I had the opportunity to attend a few events and films at the recent Santa Barbara Film Festival. My friend Rachael, founder/President/superwoman of SBParent.com was a sponsor, so as a friend in good standing, I lucked out. We went to the Virtuoso Award night and sat in the audience listening to Casey Affleck, Amy Ryan, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard and James McAvoy talk about their roles in this year's hot movies.
Neil and I had planned on attending the screenwriters presentation but unfortunately, the panel (including Juno's Diablo Cody) fell sick and thus had to cancel. Instead of heading home, we ran down State Street just in time to catch the opening of one of The Counterfeiters. The film transported the viewers to Nazi-era Germany. I had planned on analyzing the film for character development, plot lines, etc. but soon forgot my mission. I was completely immersed into the story (almost reluctantly, due to the mere setting). Neil and I walked out of the theater a bit traumatized. Exactly what the director wanted, I'm sure.
A bit later in the week, I hauled my 14 year old son out of school (a first) to see three short films about teenagers. One was a documentary but the other two were shorts. The differences in the two were striking. One told a story simply, without fuss. It was powerful. The other used gimics, had strained dialog and strayed from the story. Although it had a compelling story, the delivery was distracting. Watching these two different styles of film making got me thinking about my own manuscript and novels I love to read.
The ones I love stick to the story. I don't remember where I heard this recently, but someone said it's only about the story. Period. Even Stephen King spoke about dressing dialogs up too much in his book On Writing. Sometimes I struggle with word choices, dialog and sentence structure. I worry too much whether someone will think the writing good enough. Do I have any cool metaphors? What about interested, non-cliche similes? My book should be packed with these, right? I'm not sure. When I start to worry, my writing becomes worse. Although at the time I think it's wonderful. Usually it all gets deleted in the end.
So from now on, keeping the less than stellar short film in mind, I will now carry forth by using plain, simple, real language. I say it like it's easy. But I'll try.