Friday, February 19, 2010

Create an Inciting Incident

I recently finished reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, by Don Miller. (Great book. Give it a read.) For those of you unfamiliar with who he is, Miller wrote a memoir called Blue Like Jazz a few years ago which became a big hit with the "under-35, Christian but bored with evangelicalism, politically liberal crowd". Although Jazz was such a big hit, his subsequent books were less successful. Miller felt bored, directionless, and like a failure in his personal life. After being contacted by two indie filmmakers who wanted to turn Jazz into a movie, Miller learned how to tell a compelling story and applied these ideas to his life - energizing him in a way he never felt before.

Now, I'm not going to do a full book review or say that Miller has the answer on how to live a meaningful life (though some of the ideas he presents are worth trying out), the reason I bring this up is what he has to say about story. He learns the elements of story from his two filmmaker friends and also attends a Robert McKee story seminar.

Which (finally) brings me to the reason for this post. I stumbled upon a nice interview with McKee over at StoryLink. The interview, and most likely his seminar, focuses primarily on screenwriting, there is great stuff there for writers of all stripes. I've read the interview twice already and got something out both times.

McKee's got good points about Inciting Incidents, hook/hold/payoff, ground rules ("Art forms have no rules; all art is guided by principles"), rewriting ("It's absolutely critical[...]What's difficult for writers to come to terms with is to recognize that 90% of what we all do, no matter our talent, is not our best work."), and looking critically about your inspiration before sitting down to write ("Talent and time are a writer's only assets. Why give your life to an idea that's not worth your life?").

Bookmarked it. Going to read it again and again.

(FYI: If you're interested in more about Million Miles, read this cat's review).

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