That Feels Like a Story


I’ve recently broken a story. I think.

I can never quite tell. I’ve been hammering around a general idea for a couple months involving Spaghetti Westerns, Hurricane Katrina, female outlaws and the music of AC/DC.* It started much closer to a rip-off of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” and has effectively meandered around ever since. But after some study (both the fun kind of watching a bunch of Italian Westerns, and the less-fun of reading the accounts and facts of Hurricane Katrina), I’ve finally found a story which contains an appropriate level of homage and originality.

I think. 

It feels like I have, but I’m not sure. I believe I am a creative person, but I can get very flighty, so even as I write out the story in paragraph form for the 52nd time, my mind still wanders into the corners. “What if, instead of having them go to the Super Dome, they get their hands cut off?” “What if, instead of finding all those unused, sunken school buses, they get their hands cut off?” “What if they get their hands cut off TWICE?”

Lorne Michaels has said the reason “SNL” is ready to go up at 11:30PM is because it’s 11:30PM. Sometimes you need a deadline to stop you from spinning and spinning and “improving” things. I’m not trying to discount hard work at all, but there’s hard work that’s spitballing, and then there’s the hard work of figuring out the story you have.

That’s where I’m headed now. I think.


*While not the official logline, this general explanation has been pinned around my computer for weeks. I’ve found that sort of thing useful: to keep some sort of visual cue around to remind you of where you’re going and why you’re doing this. It’s the writing equivalent of a businessman with a picture of his kids on his desk.


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