The Importance of Focus

I’m reading an AMAZING book right now called The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.  (Thanks, Ryan, for suggesting it!)

Like so many things in my life, this book showed up right when I needed it.  It’s no easy task to write a novel; it’s no easy task to write a screenplay (let alone a successful representation of either).  Even more challenging, writing a script that’s actually made into a film.  Now stack them on top of each other. Write a novel, then pick it apart, culling from it what would make the best screenplay.  Take those elements and map them out with elegant structure, making sure it rises when it’s supposed to rise and falls when it’s supposed to fall. Then, you’ve got to sit your ass down and write a feature film screenplay in proper format (thank god for Final Draft).

It’s all possible, of course, but for a young writer like me to accomplish this, I must be on a constant learning journey. Ever since I decided to tell this love story (in both written and visual form), I’ve educated myself nearly every day.  That began with a creative writing degree and has continued with books, notes, blogs, emails/lunches with fellow writers, youtube, meditation, running, screaming.  You name it, I’ve dipped into it.  In this journey, Vogler’s book is one of the bright spots so far.

I’m only a pinch into the book, but I’ve already had many “ah ha” moments.  If you’re geeking out with me, read on…

The first: FOCUS

“There is only so much focus available in a given work, and it seems the more elements you take out of composition, the more focus is poured into those that remain.  Cutting lines, pauses, and entire scenes sharpened the focus on the elements that were left, as if a large number of diffuse spotlights had been concentrated into a few bright beams aimed at select important points.” – Vogler

Brilliant nugget there.  One that was like a spear into my storyteller heart.  Oftentimes, I find that I shine too many lights, focus on too many elements. This is true for my life in general (always have way too many irons in the fire), and it also bleeds into my writing practice.  This sparkling jewel will forever be a part of my writer’s toolbox from now on.

Other tidbits of tremendous power: the way Vogler breaks down the screenplay’s Three Act structure.

Even though Vogler doesn’t use the Three Act verbiage, but instead the “Hero’s Journey,” he does break down the traditional Act I into five parts:

(1) Ordinary World

(2) Call to Adventure

(3) Refusal of the Call

(4) Mentor

(5) First Threshold

Seeing it broken down in this way was another “ah ha” moment.  It has given me a new lens for which to see Grace and Harper’s story and it’s made a huge difference.  I’ve reorganized Act I of Jukebox now and it really feels right. Now, onto Act II….

I finally feel the flow!  Hallelujah!

One Response to “The Importance of Focus”

  1. Nebina
    April 15, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Brilliant! Great information and so well written ;)…I for one will be searching out this book and adding it to my literary arsenal.

    Thank you!

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