Monday, May 02, 2005

Writing Cliche No. 1

New York Times, April 26, 2005
BOCAS DEL TORO, Panama - Dr. Jeremy Jackson is in an open boat, speeding across the waters of Laguna de Chiriquí, on the Caribbean coast of Panama. His graying red pony tail is frizzing and flapping in the wind, and he is gesticulating wildly, waving his long arms, his lanky frame twisted toward his fellow passengers.

Nothing--and everything--is wrong with this lede. If it had never been done before, it would be fine. The problem is that the anecdotal lede in present tense is a formula that has been done to death. In some newspapers, half the Page 1 stories start in exactly this way. I wish line editors would ban this old chestnut for about 10 years, just to give it a well-earned rest.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Don't Stop Me if You've Heard This One

Hollywood writers, and those who aspire to be Hollywood writers, are fond of saying there are only so many plots in the world. The number varies depending on when the speaker went to film school, but it's usually low and the message is always the same: cannibalizing old plots is perfectly fine and "recycling" is inevitable. Usually followed by the line: "Shakespeare did it!"

The latest installment in this game (sure to be on film school reading lists this fall) is Christopher Booker's "The Seven Basic Plots," a rather generous number compared to what I was once told by a screenwriter: There are only two. Plot A) Someone leaves home ("Star Wars," "The Odyssey"). Plot B) A stranger comes to town. ("Beverly Hills Cop," "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight")

I'm just waiting for the 30-second pitch: "My Mother the Car" meets "Pimp My Ride" as the ultimate in recycling.

Hey, it's Hollywood. Anything could happen. (Is Cedric the Entertainer available? And how about Tina Turner as "Mom"?). Special note to development: Lots of opportunities for product placement, like when Mom shows up on the extra-large plasma screen TV in the back of the Escalade.

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The Well-Fed Interview (Add 1)

New York Times, April 30, 2005
"I always wanted to drive a bus because it's big, it's huge," Ms. Small, 36, said as she picked through a fried shrimp sandwich on a recent lunch break. "My own personal conquest, I guess."

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