Story – Robert McKee's Creative Storytelling Magazine Issue 005 – Drew Carey - Page 57

MCKEE INTERVIEWS STEVEN PRESSFIELD RM: So, you make a virtue out of what is inevitable anyway, and see it as a condition of life that we have to? SP: When we were cavemen, we still had to hunt, which was kind of the same thing, right? A band would go out facing predators and horrible freezing conditions. RM: It’s worse than that. Remember that body they found in the Swiss mountainside. It’s 5000 years old, and somebody shot him with an arrow. SP: Right. RM: There was a lot from hunting animals, I’m sure. SP: Conflict is a part of life, right? Like we just said, the coyote is coming up the driveway. It has teeth, fangs and it is out there to kill. The hawks that are cruising around here, that’s just their nature. God made it this way. RM: Yes, and that is the way we all understand it. How do you gather the vocabulary, especially when you’re writing period material? The names of things? Verbs and actions are pretty universal, but there might be terminologies for doing things that are unique to that period. How do you gather the vocabulary? Do you have a special file in your computer just for names of things? SP: Actually. I do. When I find the words that are right for certain things, or slang phrases, like I said, I have a file on slang and acronyms. I’m working on a story that’s set in ancient Athens or ancient Sparta. So the voice to create, to make it believable, is found by reading works that are written by Oxford and Cambridge dons. The translations of Xenophon or Thucydides came from the early 20th century or the 19th century. So they’re very formal and that’s kind of the way Shakespeare and Julius Caesar spoke. These ancient characters speak in a flowery language, and so I try to create a hybrid of that and modern slang or whatever. RM: You do. You introduce the modernism. SP: To try to make it seem real. RM: As if it was their slang, as if it was their language. SP: Yeah. To me, that’s my version of it. I’ve read translations of the Iliad, where they bring it so modern that it loses a lot of the reality for me. RM: The Bible, too, has been translated out of all, you know… SP: For Killing Rommel, which was World War II, I read a bunch of real memoirs from that time—in that era and in that place, in that same campaign. I would copy or mentally try to do my stuff just like they did it. I would write down any phrase that rang a bell. The more details you can layer in, in vocabulary and everything else, the more real it sounds. RM: Of course it does. As I have stressed many times, an author is somebody with knowledge, and one of the things they know is the names of things. SP: Yes. RM: Last subject. When you do your outline and it gets worked into the novel, how do you break the structure of the telling down? The basic structure is a chapter, but the chapter becomes a book or a part, and then within the chapter there are subchapters where you space in order to break a scene. When you’re working, how do you know? Let’s just start with the middle section, the middle thing, the chapter. How do you know when a chapter is over? How do you know? Do you end it on a clear turning point? What punctuates it? SP: Yeah, I hate it when they do that. RM: Right. I’m a fallen Catholic, and I hated it when the Mass went from Latin to English. I think a lot of people did. Story Magazine // Issue 005 SP: That’s another great question. For me it’s about the negative space, it’s about what you cut. They say that movies are just made of shots and cuts. So it’s the space between