Saturday, April 4, 2020

When I taught filmmaking I was constantly asked, “What does it take to be a success in the industry?” I’ve concluded that five principles are involved in every field of endeavor.

  • Philosophy. Personal attitude, persistence, will, focus, endurance, confidence, courage, self-honesty, fear, desire, goals, determination, and work ethic.
  • Business. Networking, marketing, social skills, promotional, deal making, professionalism, capital, efficiency, the economy, and even taxes.
  • Craft or Technical. The prevailing science, rules, and principles that govern the construction of the product you are producing.
  • Art or Creativity. Unseen things we bring to our work, like inspiration, emotion, talent, vision, insight, design, imagination, and ingenuity.
  • The Breaks. God or Luck, whichever you choose to believe in. We need breaks, but Luck and God are entirely out of our control.
Depending on the field, different aspects of these principles become more or less important. If I am a carpenter, once I obtain a job–assuming I don’t cut my hand off with a saw or something–I don’t need the breaks. My skill and experience become far more important to my success. If I'm a prizefighter, along with skill, I will need an abundance of determination, endurance, will, courage, and confidence.

In fiction writing, there are books aplenty that cover the technical elements, rules, and principles of the craft–everything from theme, plot, characters, climax, formats, exposition, foreshadowing, point of view, punctuation, sentence structure, and much more. These may make a story “correct,” but not great.

It is that indefinable Magic Something that makes a story great, that thing that moves your reader to an emotional response; happy, sad, fear, excitement, love, or hate. Without that, your story has failed no matter how many rules you obey. With it, you can break some traditional rules and still have a successful story. If you are not moved by your own story, don’t expect your reader to be.

You must give your creation spirit and life. You must implant in your creation that elusive, all-important, divine device that reaches into the soul of your reader and awakens something that they can spiritually unite with. You must become vulnerable enough to expose your true, honest, inward self–a piece of yourself that is unique yet common to all. You must transplant your heart into your creation with a beat so loud your reader cannot only hear it, but feel it. This will transform good writing into a living, breathing, thing, with an eternal life of its own.

Lawrence is the author of Free To Love, Tales from Springtown, and several other books. Learn more about Lawrence or his books at 

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