory.

In Wikipedia, on the Firefly entry: "Espenson wrote an essay on the writing process with Mutant Enemy. A
meeting is held and an idea is floated, generally by Whedon, and the writers brainstorm to develop the central theme of the episode and the character development. Next, the staff meets in the anteroom to
Whedon's office to begin "breaking" the story into acts and scenes. The only one absent is the writer working on the previous week's episode.
For the team, one of the key components to devising acts is deciding where to break for commercial and ensuring the viewer returns. "Finding these moments in the story help give it shape: think of them as
tentpoles that support the structure," wrote Espenson.[36] For instance, in "Shindig", the break for commercial occurs when Malcolm Reynolds is gravely injured and losing the duel. As Espenson elaborates: "It does not end when Mal turns the fight around, when he stands victorious over his opponent. They're both big moments, but one of them leaves you curious and the other doesn't."
Jane Espenson on Breaking a Story
"You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you
find out who they really are. If there's any kind of fiction better
than that, I don't know what it is." attributed to Joss, found on Wikiquote
"I write for fanboy moments. I write to give myself strength. I write to
be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I'm
afraid of. I write to do all the things the viewers want too." - Joss Whedon, LA Times interview
"I want people to see themselves before they see me. Even though ultimately, you always work yourself into the work." - Joss Whedon, Brian Bendis Interview
Q: Have you ever had writer's block? How'd you overcome it?
Whedon: Lots. The trick is to walk away, either to another script or to
some good old mindless veging out. The other trick is not to give up
right away 'cause you're lazy and you wanna play. But if it ain't
comin', it ain't. SFF World.com interview

And as work? Well, in the first place, it IS fun. When it’s going well,
it’s the most fun I can imagine having. (Tim Minear might dispute
that.) And when it’s not going well, it’s often not going well in the
company of a bunch of funny, thoughtful people. So how is that work?
You got no muscles to show for it (yes, the brain is a muscle, but if
you show it to people it’s usually because part of your skull has been
torn off and that doesn’t impress the ladies – unless the ladies are
ZOMBIES! Where did this paragraph go?) Writing is enjoyable and
ephemeral. And it’s hard work.

It’s always hard. Not just dealing with obtuse, intrusive studio execs,
temperamental stars and family-prohibiting hours. Those are producer
issues as much as anything else. Not just trying to get your first
script sold, or seen, or finished, when nobody around believes you
can/will/should… the ACT of writing is hard. When Buffy was flowing at
its flowingest, David Greenwalt used to turn to me at some point during
every torturous story-breaking session and say “Why is it still hard?
When do we just get to be good at it?” I’ll only bore you with one
theory: because every good story needs to be completely personal (so
there are no guidelines) and completely universal (so it’s all been
done). It’s just never simple.

It’s necessary, though. We’re talking about story-telling, the most
basic human need. Food? That’s an animal need. Shelter? That’s a luxury
item that leads to social grouping, which leads directly to fancy
scarves. But human awareness is all about story-telling. The selective
narrative of your memory. The story of why the Sky Bully throws
lightning at you. From the first, stories, even unspoken, separated us
from the other, cooler beasts. And now we’re talking about the stories
that define our nation’s popular culture – a huge part of its identity.
These are the people that think those up. Working writers. - on Whedonesque


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