The Sorcerer and How to Read/Watch like a Writer/Storyteller

Interesting discussion this week with novel writing professor Eversz on how to read like a writer. He says:

When you read the work of your colleagues, and when you read your own work, I want you to be aware of a simple concept: every manuscript has not one, but three versions.
The first version exists in the writer’s mind. This is the version the writer thinks she has written.
The second version is the version that exists objectively on the page. The version in the writer’s mind and the version actually on the page are never exactly the same.
The third version of a manuscript is the one that exists in the mind of the reader.
You can already see the potential for misunderstandings, disconnects, and miscommunications here. If the version in the writer’s mind differs significantly from the version on the page, the reader won’t be reading the work the writer thinks she has composed. The reader isn’t perfect, either. Even a very good reader won’t read with perfect accuracy the version on the page.

i think this simple concept is befitting for all storytellers.

as a filmmaker, i have noticed there are multiple versions of the story:
first, the story written by the screenplay writer
second, the story filmed by the director
third, the story edited together by the editor, and finally,
fourth the story perceived by the viewer.
rarely do these coalesce, especially the last version.

but i love that possibility of alchemy when we venture into the realm of telling stories/making films. the process resonates far beyond any of the various versions of the stories – written, thought, perceived.

reminds me of the words written by one of my favorite authors –

We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. ~{Anaïs Nin}

Nin deftly describes our perceptions of our realities – be it in what we read, write, watch, hear, say – and supports Eversz statement: “the reader (viewer) isn’t perfect either.”


Eversz puts forward persuasive reasons why we should “Read Like A Writer”

It’s often said that developing writers must be compulsive readers, that they must read until they drop and then get up and read some more. It’s only through reading that a writer can absorb the complex possibilities of literary construction and spin out a story that extends from all the stories she has read in the past. I propose that it’s important not just to read, but to read like a writer, not content merely to ride the thrilling track of story as it careens from plot point to plot point, but to step back, to measure the distance and calculate the curve of the rails, to get down on your hands and knees and study just how that track was put together. If you learn how stories are put together, you’ll figure out pretty quickly when and how some stories go off the rails, including your own.

as a writer/storyteller, my intentions and hopes are to construct a story so it doesn’t go off in a direction not at all intended (written, thought, shot/edited, read/viewed),
and to eliminate the things that make my stories unclear – on the page, on the screen and in the readers/viewers mind.

my greatest aspirations are for art and craft and perception to alchemize.

Eversz proposes that:

One of the essential skills to cultivate when reading like a writer is to pay attention to your own reactions to a story. If your heart is racing after you’ve read a particular passage, read the passage again with an eye to understanding how the writer was able, sentence by sentence, to accelerate your pulse.
We read fiction to forget ourselves for awhile, to be carried away by lives and stories that become our own by the empathic alchemy of story. If you want to study a particular story, read it once to get the plot out of the way, then read it a second time with a different eye, with a writer’s eye.

i concur and i recommend the same two steps for studying stories on screen.
watch it a first time to get the plot out of the way and then
watch it a second time with a writer’s/storyteller’s eye.

on my first pass: i read books and watch films to be transported away, to jolt me out of my own  façade, to laugh and to cry over someone else’s problems, conquests, dilemmas, triumphs. this escapism often helps to define or soften the edges of my own life, especially if i start to take myself too seriously or not serious enough.
on my second pass: i read books and watch films with a writer’s/storyteller’s eye so that i can study, dissect, theorize, or philosophize.


all this in pursuit of my utmost intentions: that someday i may have that shot at performing this sorcery with my readers and/or viewers.~sb

"The Sorcerer Today" (and How to Read/Watch like a Writer/Storyteller)

One response to “The Sorcerer and How to Read/Watch like a Writer/Storyteller

  1. Pingback: Storytelling Michael Margolis, Mike Bonifer, Narrative vs. Story, 3:17 a.m., Steve Denning & More·

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