Monday, August 11, 2008

Choices, and Gone Baby Gone

One of the realities of life in our family that has long driven my girls crazy is the way my sister—the novelist Penelope Williamson—and I tend to talk about writing for hours and hours and hours whenever we get together or chat on the phone. I remember one time Penny said, “The more I write, the more I become aware of the choices I make every time I sit down to write a scene.” Ever since that conversation, I’ve been far more aware of the choices I make, and how the number of choices I have to make seems to expand the more experienced I become.

I think this is true for most writers. As beginners, we tend to rush into each scene with lots of enthusiasm and little sense of conscious choice. But as we gain experience, we become aware of those choices and begin to make more deliberate decisions. Where to start a scene. Where to set a scene. Whose point of view to use. When and how to end a scene. And on and on.

So what does this have to do with Gone Baby Gone? Steve and I watched this movie Saturday night. And then, last night, we watched the Bonus Features, including the “Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Ben Affleck and Writer Aaron Stockard.” When I first saw it listed as a selection, I said, You’ve got to be kidding. The entire movie with a soundtrack of the director and writers talking about the movie? Sounds boring, right? Maybe for most people, yes. But for those of you out there who are writers, fascinating. Because most of what they talk about is the choices they made—some good, some bad, and the compromises they had to make. I also found it fascinating to realize, by watching the movie through their “eyes”, just how many subtle little things I’d missed. Whatever you might think of Affleck as an actor, there’s no doubt he understands storytelling, and has studied and learned from the masters.

A few weeks ago, Steve Malley ran a post on the wisdom to be gained from watching the bonus features on DVDs. If you want to take his advice, Gone Baby Gone would be a great place to start.

5 comments:

Chap O'Keefe said...

I'm in total agreement with you (and Steve) on DVD commentaries. They can sometimes be better than the movies they accompany! But, as you say, that is possibly because we have an interest in this sort of analysis. Sadly, I've noticed lately that the DVD releases we get in Region 4 have had a tendency to omit these "extras" available elsewhere.

Your blog is also a fine source for insights through a writer's eyes. I will be re-running your entry on The Power of the Premise at www.blackhorsewesterns.com later this week. (I include the link because the blog's one to the right seems to be broken!)

Again, many thanks for your kind permission.

Steve Malley said...

Thanks for the kind words. I'm looking forward to this one.

Rae Ann Parker said...

How wonderful to have a sister who is a writer, also.

I always enjoy watching the DVD commentaries, especially when the movie is based on a novel and both the novelist and screenwriter are interviewed.

cs harris said...

Chap, glad to contribute. And my webmaven is supposed to be fixing the links. Steve and Rae Ann, I think you'd both enjoy this one.

Farrah Rochon said...

Fascinating. You've convinced me to check out the extra features the next time I watch a DVD. I see where I am more conscious with my writing choices, as well. It may not happen in the first draft, but as I'm going through revisions I try to analyze each scene to make sure it's starting in the right place, and in the right character's POV.