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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Don't Even Ask

In my last blog I went on a bit of a rant about rules of writing. More specifically, I went on about other "writers" who offer up their own rules, tips and tricks and expect everyone to follow them. Well, I took issue with that idea. I'm from the Robert Frost school of taking the road traveled. It aides originality after all.

Having established that, the question must follow: are there any rules that I do follow? Yes, there are a few but one in particular that I find useful. And that rule is this: no matter what, when writing, don't tell anyone any details about it. I mean, sure you can say, "I'm writing a book, working on a play, a song" or whatever -- but stop right there! For your own mental and creative well being.

Why?

Well, from experience I can tell you that everyone has an opinion. Oh sure, anyone asking will listen with interest for a few minutes, but gradually they will transform into a critic, an editor or someone with an even better idea than you have. Trust me, it happens.

A few years ago I was sitting in local restaurant with a friend who asked me about a short film project I was working on. Unfortunately I broke my own steadfast rule about "not telling anyone or giving up details".

It went like this:

FRIEND: So tell me about this short film idea you're working on.


ME: Well, it's one of those 'kids in the woods' horror type of deals.


FRIEND: Like a Friday the 13th-y kind of deals?

ME: Yea, kinda.

FRIEND: And they get lost and are chased by axe wielding maniac?

ME: Well no, it's more like... you know the old premise about a snipe hunt? Where you take some innocent person out into the woods at night. Telling them you are hunting the elusive snipe and their job is to hold the bag open while everyone else forages through the woods and chases the snipe toward the bag?

FRIEND: Yes, and?

ME: Well, and... what if there really was such a thing as a 'snipe'? You know? But it was this mammoth creature, sort of like Big Foot? A monster. Only the kids weren't aware of that.

FRIEND: So they get chased around by a creature?

ME: Yes. Sort of like that.

FRIEND: Interesting. (long pause) You know what would be funny? If the kids were actually from the IRS, and this Snipe they were hunting was actually Wesley Snipes and they were tracking him down on Tax Evasion charges.

OK Sure that is somewhat funny, but my quirky little idea for a horror story suddenly became an SNL skit. It was totally rewritten before my eyes into something completely different. It's one thing to ask for advice or ideas on a story but it's something else to have your own idea ripped from your creative happy place and fitted with new parts and a new paint job.