Monday, March 29, 2010

I got my MFA at the cineplex

What can this guy (the fellow with the supercilious smirk and the cool specs) teach a writer about writing?

Okay, okay. So my title has already ticked off all the MFA survivors out there, and the Dude in Black is probably a male model who knows beans about directing. Bear with me.

I love movies. I love television. Yeah, I'm a writer, and I admit that. I love both movies and television because I love, love, love a story. I am addicted to stories, and I'm not picky about format, though I am picky about quality and authors.

The greatest thing since sliced bread, when it comes to movies today, is the bonus parts of a DVD. The director's commentary -- oooh. So helpful, but time-consuming. I seldom have time to watch a movie once, much less twice. And then there are the deleted scenes.

Deleted scenes are the bestest things (yes, I know, no such word as bestest). I save them for last, when I've watched the movie and have decided whether it's a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. If it's a thumbs-down, I weep momentarily for the wasted time that I shall never get back.

Thumbs-up? I jump on those deleted scenes like a puppy on a pair of Manolo Blahnik stilettos. It is amazing to see what the director thought he (or she) needed while in the throes of creativity, and then decided, eh, newp.

And usually the decision is pulverizingly, obviously right. The scene was just so much fluff and didn't propel the story on.

Writers (uh, I'm talking to me, now) can learn a thing or two from that.

First, I shouldn't mind the effort of creating a scene that may well later be axed. Maybe I needed to write that sucker in order for me to better understand the character. Or the setting. Or the backstory. After all, at least it didn't cost me film and the salaries of a movie crew and movie stars.

Second, sometimes you don't know what you don't need until you've processed everything. That's why they chop scenes at the editing stage.

Third, like any good lab rat, I can learn from my mistakes (well, theoretically, anyway.) Maybe I can realize, as I'm writing (or better yet, as I'm planning!), that I don't need to bog the reader down in a scene that is only important to me and to my understanding of the world I'm creating.

Probably this will happen when I also find oil under the petunias and subsequently spend my days on a beach with a cute waiter bringing cool drinks and delicious munchies. But a girl can dream, no?


Piedmont Writer said...

Excellent post! I feel the exact same way. I always end up writing a lot more that I need but that's only to feed the ego-maniac inside my head. I have to put in that "phone scene" or how else will I know that the guy is coming over. And then in the end I take it out anyway because I realize my reader isn't that stupid.

Al said...

I have always written piles more than needs to be in my stories.

Sometimes the out-take forms part of the back-story for me.
Other times it just never happened.

I love deleted scenes on DVDs. At least the ones that were filmed. Not the dodgy ones where they show you concept boards with a voice over.


Publish or Perish

Linda G. said...

Oooh, good post! I have a whole file of my deleted scenes I can't bear to get rid of completely. I'm thinking they should go in an appendix, if I'm ever fortunate enough to get my book published. Kinda of a blooper reel for readers. ;)

Cynthia Reese said...

It's comforting to know that I'm not the ONLY one who does this!

And Linda, I just save the really GOOD scenes and cannibalize those scenes for future books where you DO need to show that scene. Consider it literary recycling!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Ha! I love watching the "deleted scenes" too. It's interesting to see why they're cut when you look at the whole picture.
I write the most in the first chapter. Probably because it's all in my head and has to come out immediately. Then I realize it's all info dump. LOL

T. Anne said...

I'm curious now to watch those tidbits next time I'm watching a movie. It's true editing can be your best friend. It funny how we delete those scenes we once thought we so needed! Fun post.

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Hi Cynthia! Thanks for stopping by my blog and I'm glad to find yours. :)

I am currently bummed because I think I need to ditch my entire first chapter of my WIP and change it up. It's necessary to make it work better, but I liked it. :) Ahh, well. It shall now be another of my deleted scenes, and one day I will look back on my completed novel and laugh patronizingly at the obviously ill-fittedness of it. Right? :)

BTW, my aunt is an editor at Harlequin! ;) Too bad for me that I write YA and not adult romance!

Stephanie Faris said...

My ex-husband was REALLY into movies and I learned more than I needed to know about those documentaries and director's commentaries. I did find it funny in the commentary for Armageddon when Ben Affleck commented on how silly it was to believe that it would be easier to train a bunch of oilmen to be astronauts than to train a bunch of astronauts to drill for oil. I'd never thought about that until I heard that commentary!

Tawna Fenske said...

LOL, I was just watching deleted scenes for "Sideways" and saw one where the main character hits a dog with his car, and another where vultures are eating the dog carcass. Suffice it to say, I think the movie was better off without those!


Mia said...

Great post, Cynthia! I too, love movies, or anything that involves a story :)

And I have way too many parts in my novels where they should become 'deleted scenes'. Haha, that's what editing is for, I guess!

Cynthia Reese said...

Jennifer, I am CRAZY with the first chapter. I write it, three, four times. Drives my CPs crazy. "This is it," I tell them, and the next day, "Nope, THIS is it."

Al, no, I'm definitely NOT talking about the dodgy storyboards -- two thumbs down on those!

T.Anne, I shall say it until I no longer fear it: editing is my friend. Editing is my friend. Editing is ... :-)

Lindsey, my hat's off to ALL of Harlequin's editors! They do a FABULOUSLY awesome job, and they have such sunny personalities. What MEDS do they take up there, anyway??

Stephanie, too funny about Ben Affleck's observation -- he's right! (And yummy!)

Ewww, Tawna, you're so right. Those gnarly bits definitely needed to end up on the cutting room floor.

Mia and Jennifer, I give ALL of us permission to cut ourselves some slack!