Skip to main content

Writing is Listening


In many social situations, I'm a talker. I like to think of myself as a raconteur, but it's more just like I don't know how to shut up. At least in the right situation. I've done a lot and know just a little bit about so many different things, it's easy for me to find something to talk about with people. When I can come out of my social anxiety shell, I actually like talking to people. But there are times when I can't really talk, I don't have the energy, emotional or physical, to do it. Instead, I just drink in the surroundings.

I like to listen. I like to observe.

It's something we writers have to do. We have to take in all the input we can. And sometimes that means shutting the hell up and just listening. Listen to your friends tell their stories. Listen to how they talk about other people and describe them. Listen to the words they use. Listen to the emotion in people's voices as they're talking. Watch how they talk. What sorts of things they like to talk about. Listen to them tell the stories of others.

It's the same thing you need to do when you're reading. Take in every bit of data and store it. These are the sorts of things you can draw on when you're writing. Every bit of experience, information, data, they're all used to tell better stories the next time you're working on one.

I've learned a lot of how to listen in doing interviews. Interviews force you to search for questions that will get your subject to tell the best story possible. And they force you to listen to your subjects deeply, searching for follow up questions. It's almost never about the input you have to offer. That is something that teaches writers a great skill. Have a natural curiosity when you're talking to people and throw your ego out of the equation: don't worry so much about expressing your point of view, worry about hearing the best story you can.

To that end, I'm interested in hearing from any of you. Email me. Tell me about what you're writing. Tell me what you're working on. I want to listen.

I've noticed that just by listening, you can help people work through their stories. Just today, a friend was telling me that he was blocked on his story and I was asking him about the problems. Just by explaining to me what was wrong, he was able to pinpoint the issue and I didn't have to suggest anything, he'd solved the issue on his own.

There's a power in listening.

Learn to harness it for your craft.

You won't regret it.

--
I've written quite a bit lately. First, I have a piece that came out for Salt Lake City Weekly that they titled "Emperor Trumpatine."

StarWars.Com put out a piece I wrote about everything we know about Rogue One.

I've been busy writing other stuff as well, so look for it soon.

I also got to go to Skywalker Ranch and ILM over the weekend and that wasn't a small thing. I'll be writing about it more. But I'll probably tie it all up in my coverage of going to the premiere of Rogue One this weekend.

--

As a reminder: Please join my short story Patreon here.  Your contributions to the Patreon help me write more like this.

The Aeronaut and Escape Vector are still out and still need your purchases and reviews. If nothing else, they can use you telling people about them. If you want signed copies, visit the shop here on this page.

As far as my work outside of all this: There's a lot of great stuff on Big Shiny Robot! and Full of Sith for you. 

And please, please, please don't forget to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter and Facebook!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Anatomy of a Scene - City Lights

We're going to break down another scene this week, and it's one of my favorites in cinema history. It comes from the ending of City Lights by Charlie Chaplin, which I think is the greatest romantic comedy ever made. 
It's a touching film from 1931 and I would make it mandatory viewing for anyone who wants to learn to tell a story.
The scene we're going to be breaking down comes from the very end of the film, so if you haven't seen it, I don't want to spoil it for you. Go watch the film. You can rent it for $3.99 in HD on Amazon or for free on Hulu with a free trial or plus subscription. You should just buy the Blu-ray, though. You're going to want to revisit it.
For those of you familiar with the movie, or for those of you who are going to ignore my pleas to watch it and go ahead with this post anyway, I'm going to set this clip up a bit before you watch it.
City Lights tells the story of Chaplin's Tramp and how he falls in love with a blind flower …

Anatomy of a Scene: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid might be one of the most meticulously well-written movies ever made.  William Goldman scripts are almost always something special. He's a master of creating something that's interesting, every scene has a kinetic energy to it that keeps you moving. He's a talented prose novelist as well. His novel of The Princess Bride might be even better than the screenplay and the film.

But today I want to talk about a scene in particular for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:



This scene comes early in the movie and we're still working to understand the relationship between Butch and Sundance, as well as Butch and his gang.

Goldman does something amazing as he's able to mix humor, character building, excitement, suspense, and an advancement of the story into the scene. There are so many building blocks at play here, and because the scene is so entertaining we hardly notice.

And the dialogue is so sharp I can't even stand it.

One of the mos…

Anatomy of a Scene: The Third Man

It's time again to break down a classic scene. One that's well-written and, in my view, a fine example of excellent craft.

I've done some of these articles from books (like The End of the Affairand Starship Troopers) and other movies (like Citizen Kane, City Lights, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), but now it's time to take a look at a scene from The Third Man. It blends the best of Orson Welles (as he's in the film and drives this scene) and Graham Greene, who wrote this particular screenplay.

Before we get to the scene, we need some context.

The Third Man is a tale of the black market in Vienna, just after World War II. It's about a cheap, dime-store Western novelist named Holly Martins (played by Joseph Cotton) and his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles.) Lime offered Martins a job in Vienna, so Martins leaves America and arrives, only to find that Harry Lime is dead. Penniless, without a friend or reason to be in the country, h…