The Writer’s Goal of Peeling the Onion©

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With our belief in the process of “taking the mystery out of the mystique” of film making and story telling, it is the hope of JCAD that anyone who has the passion to tell stories will do so in an educated and thoughtful, but highly passionate manner!  Whether a person tells his/her story through a screenplay, stage play, novel, or documentary, storytelling is an art that is one part pure imagination; a dash of risk and daring to be different; several cups of technical prowess and bending to a paradigm that goes back to Aristotle; many teaspoonfuls of psychological introspection and a pinch of willingness to hold a mirror to the writer’s soul.  Truth-telling from the heart comes out loud and clear as the writer’s voice that can be heard and felt in the hearts and minds of the movie audience or novel reader.

The Hollywood film industry churns out many films a year, oftentimes films that are “forgettable.”  It is not easy to design a story that will translate to the screen and end up being a “Blockbuster.”  In addition, not all “Blockbusters” are liked or admired by a segment of the population, who would prefer independently produced films that are on a much smaller budget, speak to a particular niche of an audience, and have a defined message to impart.  No matter what the outcome of the writer’s art or craft, whether it is a Blockbuster or Indie screenplay, stage play, novel, or documentary, the point is that with the insight into one’s soul, one can reach heights that never seemed possible.  Even if the story never makes millions of dollars, the internal satisfaction of writing a great story is an amazingly cathartic experience.

You can succeed in taking the mystery out of the mystique of storytelling and film production and then tell your own unique story, one page at a time.  The “High Concept” idea is important to remember though.  For example, you may think you’ve got a novel to write, as the result of a bitter divorce, but this might better lend itself to journal writing.  A divorce, per se, is not a story.  It certainly has story elements, but it is not a story that anyone would want to read about or go see a film about.

Although weddings are fraught with multiple stories and angst and worry that it’s all going to “go off” like a calibrated marching band, a wedding is not a story.  A death is not a story.  A Bar Mitzvah is not a story.  A pregnancy is not a story, even if there were complications and the baby died at birth.  Missing the train, which ended up getting derailed and killing a hundred people is not a story.  Missing a bus, which ended up getting blown up in a terror attack is not a story.  Missing one of the planes that ended up being highjacked by Islamic terrorists who directed the planes into skyscrapers and murdered thousands of innocent people is not a story.  ISIS beheading hundreds of human beings is not a story.  A little girl getting hit by a car and surviving is not a story.

What is missing from the above examples is a High Concept, a raison d’etre, or a spine or a theme or a moral or conflict or a protagonist or an antagonist or a reason as to why an audience or a reader should see this film or read this book. There are certainly compelling, horrific elements to some of the examples given in the above paragraph, but they are components of a newspaper article, or a journal entry, or an op-ed piece.  The idea of making “a wedding” into a story can germinate into a story if the elements of a story are incorporated with compelling characters and conflict and a crisis moment or resolution which is what the audience or reader is waiting to find out about.

At JCAD, it is therefore our goal to teach the writer how to peel the layers of the onion and get at the truth in storytelling.  In other words, we want the writer to get to the core of issues and not just develop a “catchy” plot line with an interesting twist that could be defined as “original.”  To scratch the surface is not enough for great storytelling.  We therefore get down to value systems and goals, both internal and external.  This leads to the creation of compelling characters who are living in 3-D format and who have flaws, most of which are usually not discernable to the characters themselves.  Through the storytelling, the flaws will actually come into play when the protagonist seeks to reach his/her goal.  And the result will be rewarding for both the main character and the audience.

So peeling the onion can be a rewarding experience for the writer and for the audience.  Maybe with tears?  Maybe with a greater understanding of the human condition?  Maybe with a feeling that all is well with the world?  Or all is horrific, but somehow we survive?  Or saving others with no regard for our own safety is a pretty decent goal, one which just might inspire us to do better with our lives after we get home and realize that home is not really a movie, but just plain old home.

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