Friday, January 13, 2012

The Hammer Drill in a Writer’s Toolbox

I partner with Charity at our critique group, UnicornBell. The blog is for writers looking to improve their trade.

One post sticks in my mind, A Writer's Toolbox.

Conflict is my hammer drill in the world of prose. A hammer drill is like a piston that twists with every beat as it pounds into the wall.

Conflict is like that.

Every page of your MS requires tension whether subtle or the whiz-bang kind. All need that twist at the end of the stroke as well.

Look for examples of conflict around you. For me, it is analyzing TV shows.

I like enjoy worship Justified, about Kentucky US marshal Raylan Givens. The cinematic artistry is jaw dropping great. There are no blatant caricatures. I’ve worked with people like the ones portrayed on this program. Shoot, I’ve even guarded them.

The screenwriters sprinkle conflict throughout this hour-long show.

One episode begins with Raylan appearing at a murder site, the house where his surrogate mother has died. The scene when had learned of her death isn’t shown. The writers left that up to the viewer’s imagination.

He walks slowly up the sidewalk his mouth hard. But other than the set look of his face, doesn’t display much emotion. The first glimpse of his inner turmoil comes when Raylan confronts the law officer in charge who obviously thinks he will go off. Visibly, Raylan stops himself from making a scene with the officer and instead asks about his father. He learns that his dad is upstairs picking out a funeral dress.

At the end of this episode, Raylan is pointing a gun at the killer and for the first time displays grief at the loss of the one who raised him. His voice breaks. He swallows and turns away. Curses. Memories stop Raylan from killing the murderer.

Tension floods these scenes. Little twists hit this viewer like a hammer drill.

Okay. Long post. Let me summarize:

Is there a TV show, movie, or book that you can analyze? Examples please.

Btw, the third season of Justified begins this Tuesday, January 17th.








15 comments:

  1. This early in the morning? My brain hasn't even engaged yet!
    I see your point though. Some of the best conflict comes in undercurrents.

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  2. I used to watch TV until my kids grew up. =) I did watch 24 for a while. Gotta love that countdown.

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    1. Oh, yeah. Loved 24 in the early years.

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  3. Hmm, I don't watch that much TV, and I don't usually analyse what I do watch (cos my brain is vegging out then!). Never seen Justified before, but it's a good reminder to keep tension present in our stories.

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    1. Honestly, I don't watch much TV either. There isn't much to watch, if you know what I mean. And this show is not something that normally attracts me.

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  4. I watched Justified when it first came out and liked it quite a bit - not to mention Timothy Olyphant is pretty easy on the eyes as well. But it came on too late for me so I'll probably start watching it on netflix. Television/movies are great to study for the how they do it. Like, how did the writers sustain tension? How did they hint at the past or show emotion or foreshadow the future? Good lessons for us writers.

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    1. Watching Justified (and stud muffin, Timothy) on a cold winter afternoon is a good way to spend the day.

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  5. Hmm. The only show I've been watching lately is Boardwalk Empire, but you're absolutely right. Tension does not occur only in action. In fact, it's often best when it's more subtle.

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  6. I rather like Bones. It does a good job of providing tension and is smartly written.

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    1. Bones was one of my favorites but the storyline degraded into something unrecognizable.

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  7. I've never watched Justified, but I think I may now. I'm horrible at analyzing anything, but my husband and critique partner are great at it.

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  8. That's actually something that Heroes did very well. At least in the beginning. A movie that's a great example of conflict: The Dark Knight.

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  9. now see? this is a great post for ub too!
    i am not good at coming up with such good material to give others advice...

    and House is my favorite pot stirrer/hammer driller =)

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