Zen in the Art of Writing: ‘The Secret Mind’

Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy this chapter as much as I did previous ones. The Secret Mind deals a lot with playwriting, and, to be honest, when I first saw that, I cringed. Writing plays is one area of creative writing I’ve never really been particularly interested in. If this posting seems abridged, it’s because the chapter deals with a segment of writing that’s not really my forte. Perhaps someday when I read it again…

Be that as it may, I read the chapter anyway. Ten years ago, I probably would’ve skipped it. When it came to reading, I used to be this way: if the first few paragraphs weren’t interesting or if things dragged on after a few pages, I’d skip and skim from there.

But this time, I read. There was that little voice whispering to me, encouraging me to read. You might miss something crucial, it said.

Mr. Bradbury talks in TSM about traveling to Ireland and, as per film director John Huston’s request, wrote the screenplay for the screen adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick. Mr. B described it as seven miserable months spent on the Emerald Isle as he braved the weather and dreariness of being far away from home. After the screenplay was written and submitted to Huston (Anjelica Huston’s father, by the way), he returned back to the warmth of Southern California.

What Mr. B didn’t realize is that while he was focusing his energies on writing the screenplay and thinking of how much he loathed Ireland, his subconscious was recording the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches of Ireland and its people, culture, buildings, landscape and weather. All this information went into a memory bank inside his head, where he could draw from it and produce plays and short stories. It came to him the same way stories came to him from his visit into Mexico years earlier. As he relived memories, out came the stories.

Even as I go out and about, I try to make note of as many things as I can–people, scenarios, weather, clothing, everything. You never know what can become a story idea. The possibilities are indeed endless. It’s fun to just out and observe.

What I found fascinating is Mr. B earlier in his career had aspirations of acting and being a playwright. He writes that the plays he wrote when younger weren’t very good. How many other writers out there look back at stories/plays/novels they wrote when teens and have favorable recollections?

Over the years, Bradbury would receive letters from countless readers telling him of how his stories have been performed, like plays. This apparently inspired him to get into writing plays again, as did watching plays, seeing how poorly they were done in their frailness, lack of wit and lack of imagination and concluding he could do better.

And he wrote plays.

And did he ever.

The ideas flowed like water spewing throught he cracks of a dilapidated dam.

 Richard Zowie’s a writer who might someday try writing plays. He’s content for now writing fiction prose and blogging. Post comments here or e-mail richardzowie@gmail.com.

Writing screenplays

“Weird Al” Yankovic, who co-wrote the movie UHF, joked once about having one or two screenplays collecting dust in his desk, saying that nobody would believe he lived in Southern California if he didn’t have at least one unproduced script in his office.

Along that vein, I have thought that nobody would believe I work on fiction if I didn’t have at least one screenplay or teleplay, unpublished, waiting to see the light of day.

So, at the suggestion of someone, I am setting about to take an unpublished short story of mine and working on a script for it to see how that turns out.

I’m taking the shotgun appoach: read a few scripts, focusing on their style and format and trying to use those to come up with mine.

Should be lots of fun. It’s a challenge too, because if it works, who knows where it could go…these days it’s a very rare occasion that I see a suspense movie that I really like. In the past few years, I’ve liked Dead Silence, Hard Candy, the remake of When A Stranger Calls, 1408 and the Australian thriller Wolf Creek.