When I was a kid, my dream was to become a movie star. The drama bug bit me early on but, alas, my parents weren’t keen on having me take that unconventional route and asked I remain glued to the conventional academic course. They were modest and humble folk who shunned the bright lights. I imagine they wanted to hide in pure embarrassment when I would break out into impromptu melodramatic skits in front of our family and friends during every party.
I did, however, take their advice and hop on board the corporate gravy train to make a living. I was humming along, always missing that creative part of me until 2008, when I discovered that writing fiction is very much like being an actress but BETTER! So much better.
This may sound a little crazy, but let me tell you about my process in hoping that it can trigger some creative part of you as well.
When I start a writing project, I treat it like a movie and I take on all the parts. I’m not just talking about the various characters in the book, but right from inception – to massaging the story idea into a concept with a plausible plot to finding the right screenplay, and selecting the perfect setting and location, I am the movie’s executive producer. As producer, I am thinking about the earning potential, the audience, trends, publishing options, advertising, marketing, promotions, etc.
Then, once I’ve got all that figured out (clears throat), I put on my director’s hat and begin casting my movie for the perfect characters, down to the ‘extras’ who’ll hopefully enrich my movie with their quirks. I set aside my directing duties for a bit to move on to building the set and costume design. Is it a period piece or contemporary? What kind of research do I need to do to get the details just right? I may have to visit a location a few times, take some pictures, and draw sketches to get the setting just right.
Mind you, this all happens before I type one word into my computer. It’s only when I’ve fleshed out the characters, giving them all unique back stories, and physical attributes that I can move on to the next phase—writing the script.
I put on my screenwriter hat and I write the story. In the back of my mind, as I write, I always keep in mind my director’s hat and my producer hat to help shape the story. If those hats aren’t enough, I slip into each character’s head to play their roles. Here’s the fun part. I get to play every role, giving life to each character, and having their presence shine through as believable and relatable (major throat tickle).
A lot of work, as many of my fellow writers know, and really only possible if you have the bug. Because if you don’t have the passion for it, it can make you look like this guy. And you don’t want to look like this guy. Good luck and happy movie making.