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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Never Let the Truth Spoil a Good Story...

...that quote is by our friend and role model (ha!) Hunter S. Thompson and boy, did he get it right.

When writers work on a script that is too close to them, i.e., large parts of it really happened, they tend to inadvertently and sometimes unconsciously forget to dramatize, fictionalize and otherwise take liberties with the truth.

Ever told somebody something hysterical that happened to you, only to reach the end of the story and be met with a blank stare? But - it happened just like that! When a story falls under the You Had to Be There banner, that means it doesn't have enough entertainment value outside of you and the buddy you were with when you got locked inside a meat locker after having gone bowling.

If you are writing a script based on real events or people that you really know, make sure you not only give yourself license to embellish - make sure you vest yourself with the responsibility of effing entertaining your reader/audience. Go big. If it was funny - make it funnier. Scary - scarier. Add quirks, merge two events into one SUPER interesting event. Take half of a story you'll never forget and tack an ending onto it that is CRAZILY entertaining.

Writers get to sit around and make stuff up. That's why we're weird and underpaid. But making stuff up is what we do. Truth may sometimes be stranger than fiction but writers get to take that to a whole new level. We mix and match, we twist and turn, we find the universal truths in the commonplace and we lend meaning to life through our words.

How do you know if the truth of your story (should you find yourself in that position) is weighing down your story and sucking away the entertainment value? Well, this is something you will probably discover when you get feedback. But I will tell you this - a good measure of whether or not you are too close to the material is how you react to that feedback. I can't tell you how many times I have heard writers indignantly say - but it really happened that way! If the blood pressure goes up - you may be too close to your material. And that is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and see if you are writing for yourself - or for an audience of perfect strangers.

Unless you plan to produce, direct, cast, star in, promote, distribute, advertise and exhibit your own movie, you must remember that this is bread and circus. It's great to be inspired by stuff that happens in our lives or in the lives of others that we may observe. Just don't forget to take it up a notch and take things to their highest logical entertaining conclusion.

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Anonymous said...

hi there, i was just surfing the net to try and find some material for a speech i am writing on whether the media should use sensationalism or just tell the plain truth as it is, i was wondering if i could quote you in my speech, it is nothing big, just a school project, but i think what you have said is very true and value your idea on this matter. i will check this blog daily, hope for a reply soon.


Julie Gray said...

Wow Eli, I am flattered! Email me at my regular email: and tell me which part of that you plan to use. I am honored.

Anonymous said...

ok cheers will do

Anonymous said...