Sunday, August 05, 2007

Writers On-the-air Day 6

Day 6 was a few days ago, but it's been a busy weekend. I spent Friday and Sunday at the Willametter Writer's Conference, and Saturday devoted to a brutal 2 hour Praxis test for my ESL endorsement. My brain is a bit saturated, but here goes.

On Day 6, we took refuge in the air-conditioned WRW studio to escape the heat and keep our brains fresh for sample scenes from 5 more scripts. We talked over the role of narrator (always a hot topic at WOW - to narrate or not to narrate, that is the question). We examined ways to raise the stakes for characters in a conflict. We wrestled with means for helping the listener hook into the multiple characters of an ensmble piece. It's okay to restate information a few times in different ways, and its okay to toss the character names out there in dialogue on a regular basis to help us keep them straight. The theme of intentional ambiguity arose numerous times. This is a tactic several of the scripts are playing with - intentional ambiguity or misdirection. The point was made that, while we may not share all the information with the listener, the author themselves should be clear and decisive in their own head. You should know the answers to the questions you raise, even if you don't give those answers to your listener.

Between those conversations and some of the info I gleaned at the writers conference, I find myself pondering the question "When is it okay to break the rules?" Put another way, at what point have you mastered your craft sufficiently to dabble in ambitious efforts? One of the presenters I heard at the conference, Eric Witchey, used the analogy of juggling. You master the easier skills first - one ball, two balls, then three balls - before you go on to the headier stuff - flaming torches, say, or chainsaws. Likewise, you master traditional plot structure, and perhaps short stories, before going on to novels or to non-traditional plot. So I ask myself, do I keep plugging away at an idea that is intriguing and unusual but perhaps a little out of my league at the moment? Or do I sharpen my skills on something more in my current range? Intentional ambiguity and misdirection in audio (or, perhaps, in any writing) seem to fall into the category of more ambitious efforts. Absolutely worth attempting, but go in with your eyes open.

Anyhoo, those are my musings of the moment. Script drafts are due next week, so we're all putting noses to the grindstone at the moment. Sam is lining up actors for a full day of readings on Saturday, August 11.

More next week!

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