Callie Khouri (writer, Thelma & Louise, creator, Nashville (TV series)
Callie Khouri on writing your own story:
“People know how to tell stories. Don’t say that there’s this way that you do it that works, because it doesn’t. What it does is it gives you stories that are like other stories that have been told, and that’s not what you want to do. You don’t want to tell the same story, and it also really irritates me when they go, ‘Well, there are only 12 stories,’ it’s like, you know what? No, there’s not. There’s millions. They’re all a little bit different. Even if they have things in common, they’re all a little bit different. It’s not the same old story. It’s our job as writers to make sure that they are different, that it isn’t the same old story, but that’s why those, and not to slag anyone who’s helping people find their way to write.”
Callie Khouri on writing female characters:
“I wanted women that I could love, that if I met them I felt like I knew them or would be friends with them and could love them, even though they were both from a slightly lower social strata than the one I grew up in. They were certainly not, given the fact that I was prepared to do absolutely nothing with my life that could bring me any money, these were the people I was going to be working with unless I married somebody rich. You know what I mean? I had not prepared myself, in other words, to become a professional. I wasn’t going to be a doctor or I wasn’t going to be, I wasn’t a business major. I hadn’t done any of that stuff, so these were the kind of women that I was going to know in my working life. I was going to be a waitress, which I was, you know. I did a lot of that, and then, you know, I’m so glad I did because, again, the exposure is so important, not just to the people you work with, but when you’re doing a job like that, you’re certainly in touch with the public every day, and so you get to meet or come in contact with all different kinds of people in a very specific way, and you get to really, really look at people, and listen, you know, and I got to- that’s the most important thing of the whole thing, is just to get to do a lot of listening. I knew it was a compelling story that I was telling, and I was having fun telling it in a way that was unexpected, you know. That’s the thing, is that you want to surprise people, and I felt like that certainly did do that.”
Callie Khouri on her writing process:
“You know, it’s just more writing. It’s more storytelling, it’s just the same thing. I mean, if you’re a screenwriter you have to be coming at it from a visual point of view, and so when you do and then you don’t get to actualize that vision, it’s really frustrating, you know, and I mean there’s always the part where you write it and you see it, and then you go to the location and then you see it, and then you cast it and then it’s different, and then the actors do it and then it’s different, and then you edit it and it’s different, but at least you’re writing it the whole way through, you know, but for me, writing is such a visual thing. It all begins with the picture in my head. It doesn’t begin with the word. It begins with the picture that I find words to describe that picture, so don’t talk to me about words, I’m the screenwriter.’ You know what I mean? That’s what we’re doing. Novelists write words, you know. They create entire worlds, I’m not saying that that’s not it, but our writing is specifically designed to be a picture, you know, and so the idea that we are somehow left out of that whole part of the process of making it a picture, and you know, I always encourage writers to think about it like that. You know, think about the picture, think about the scope, think about whether it should be, and you know, they hate it when you direct the script, but for me when I’m writing, I know whether something’s going to be a close-up or a wide shot, you know. Even now, directing television, because of the limited amount of time I have to tell the story, I know, ‘Well, if I want to put a big, kind of sweeping shot in it, I can’t put it in at the beginning or the end because we’re going to cut it for time,’ you know, so I have to figure out how to get my big shots right in the middle of the scene, and you know, stuff like that. I don’t know, I just take exception to having it be like, ‘We do the wordy part and everybody else takes care of the rest of it,’ you know, ‘cause to me that’s not what it is at all.”
Callie Khouri was a 2013 AFF Awardee. Check back weekly for more Writing Wisdom.