Writer’s Desk: Love Your Characters and Other Rules

Etgar Keret, brilliant creator of collections like The Nimrod Flipout, is one of the greatest living practitioners of the dry, droll, and surreal black comic story.

Interestingly, when he gave Rookie his 10 rules for writing, though, they were quite joyful and optimistic:

  1. Make sure you enjoy writing.
  2. Love your characters.
  3. When you’re writing, you don’t owe anything to anyone.
  4. Always start from the middle.
  5. Try not to know how it ends.
  6. Don’t use anything just because “that’s how it always is.”
  7. Write like yourself.
  8. Make sure you’re all alone in the room when you write.
  9. Let people who like what you write encourage you.
  10. Hear what everyone has to say but don’t listen to anyone (except me).

Screening Room: ‘The American Meme’

Paris Hilton and Josh Ostrovsky (aka @thefatjewish) in ‘The American Meme’ (© Bert Marcus Productions)

The new documentary The American Meme isn’t really about memes, it’s about people who either make their living on social media or just spend far too much time there (Paris Hilton, DJ Khaled, etc.). It’s available on Netflix this Friday.

My review is at Eyes Wide Open:

[Marcus] mixes big sprays of social media content, from jabbing comedy videos to jealousy-inducing lifestyle-porn stills, with influencer interviews. The results cover the gamut from self-congratulatory spin (the social media-drenched DJ Khaled, who seems hell-bent on turning his existence into a bling-encrusted Truman Show) to self-immolating destructive toxicity (onetime photographer turned misogynistic party-dude troll Kirill Bichutsky, aka @slutwhisperer). It’s a glitzed-up ugly slew of fetishized consumerism and champagne-splashed Girls Gone Wildness, all captured in the hope that somebody out there will drop their thumb over the Like button before wandering deeper into the wilds of the Internet…

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Start with a Severed Toe

The Coen brothers’ ‘The Big Lebowski’

The filmmakers and brothers Joel and Ethan Coen are productive as hell, but make a good game out of seeming lazy. In this interview from the book on the making of their 1998 faux-noir classic The Big Lebowski, they toss out a few notes about their collective writing process:

Trish and Fran [Ethan’s and Joel’s spouses, respectively], they’re both always saying, ‘I know you guys just go to the office and take naps.” Joel’s laughter implodes asthmatically. ‘It’s true – it’s actually really true. We deny it, but it’s true.’ His laughter fades. ‘But I wouldn’t want that in the book.’

Later on, they talk about how they work through the screenplays themselves. Mostly they go in order. Start at the beginning. But sometimes they have an idea or image they want to include and aren’t sure what to do with it. Like the severed toe that makes a fairly important appearance in The Big Lebowski:

‘You just come up with a bizarre image.’

‘Right. We want to goose it with a toe. And then you’re left with the problem of whose toe it is.’

‘You’re sort of deliberately setting up hurdles for yourself. Is that part of it, do you think?’ I say.

‘Well, yeah… I mean, that’s a way to work, painting yourself into a corner and then having to perform whatever contortions to get yourself out,’ Ethan says.

Painting yourself into a corner like that can be a challenge. But it’s one that can pay off.