March 26, 2019
Five koans of wisdom from the screenwriter of Blade Runner
by Michael Barron
Melville House just published The Wall Will Tell You, a collection of meditations on the art of screenwriting by Hampton Fancher of Blade Runner fame. Written as a series of bite-sized meditations, it is a rare peek into the kind of singular mind that can translate a Philip K. Dick novel into film. The small selection highlighted below is but a sample of the kind of chops it takes.
- Construct truth through lying, make things up. Be free to live, love to lie, exercise it. It ain’t logic, it’s instinct. Monkey around.
- Ink and blood. Ink means the actual writing, putting the story to the page. There is good ink, which draws me into the narrative, and there is bad ink which loses me. Blood is what brings to life drama and depth of the story; the viability and plurality of its characters. dynamic story is You can have intriguing characters that exist within an otherwise flat or confusing story—that’s bad ink. You can have a good story with many dynamic elements, but acted out by characters who fail to pump the blood.
- That troubling balance between too much information and not enough is like trying to find your way out of a dark room. If the room has nothing in it, we can’t map it out. ; a room filled with too much furniture is impenetrable. Try to start from a dark room, maybe you’ll crash into something, maybe you’ll fall off an unseen edge, but eventually you will find the light, and once you do will have a good idea of where to find the key, the door, and the path between both.
- The Muse. The angel bitch. Don’t be mean, don’t be stupid or she’ll leave you. Keep your eyes open for presents she will like. Don’t back down. Show her you’re willing to play ball. You will be tested. Make her give you everything. It’s a game of vigilance. Your affection for it means everything. Affection for what? For her, for your work. For the vision. She’s elusive, tricky. So you too must be tricky. You throw yourself at her, body and soul, she kicks you in the head. Don’t run, this just means that you must be sly, patient, seductive. She’ll come around. She adores poetry.
- A copycat will never be a lion.
Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.