I have been thinking a lot about coming up with my own philosophy of writing, and in doing that I’m thinking about what it is that I believe makes people like or dislike a movie or a book. In addition to all of that, I have been thinking about where my writing fits in all of this. I believe that if a work fulfills a need in an audience then it is more likely to be accepted. It will be impossible for me to explain any of this, but I’m going to give it a try. I love psychology. What is one of the most fascinating things to me in psychology is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
According to Maslow, we all have our needs, and these needs range from the basic physical needs to self actualization needs. In the midst of his pyramid of needs are also the needs to be safe, to feel good about self, and the need to be loved. His theory is if you don’t meet the most basic needs, then you won’t meet the more abstract ones. In other words, if you don’t have enough food to eat, nothing else is going to matter until you get fed. And if you don’t feel safe, then you certainly aren’t going to be worried about self concept or self actualization.
I think a deeply satisfying movie is one in which a characters greatest needs are met or in some cases not met. There are action and adventure stories in which safety needs are at risk, and it’s pretty exciting when the protagonist winds up safe. These movies are fun to watch, but they generally don’t stay with me for a long time unless they are combined with other things. For instance, the Lord of the Rings films rise above others because higher, abstract needs are fulfilled. Friendships, sense of belonging, self esteem, sense of accomplishment, rising above self to be the best you can be.
To me, the most satisfying kind of movie is one in which the protagonist accomplishes a dream, and he/she becomes all they can be. Or else they find out that what they thought they were is not what they were at all. What they are really is so much more than what they thought they were or what they thought they wanted to be. Sorry, kind of confusing.
I think about screenplays. What sets Lord of the Rings apart from other fantasy films? It’s the degree to which the characters achieve self actualization which is so much more than just accomplishment. Self actualization is accomplishment on steroids — physical, emotional, and spiritual accomplishment.
I think this is one reason why YA stuff is so interesting to me. A YA novel or movie is frequently about a teen’s attempts to meet h/her needs. Adults are so set in their ways, but teens are still trying to find theirs.
I think Hollywood needs to realize this. I love writing screenplays. I’ve never sold one, and I don’t know if I ever will, probably not. One of my issues with screenwriting is the emphasis on structure. There’s nothing wrong with structure; don’t get me wrong. But when you get so specific as to counting beats and scenes and having certain events happen on certain pages, that kills the joy out of writing. I know not everyone feels that way, but I do because I have discovered that I am an organic writing. I do not outline. Well, I guess I should say that I don’t outline in great detail. It’s kind of like taking a trip. I know where I want to go, but I don’t know roads I’m going to take to get there.
I am currently writing a script called Still Waters. I know the beginning and the end, and a little in the middle, but not much else in between. I have introduced all of my main characters within the first 20 pages which is what I’m supposed to do, but I have no clue where my characters might take me. To plan out every single move takes a little bit of the joy out of discovery.
Well, if past precedence is any kind of predictor, I probably won’t sell this screenplay either. My hook hasn’t happened before the tenth page and I don’t even know how my first act is going to end yet, and I’m already on page 20. I guess I have about ten more pages to figure that all.
Good writing to all of you.