Story – Robert McKee's Creative Storytelling Magazine Issue 005 – Drew Carey - Page 25

YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY nomenon). Sometimes, there’s just a hunger for a particular kind of book (Vampires, Zombies, BDSM novels) based on some ephemeral need in humanity ’s collective unconscious that drive sales. Trying to write one of those books that get swept up in the tide or even, the ultimate for some, a book seen as the cause of the tide is folly. It’s like selling your house and putting all of your money on number 7 at the roulette table because you have a feeling #7 is going to hit! Chasing the vagaries of the bestseller list (believing in formula and not form) is the mark of the amateur. That’s putting the by-product of the Story (money, fame, etc.) ahead of the Story itself. Your contempt for form and lust for formula may even give you what you want. You write the next huge thing that makes you hundreds of millions of dollars. Now what? That kind of writing is equivalent to winning a lottery. Why not just play the lottery? The truth is that I don’t think my business partner really had contempt for Story form, I think it scared her. She had the stuff to write a terrific Story that played off of century old themes, but to do so requires adherence to fundamentals. Not formulaic rules. Despite all of their desire to live by their own lone wolf ways, ironically what amateur writers really want is a recipe. And certainty. And guarantees. Form scares the big bestselling writers too. That’s why they often do write books that do not abide the obligatory scenes and conventions of their genres. But just because they have a wide audience of people who will buy whatever they write and make those books bestsellers, does not mean that they wrote a story that worked. In our desire to be unique and powerful, creative people become their own worst enemies. To abide by “rules” seems antithetical to why we’re artists in the first place. So when presented with things that look like rules (form) we unconsciously rebel. We resist it with everything we have. And even when we talk ourselves off of the “I’m not going to write that scene because it’s stupid” cliff, it’s really hard to actually see the form for what it really is—an opportunity. Form gives you the place to throw down your best stuff. Take the Hero at the Mercy of the Villain scene. It’s been done to death. Try not picturing Bruce Willis or Liam Neeson chained to a pipe and being tortured when you hear “hero at the mercy of the villain.” How do you not write that set up, but instead, innovate Story Magazine // Issue 005 it and still deliver the form? Thomas Harris did it in The Silence of the Lambs. He didn’t run away from it. Instead, he probably wrote two hundred versions of it and none of them worked. He probably didn’t really figure it out until his tenth draft. What’s important to remember is that he didn’t quit until his thriller WORKED. And working means abiding conventions and obligatory scenes of genres. The writer/business partner and I never did get on the same page about her thriller and we parted ways. Unfortunately, it’s five years later and she still hasn’t been able to get a publisher to take her on. I think about her every day and have faith that she will one day set aside her Resistance to form and create something remarkable.