On Writing

My great obsession in life is how people tell stories. 

Stories are at the heart of every aspect of life, work, health and happiness. For the past few years I have been collecting the thoughts of very smart people on how they tell stories. I think maybe I am trying to get towards an ultimate truth in story telling, and I think it's bound up in the things that interest me: chance, fate, gambling, magic, cold reading, fortune telling, psycholinguistics, seduction, persuasion, influence, creativity. What I call the 'Dark Arts', but are fundamental to what makes a good piece of story telling.

Magic is at the heart of it. Magic being everything from the genuine existence of the supernatural, to the practice highly skilled sleight of hand - the illusion of magic. That's really what stories are, creating the illusion of something fantastic.

Something that emerged in American cinema of the 80s was a type of magical realism, (ie. the casual acceptance of the magical in the everyday), and those are the stories I grew up with: E.T. , the Goonies, Big, Short Circuit, D.A.R.Y.L., Flight of the Navigator, Back to the Future, Gremlins - the list goes on. All these films took place in very familiar suburban American environments but contained elements of casual magic that the protagonists accepted. I think we respond most to stories in which we can imagine ourselves as the protagonist. Alien invasion movies (for example) can be fantastic spectacles, but could you tell the plot of Transformers to your kid as a bedtime story? Because the 80s magical realists valued the human story over the spectacle you had a story that was strong even removed from the visuals.

I'll try and share as many of these thoughts and ideas, and would welcome discussion.

NOTE: I reproduce these writings in good faith, and try to accredit and give the original source where I can (some have got lost in the mists of time). If you are the copyright owner and want anything taken down or revised drop me a note and I'll be happy to oblige.

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