I always think back to F. Scott Fitzgerald, as quoted in William Friedkin’s memoir, The Friedkin Connection, who taped a three-by-five card above his typewriter. The card had one simple equation: “Action equals character.” I’d heard this years prior to reading Friedkin’s book, and kept going back to it.
It’s a logline of sorts, for how one writes a story. The rest I leave up to the Save The Cat Beat Sheet. In my memoir, Walkabout Undone, a love story set in Australia and filled with dualling words, I’d subconsciously assembled the beats out of order. The debate is settled and overcome quickly, then other beats were allowed to stretch out. In the end, dare we say, the fool triumphed, at least with the publication of the book. Otherwise, well, readers debate and then decide for themselves.
With Fitzgerald’s equation, it’s when we move, act, have decided and therefore propel the action of a story, that drives us from one beat to the next. As he head into October, or Preptober on many levels with fall already here in many places, we have to act. To borrow Blake Snyder’s words, will we be institutionalized? Will we embrace Buddy Love during our Stay-in-Place order? And my favorite genre of the Save the Cat beat sheets, Whydunnit, seems always buried in stories. The Why beneath characters’ actions reveals who they are and what the story is about, or not about. In these uncertain times, we appear to consider our actions, when and whether to leave home, or walk away from the writing places and machines on which we explore and express our imaginations. My family and I appear to consider why before acting much more than before the pandemic hit.
The Why also reveals why many movies matter, which is part of the reason for the title of this website.