On Story: “Raising Stakes, Reversals, and Payoffs”

Since I was a young girl, I wanted to be a writer. Novels, novellas, biographies, autobiographies, poetry, and song lyrics impress me. From the Southern style of Harper Lee to the brilliance of Bernie Taupin, I’ve always wished I could create something worthwhile and enjoy knowing the thought processes of these pen-wielding artists. In last night’s episode of ‘On Story’, Shane Black presented a few ideas for writers and audiences to ponder — I found many of his techniques helpful.

He claims that all films are thrillers based on series of events and character development. I tend to disagree with Black. What about a film like Big (1988) starring Tom Hanks? Sure, you’re stuck wondering how on Earth this kid is going to revert back into childhood… but is it truly thrilling? We all know he’s going to be a kid again — if it’s possible for him to turn into an adult overnight, surely there’s a way to reverse it. Is a dance on a giant piano at FAO Schwarz with Robert Loggia terribly thrilling? As a sidebar, I’d like to add that I constantly wish there was a Big sequel based on Elizabeth Perkins’ character and her recurring visits to the psychiatrist because of her relationship with an adult turned teenager; that, in itself, would be a “thriller”.

The example Black uses from The Long Kiss Goodbye kind of threw me for a loop, also.   I’ve never seen the film, but if my mother was as stern as Geena Davis’ character… I don’t think I would light a vigil for her in the window every night and store the matches in my cast. How long did the girl have the cast, anyway? Sometimes the saving grace in thriller films are kind of far-fetched. But I agree… the “why didn’t I think of that?!” moment is always satisfying.

If you missed this episode of ‘On Story’, PBS has the full archive available online. Next week, the creative minds behind Star Trek, El Mariachi, Watchmen, and Transformers will be featured on ‘On Story’ as they discuss the challenges creators face when creating a fantasy world, so tune in at 5:30P on KACV!


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