Monday, October 22, 2007

Bigger Isn't Always Better --Eve

I’ve been studying screenwriting obsessively for about six months now, ever since Jay gave me a few books to help with plotting and revisions. Thanks, Jay! And, let me tell you, it’s done wonders for my writing. Novels for children are very much like screenplays in that they must be whittled down to only that which is completely pertinent to character or story, and they’re all about action and dialogue. No room for detailed, verbose descriptions of beaches and sunsets, or our audience may quickly get bored and seek comfort with an X-Box.

Deep into another round of revisions on my middle grade book, I got the crazy idea that I should head to Las Vegas with Syd Field and Richard Walter and hole up in a hotel room with them until the re-write was complete. Not in the flesh and blood sense, only their screenwriting books accompanied me…what were YOU thinking?? This next part may seem random, but it’s entirely true. After sitting in my room for several days, adding scenes to make the story “bigger” I had the urge to leave my walk-in freezer of a room (Why are all Las Vegas buildings air conditioned to the point where frost forms on the windows?) and work by the pool.

Alternating between tapping on my computer keyboard and reading the screenwriting books, I got a ton done. In fact, I was so focused for an entire day that I was completely oblivious to the people around me. When I finally came up for air after several hours of hard work, I started noticing lots of skin. Not your average “What Happens in Vegas” scantily clad folks, but, you know, um, naked people. Apparently, I had camped out by the “Clothing Optional” swimming pool at the Wynn. Of course, as the afternoon wore on and the alcohol flowed, the clothing became a lot more “optional.”

Many of the women surrounding me had, you know, enhanced what nature gave them. Some of them were SO enhanced, on top of their petite waists and hips, that the skewed proportions made them look outrageous and awkward. Now, I have nothing against plastic surgery. But, for me, there’s a point at which things become too big and the overall effect goes beyond enhanced beauty, and borders on unsightly freak show.

So…and this where I bring it all back to my writing… I had an epiphany moment where I realized that BIGGER isn’t necessarily better. Bigger can actually muddy up a story and diminish its heart. Just look at Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook.” It’s a simple story, well told. And people love it. It’s happy and sad and gut wrenching and stays with you for a long long time. But there isn’t anything particularly “big” about it.

Once I stuck to my main character’s journey and took out the extraneous “big” stuff that made it feel too much like a Michael Bay movie with pointless car chases and explosions, my story really came together. So, I’m happy to announce that I’m DONE (again) and ready to send this puppy off to my agent. Let’s hope the rest of the world agrees that bigger isn’t always better.

-- Eve


Katie said...

Eve - my friend Sarah Frances and I are reading Syd Field's book as we speak! I just started it and am hoping for great advice!

We are, however, in the process of revising an actual screenplay - so, I am interested in what he says.

Glad you are through with yours - I am jealous!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the "bigger isn't always better" thing, and not just because I wouldn't fit in with the crowd at the clothing optional pool! I'm remembering some of the books that struck me most over the past few years and they are certainly about big ideas, but done in a simple and stripped-down way (Astrid and Veronica and Lying Awake come to mind, as does the movie Good Night and Good Luck). Good luck with the newest version - I love it so far. Lamy

Debby G. said...

I was in a cafe in Newport Beach a few weeks ago, and every single woman in there but me was blonde, super skinny and large-boobed. I actually felt kind of special relatively.

Good luck with your revised novel!

Becky Levine said...

And who says Las Vegas isn't educational?! I'm sure the trimming just makes your book tighter...oh, wait, there's another Vegas metaphor in there somewhere!

Good luck--hope your agent loves the revisions!


Disco Mermaids said...

Thanks Becky, Debbie, Katie and Amy!

Seriously, who knew sitting around a naked-people pool in Vegas would be the key to my success?? Vegas, Baby!!

For anybody who writes for teens or middle graders...screenwriting books/classes are the bomb! I wish I had known this secret years ago...probably would have saved me a lot of time and saved editors a lot of headaches and paper for rejection letters. Just sayin'.


Anonymous said...

"[T]he trimming just makes your book tighter." Now THAT's funny (when you think of the Vegass analogy to be made)! Lamy

Anonymous said...

Sorry, not analogy, but metaphor.

Lee Wind said...

what I love is that you were so focused on your writing that you didn't even NOTICE the naked people around you... for a while.
I love those moments writing when everything else just falls away and time kinda stops...
I just need to figure out how to get it to start up again in such a wacky setting!
Oh, and yeah, one of the things I love about YA books is that you generally don't have to slog through 2 -3 page descriptions of buildings or sunsets and such.
I think you're right-on with the parallels with screenwriting. I find that I think about that a lot as I write (focusing on dialog and action to move things forward.)
Best of luck with the manuscript!