East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Let somebody else do the thinking

About twenty years ago (my goodness, is it really been this long?) while my mother was resting after a major surgery event, she used to spend her afternoons watching German-produced TV movies based on the novels by Rosamunde Pilcher. She said she found the locations beautiful, and the stories were engaging, “even if in the end they are all the same story.”

I sat with her on a few of these afternoons, and at a certain point, I picked up a notebook and started sketching a diagram – I had seen three movies, and they all shared the same structure, that I could sketch quite easily. I made a point of catching a few others and yes, there was a formula, not only in the sequence of events, but in the characters and their relations. Just as in the Commedia dell’Arte or in any good pantomime, the cast was the same, the roles were the same, the interactions were the same.

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The formula

This morning I spent a few minuted talking with a friend and colleague about a book he has abandoned halfway through and about which I never went beyond the Amazon preview. In about of self-assuredness, I mentioned the fact that a book like that I can write in two weekends. Which was not meant literally, but close to it. Let’s say I can crank out ten thousand words a day – two weekends, starting on Friday evening, would mean 50.000/60.000 words in two weekends.
Nice and smooth.

I mentioned this to another friend, about half an hour ago – she’s writing a series, and she was taking a break, and we exchanged a few messages. The point of the discussion was – the time-consuming part is not typing (and she’s a much faster typist than I am), but coming up with good ideas.
Ideas about plot twists, character traits and interactions, ideas about dialogue.
Good ideas and the research to stimulate and back them are the critical point, and they are time consuming.

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