STORY – Day One

Wow.  That’s a long day.

Got to the venue just after 7:30 and registered. That was pretty early, so I got to hang out in the lobby for a while before finding a seat in the auditorium. And the session went a little long, so I was over there for about 13 hours in all. 

A long day.

And how was it?

I liked it. 

Robert McKee is intensely passionate about story as an art form. His love of it comes out in his presentation, as he swings from topic to topic and anecdote to anecdote. He is, by turns, gleeful and wrathful, frank and teasing. He draws you in and invites you to share his love of story.

He can be a real martinet about anything that disrupts the flow of his lectures – tardiness, cell phones, talking. His explanation is simple and harsh: he doesn’t want some attendees wasting the time of the other attendees. A laudable goal, in my opinion.

There’s a lot of material, and some real depth to the subject, and he’s got it all at his fingertips. He’s obviously been delivering this seminar long enough that he’s got most of it memorized, and needs to check his notes mainly to pull back to the main point when he follows a tangent or anecdote a little far afield. In short, he displays a complete mastery of the subject matter.

And what did we cover today? The basics. Things like discussing definitions so that we were all working from a shared vocabulary, and talking about what story is, what it isn’t, why there isn’t enough good story around, how story relates to the setting and characters and meaning and audience, and how to write from inside your characters.

Interspersed with this was a wide range of social and philosophical and political commentary, along with stories from the world of screenwriting. These are interesting and entertaining. In fact, his presentation reminds me of video I’ve seen of Richard Bandler, one of the developers of NLP, giving a seminar – he wove in stories and jokes and digressions until he had the right comfort level instilled in the audience, then moved on to the subject matter at hand.

And there’s a fair bit of profanity woven into the presentation. He explains that away by saying that there’s a part of him who is still a twelve-year-old boy that enjoys talking dirty in public.

One day in, and I’ve already got a number of ideas about how to move ahead on some of my writing projects. And the desire to do so. I’m going to try and make a start tonight, but I don’t know that I’ll get much done.

As I said, it was a long day.

Back in the saddle tomorrow.

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