I had such an exciting week!
In Wednesday’s Word of the Day class, my wonderful students wrote five-minute scenes after doing a special Word of the Day cluster. Each scene was surprisingly complete, with a setup and a payoff. One student’s cluster revealed a new character, a temperamental dog, for the student’s new comedy screenplay. After my student read the scene, she realized her screenplay wasn’t moving along smoothly because the main character needed a sidekick!
Another student came to the class wanting to figure out how to take a personal story and turn it into a screenplay or a book. I suggested that she write the story out in prose as it would allow her to access some of the tools that screenplays deny us, such as inner thoughts, memories, and dreams. Then she could expand and adapt the story more easily. The next issue was not knowing the shape of the overall piece. As the Word of the Day cluster has many uses, much like a Swiss Army knife, I suggested that she use the cluster to discover which part of the story to use. Her cluster revealed four clear movements and fit perfectly into the Horowitz System® of writing described in my NYU textbook, The Four Magic Questions of Screenwriting. We were all amazed at the clarity she was able to find doing a two-minute exercise and then writing about her story idea for 5 minutes!
The next part of the class was the best part, where each student got to read the scene they wrote aloud. One student struggled to get his writing done, and before reading the scene, my student said, “Oh, it’s rough and probably not much good.”
I was shocked at the angry and dismissive tone he spoke to himself with! I said, “That’s where your problem lies, not in your writing or your schedule, but in how you relate to yourself. Ouch!”
“I don’t get it.”
I explained that by censuring his work before it was shared, he was making sure he would fail. “It’s not your job to judge the work; your job is to create freely from your heart, which is what the Word of the Day daily practice does. Repetition is the secret to learning.”
One way to help your writing is to start to notice how you talk to yourself about your work. I recently got a fortune cookie that read, “You can be your worst enemy or your best friend. Choose.” I pasted it near where I write. You should copy the saying down and keep it where you can see it when you write, and make the choice to aid and assist yourself.
Please join me on August 23 for the next Word of the Day webinar, where we use these techniques to deepen our craft and develop better stories.
Here’s to your writing success,
Professor Marilyn Horowitz