Wandering in the Desert – the new book (part 1)

Antecdote: Last night I was at a booksigning at Book Soup in West Hollywood. The author, Laini Taylor, (Daughter of Smoke & Bone ) was delivering a fascinating description of her writing process including the facts the she writes without knowing where she is going, who the characters are, what the story is (very refreshing to this novice writer) and how her pursuit of perfection is a curse. Then, suddenly, a huge heavy volume of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich falls off a shelf barely missing one of the attentive listeners. The room went silent. Nervous jokes were made. The offending book was placed back on the shelf, I could see it struggling to fall again, to be heard, to be taken seriously. I rarely believe in ghosts or spirits or apparitions, but this gave me the chills.

Thoughts today:

I’ve begun writing my next book, tentatively titled: The Travis Technique, Directing the Actors from the Inside Out. (I invite all comments on the title.) I have known for many years that I need to write this book on my approach to working with text and actors that seems to delivery amazing performances in casting, rehearsal and production. But it’s a big book. A huge book (I think). And I’ve avoided writing it for many years, for several reasons. I avoided it when I was writing The Film Director’s Bag of Tricks, partially because I felt I wasn’t ready, partially because the Techniques kept developing and emerging and wouldn’t sit still, and partially because I was afraid.

Writing a screenplay or novel seems like a walk in the park compared to this task. But now I know that I have to stand up and face the monster. The monster is bigger than me, knows more than me, mocks me, berates me and then occasionally gives me a consoling bone, a piece of insight that keeps me plowing forward.

Perhaps in the book I will wrote about how I discovered or developed this revolutionary technique. Or perhaps I will just admit that I have no idea where it al came from (comes from, it’s still bubbling like volcanic lava) piece by piece over the past three or four decades. (That’s a long gestation period, don’t you think?)

Perhaps I wil find, once I get started, that I have very little to say and it will end up being another short book like Bag of Tricks. Or perhaps I will discover, much to my horror, that there is not end to the discussion, discovery and description of this monster. I think that is one of my biggest fears – that I have too much to say, too much to write, and that I will end up with another volume better suited for stopping doors. Or I’ll be facing the prospect of a trilogy.

You see, that’s the great thing about a screenplay – 120 pages, tops. There are only so many words you can write on 120 pages, especially in screenplay format. Or a novel, you aim for 60 – 100,000 words. You see, there are boundaries, limitations. And you get to tell a story. Beginning, middle and end – in any order you like. There’s structure. You deal with characters, plot, transformations, rising and falling action, etc. It’s great! But with something like The Travis Technique where do I begin? Where do I end? Does it have a middle? What is the story?

When Pandora opened the box and let out all the ills, disease, anger and hate .. at the
bottom there was Hope. Nice to know. Nice to know that if we release all the ills in the world, all the demons within us, that under it all resides hope. So as I open the Pandora’s box of the Travis Technique to see what is really inside I pray that I will soon spy the glimmer of hope under all the rubble and chaos.

 

A Proposal to my readers:

In earlier blogs we discussed “what is a story?’. And I think that some of these musing will find their way into the new book. We need to start there because without story we don’t have characters. And without characters there is not story. And with our burning desire to tell our stories through theater and film we need actors to become these characters. Thus, the emergence of the Travis Technique.

Without story we don’t have life. Our lives are story (a compilation of thousands of stories). And our story is life. They are one in the same. No Story, no life. No life, no story. The telling of story is as instinctive and essential as breathing. The hearing of story is as necessary and nurturing as eating.

As I write this book (and the blog on the writing process) I want to create a forum – a dialogue – with you, all of you. I want your input, your thoughts, your questions. I want you to challenge me, question me, inspire me. Join me in my pursuit to understand what it is we are doing in this art form called storytelling. No topics are off bounds. Everyone has a voice. Post your thoughts, questions, inquiries, concerns at the end of any of these blogs for all to see. This will be great.

We are all wandering in the desert, wondering where we are going, where we have been and whether or not any of this matters.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Cheers, Mark

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4 Responses to Wandering in the Desert – the new book (part 1)

  1. Mark,
    Here is something to throw in the mix. I’m about to start on my next novel, what I’ve come to understand is that any story – no matter the form it takes: screenplay, novel, or stage play, already has a mind of its own. That “storymind” to take a word from Melanie Anne Smith, one of the developers of the Dramatica Theory of Storytelling, is, to my knowledge, smarter than I am. It knows everything about the story. What is my job as a writer? It is to trust. yes, trust, that when I sit down for each writing session, that the mind of my story will reveal itself to me, as your friend Laini Taylor describes.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a structure geek from way back, I need to know that everything must tie together, that there can be no holes in the plot, that themes are argued evenly, that my characters are well-rounded, that there is conflict on the page, tension from one sentence to the next. But i don’t have to get it all down in the first draft. I have to trust that the story wants to be more than the sum of its parts. Once I have a draft, then I bring in all the tools in the writers bag of tricks to hone, it sharpen it, polish it so it shines. So in that dynamic, my mind and the story’s mind become co-creators in the process. What do you think?

  2. markwtravis says:

    Rachel,
    I like the idea of “storymind” and I certainly do understand it. I understand it because I experience it every day that I write. Even this morning’s blog was as much channeled as written, as much gurgling up from some hidden abyss in my soul as it was thought out and contemplated. In fact I like writing with the storymind in mind. Yes, we are co-creatores, collaborators in a process that is more primal than most know or can believe.

    Thanks for joining the conversation.
    Cheers, Mark

  3. edith dume says:

    In previous posts you said you wondered sometimes why you teach? I know why: because this book you’re going to write, for all of us, who follow your teachings and are your students… Simple!

    Guess what? Before I sit down to write or start to work, if I read one of your posts or anything related or similar to them, it opens my portals to creativity. Your honesty and experience helps me to identify in myself that which is still intangible, clearing the path.

    Thank you. Edith

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