Herschel Weingrod at the 2011 Austin Film Festival & Conference
Photo credit: Jack Plunkett
We know how valuable it can be to hear another writer, especially a successful one, discuss their craft. It can inspire renewed commitment to one’s work, give ideas for different ways to approach a story and remind us that we are not alone with our frustrations – and joys – in the writing process.
We’ve asked some friends of Austin Film Festival to share some of their thoughts on aspects of the writing process with us. Below, our good friend Herschel Weingrod shares some advice on preparing to tell your story.
Ray Bradbury once said, “Find out what your hero wants, then follow him.” He didn’t say lead him, he said follow him. If you’ve created your protagonists well enough, they’ll take you where your story needs to go and, in doing so, you’ll discover your theme rather than start with one and then hammer us over the head with it – the theme needs to be invoked rather than imposed. The trick is to get rid of all the facile cliches that are the first things you go for, the easy solutions to scenes and plot and character. Good writing can only begin after a lot of heavy lifting – a mountain of false starts and stops and what used to be crumpled paper. And then, if you’re lucky, and talented, in return for your labor and humiliation you might wake up in the morning and know more about the scene you’re about to write than when you went to sleep the night before…and, if you’re really lucky, your characters will start to take you where they would go and do what they would do…and you’ll experience the writer’s equivalent of what athletes call being “in the zone”.
– Herschel Weingrod, screenwriter Trading Places, Brewster’s Millions, producer Falling Down