08 May 2009

Step 2: The Writing

Like I mentioned before, I don’t consider myself a writer, but in order to have the story of Project H actually make any kind of sense when it was completed I had to get to grips with the craft of writing and all that goes with it. And that meant books on writing.

I have to admit that reading (long form work, like novels) didn’t come as naturally to me as it should have. Call it the result of a terrible upbringing, a bad education system, the lack of vegetables or Double Dragon, I used to find it somewhat of a drag. But that’s until I actually found myself with a story to tell, and I felt this story was just too damn important for me to be a slouch in the technical department.

So I’s went and gots skillz!

My heart belonged, and always will, to the silver screen. It’s what I blame for managing to just about scrape through tertiary education barely clutching my diploma. So when this deluge of stories began raining down from Heaven (literally), one of my hobbies became screenwriting, which I totally and seriously immersed myself into, right down to the requisite three-hole punched paper and the brads needed to bind them. And just ask anyone in Hollywood, if it ain’t got brads, we ain’t reading it. And if you don’t know what the hell brads are, then flippin’ google it, and good luck trying to find them in South Africa as readily as you would in the US.

Needless to say, getting my hands on those brads were the pits!

Well, when I said screenwriting became a hobby, it was perhaps the wrong choice of word because I was unemployed at the time, so it technically became my non-paying job. Screenwriting helped me to get to grips with craft of telling a good story and what it takes to get an audience to be like putty in your hands.

In theory anyway. To actually get to that point you need talent, a good story and the will to craft it, and then craft it, and then craft it some more, and then do that another twenty times, put the thing away, come back a few weeks later and do more crafting.

Like I said, your audience need to be like putty, which means they will start out human and will morph into putty, and craft is what enables the process of puttyfication.

But for some reason I felt I needed to learn more about craft beyond the discipline of screenwriting, which is how I found myself (during my lunch breaks away from the crummy job I had no choice but to work at) sitting inside the nearby bookshop and reading books about the craft of writing novels.

Yes, as in them regular ol’ prose novels. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to be writing a good, old-fashioned novel, I felt that I would greatly benefit from the insight those books had to offer regarding stuff like characterisation and dialogue, and so I tried to absorb myself as much as possible in what lessons they offered up. It was a well rounded education which I thought made Project H so much the better for it.

What I learnt is that no matter what the writing discipline, having a good story to tell is of paramount importance, not how wonderful you can put words together or how pretty you can draw. There are different ways to express a great story, and many different kinds of people to express it, not only those who fit the archetypal (snobby, highly-educated, witty, etc) notion of a writer.

But I definitely take my hat off to prose novelists and the sheer talent and craftsmanship they possess to string words together in such a way that you can’t help but turn the pages until the very last. Well, the good writers anyway. The rest need to go to a place where you need a license to write, and then have their licenses irrevocably revoked!

So after I felt I had soaked up enough education, I chained myself to my chair in front of my then brand new computer, uninstalled Need for Speed: High Stakes, cranked up the word processor (thanks Bill) and started writing Project H.

Next time: The Drawing

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