A DRAMATIST’S TALE: Living Life and Writing BIG by Sally J. Walker
The majority of people, young and older alike, begin creating tentatively, insecure in the “worthiness” of the creation. The young know they will be “judged” by their teachers; the older folks feel they will be judged by their peers, family, friends. Some unleash a hunger for “how this artistic discipline works” and go on to study and diligently practice. The lucky few find mentors who give them permission to explore and grow into unchartered realms. A select number of these Creatives then become the icons who go where their predecessors could not imagine or attempt. In turn, the elite of these can open their souls to become the mentors of those who come to them hungry for knowledge and advice. This is the cycle of the creative life. And it begins with the niggling desire to create what glimmers to life in the mind, the concept that nags until the person brings it into the light and makes it real. The true creative soul lurks in the person who cannot ignore the “calling” to begin.
Is merely the DESIRE to create a cinematic story enough? For some just getting it into words is enough, but for others (like me) there is the whispering in the mind that wants more, more of everything If you thought “Well, of course. The screenwriter wants to see the story on the screen.” You would be wrong.
FROM LIFE TO STORY
Even the very young can make up stories. I can vividly remember when I was two and imagined my dolls, farm animals and even people in my mind having conversations and experiences that were fun adventures. As I expanded my life experience the imagining grew exponentially. My mind had more material to incorporate. I learned to read at three and was reading far above my level by the time I entered school. I remember being chastised by my Kindergarten teacher for verbally taking the “Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot” characters beyond their simplistic sentences. My mother perpetually warned me “to get your head out of the clouds.” I just learned how to keep my imagining to myself and write them down. As a story hoarder, I have some of that early scribbling in a trunk full of memorabilia.
Books, TV and film added more ammunition to my imagination. I borrowed because I had no idea what plagiarism even meant. Yet, I was aware that I could tweak and twist stories and characters to fit MY imaginings. About that same time in my elementary school life I began to “correct” dreams I did not like and even remembered that I had done it. Stories and vividly different characters drifted into my dreams. I believe that was because my education was expanding into social problems and history. My mind resonated with empathy for what others had experienced or were enduring. I remember thinking in Sixth Grade I needed to control that part of my imagination because it was emotionally exhausting. At that point I discovered the need to describe the emotions of experience. I practiced on my own emotions then gradually became arrogant enough to describe the emotions of characters in my stories.
In the turmoil and tenuous balancing act of puberty I committed myself to two things, experiencing as much of life in this world as I could and writing about it. I came to those conclusions gradually yet purposefully. I accepted that I had to focus on getting everything I could out of life and learning how to describe my conclusions. Ultimately, that awareness propelled me through the rest of my life as I charged every door and fought every enemy or obstacle.
Initially, learners simply have to practice the rules of grammar so their thoughts can be understood. Awkward sentence construction, misplaced modifiers, misspellings and erroneous punctuation create a chaos the reader cannot interpret. In our elementary and secondary education we are urged to expand our vocabulary and writing increasingly more complex sentences. It is a stunning discovery as an adult to discover we must then become highly selective and practice “less is more.” Why on earth did we have to go to all that work of learning vocabulary and the rules of grammar if good writing relies on the simplest expression? Ah, because education and a memory of a vast range gives us choices. Yep, it is as simple, yet as complex as that. Writers are wordsmiths who require vast resources to create new characters, new worlds, new experiences.
Anyone can joyfully stride down the road of the imagination, regardless of age, gender, education or experience. A writer—especially a good or exceptional one—merely documents the imaginings so others can share the experience. Writers HAVE to pay attention to both reality and imaginings so nuances of each can be melded to create a credible story another person will appreciate. Lack of imagination and the story is flat and boring, lack of reality’s flavoring and the reader is not mentally engaged.
Writers who cannot engage in self-examination are, in fact, cheating the audience. Such writers are skimming the surface of both life experience and the mind’s attempt to interpret meaning and consequence. I consider these writers essentially cowards. They lack the courage to pull angst, agony, anger to the surface of their own consciousness and put the thoughts into words. Instead, they describe “The happy people of the happy village” because that does not require their own emotional traumas to be described to the world.
I challenge you to abandon the easy or predictable story for the angst, agony and anger buried in yourself. Give a voice to your own emotional issues, your own life turmoil, your own questions. Great writing is lurking in YOU. All you need to do is have the courage to give your reality a voice through your imagination with exaggerated characters living suspense-filled plots. Be fearless, not protective. Expose YOUR life experience, consequences and conclusions. Those BIG stories from your own life experience are the uniquely powerful stories Hollywood and the buying public want to share!