Thursday, April 1, 2010

You're Tearing Me Apart, Lisa!

Today I'm bringing you a little discovery I made through my dear little brother- it's called The Room. The title of this post is a little reference to one of the better known parts of the story.

The Room is one of those cultish pieces of pop culture that comes out of nowhere and conquers all before it. People even go to midnight screenings around the world and throw spoons at the screen, a reference to a scene within the movie. It's a film made by an American actor/ screenwriter named Tommy Wiseau, who is a mysterious sort of figure with an odd accent and a slightly stunning level of self-belief. He managed to raise $6 million to make a movie he'd written, such was his determination that what he had to say was worth hearing.

And... well, it is. But not because it's good. Actually because it's the most dreadful writing and the most horrible acting ever seen, anywhere, since the advent of drama.

There are various schools of thought on whether The Room is intentionally this bad, or whether it really is possible that anyone in their right mind could believe that this was good writing. You can believe what you like, but either way, I shall issue the warning right now:


So, as I was watching these little clips the other night, it occurred to me that Tommy Wiseau and The Room actually contains some pretty good advice for writers. Amongst the many lessons it can teach you are these:

1. It's good to have defining characteristics that make your character who they are- appearance, backstory, accent, scars, quirks and habits- these are all good ways to make your character someone real. But overdo it, and you end up with this:

2. If your story (and your characters) are emotionless mouthpieces, you're guaranteed that your readers will be putting that book down within a few pages. Emotion and conflict is critical to engaging the audience, and realistic responses to conflict are at the heart of having believable characters. For example, if one of your characters, mid-conversation, suddenly remembers to tell her daughter that she's dying of breast cancer- and the daughter doesn't react AT ALL then changes the subject, and it's never mentioned by anyone again... You're heading down the wrong path.

3. Writing a story that flows logically from one scene to the next (or hey, even from one SENTENCE to the next) is critical. This is not generally a problem for most writers, but it's a good reminder when it comes to plotting- make sure what your characters are doing makes sense and doesn't stretch the bounds of believability too far. And don't ever have people wearing tuxedos play football just before the wedding they're about to attend- and then show them having coffee in the very next scene, and never mention the wedding again. And... uh... don't be THIS consistent in the way you start each scene:

4. Dialogue is one of the most important tools you can use to convey character, story and conflict. Think about your scenes. Are there any where your characters just stand around talking? If they didn't talk then, what would they be doing? If the answer is "just standing around, doing nothing", you might need to reconsider whether that scene is necessary. Dialogue is important- but not just for the sake of it. It needs to be part of the wider action. Please observe our mate Tommy demonstrating a collection of godawful dialogue, emotion and plot all in the one scene.

That's all I'm going to torture you with, but rest assured there's lots more on YouTube if you just search for The Room. And as a parting warm and fuzzy thought for you, no matter what level of self-doubt you might feel from time to time as a writer- there's an ironclad guarantee that anything you produce, anything at all, will be better than this.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Claire! Nothing like visual aids to get a point across! I've actually been worrying that Rose is a bit too generic - I need more quirks and I need less of that "as you know Bob" dialogue. Now back to work...