Good thing I don’t have any hair to tear out


I swear to God, I have never sweated over anything as much as I just sweated over the “script” (really a shot list w/ dialog) for the book trailer for Man Bites World. Never. And believe me, I sweat. I’m a sweaty, sweaty man.

Remember when I realized that I had the same thirty people leave a building and then magically leave it again 20 pages later? That I was a third of the way into MBW without having introduced a vital subplot? When I was sweating my query/synopsis for Child of Fire?

Kid’s play.

The weird thing about trailers is that it’s so damn easy for a film (Okay, not easy but whatever) because the footage has already been shot. You look at what you have, what works, what tells the truth about the story but isn’t one-two-three in the film.

For a book, though, you have to decide what you’re going to film. Books aren’t designed to hand over the premise in a line of dialog. They’re more digressive and indirect (if they’re any good, IMO). Characters may kiss or punch or embrace or shoot, but that visual is not how the story is being told.

So I’m writing this trailer, knowing that some of these shots will be half a second long, and that it’s heavy on fx (too heavy. I know it’s too heavy. I did that deliberately–and at the request of the filmmakers–so the trailer can be dialed back to what’s possible rather than dialed up to what’s awesome).

And some of what I’m writing doesn’t match what’s in the books. The ghost knife is a piece of paper that can slice a steel girder in two. It’s also laminated. Is that going to come across in a book trailer? Is it going to be obvious what the Ray is using to, say, cut a padlock?

I suspect not. What’s in the trailer won’t match what’s in the books, exactly. I’ve been mulling over what needs to change and what absolutely can’t change, what portrays the essence of the story and what gives the wrong idea.

What’s more, the traditional script format that I’m used to doesn’t really work for this. I experimented with a bunch of ideas and kept it clear and under two pages. But Jesus, what a pain.

I finished it last night and sent it off. I expect to revise it thoroughly but it’s good to have a starting point, at least.

Immediately after, I sat down and wrote a selling synopsis for The Buried King. It’s good, too, if unpolished. Then this morning I fell right back into the text and made goal even with a shortened work time. The story is moving now and has momentum. I don’t know if others feel this way, but for me a book has momentum when the characters are pursuing their goals and Things Need To Happen. The text I write sometimes feels like a snowmobiler trying to outrun an avalanche.

And I’m there with this book, and it’s exciting. (Which of course means it’s time for my copy edit to show up.)

2 thoughts on “Good thing I don’t have any hair to tear out

  1. Rob Smith

    “I don’t know if others feel this way, but for me a book has momentum when the characters are pursuing their goals and Things Need To Happen.”

    Sometimes I wonder if my protags are letting too much happen to them instead of going after “something.” Getting drawn into action instead of initiating it. I don’t like reading about passive characters, so I shouldn’t be writing any.

  2. You know, that varies. In some genres, the hero is very reactive. In political thrillers, it’s the antagonist that drives the plot–they have secrets to steal or a powerful person to assassinate or a bomb to set off. The protagonist is totally reacting to whatever the villain does.

    The important thing is to give your protagonists a positive goal. You don’t want them to be trying to avoid something. They need to get somewhere or do something.

    And take a look at a couple of your favorite novels similar to what you’re writing. You can see whether the heroes are reactive or not (never passive, though).

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