Extraneous Voices of Picayune > Citadel Tavern

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Quotes by Robert McKee, Author or Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting

“Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliche, it's the key to victory over fear and it's cousin, depression.”

“Given the choice between trivial material brilliantly told versus profound material badly told, an audience will always choose the trivial told brilliantly.”

“When we want mood experiences, we go to concerts or museums. When we want meaningful emotional experience, we go to the storyteller.”

“Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.”

“Good story' means something worth telling that the world wants to hear. Finding this is your lonely task...But the love of a good story, of terrific characters and a world driven by your passion, courage, and creative gifts is still not enough. Your goal must be a good story well told.”

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure - the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature.”

“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”

“In a world of lies and liars, an honest work of art is always an act of social responsibility.”

“In comedy laughter settles all arguments.”

“The Law of Diminishing Returns is true of everything in life, except sex, which seems endlessly repeatable with effect.”

“Boredom is the inner conflict we suffer when we lose desire, when we lack a lacking.”

“Story is metaphor for life and life is lived in time.”

If the story you're telling, is the story you're telling, you're in deep s**t.”

“We rarely know where we are going; writing is a discovery.”

“Most of life's actions are within our reach, but decisions take willpower.”

“What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens.”

“In life two negatives don't make a positive. Double negatives turn positive only in math and formal logic. In life things just get worse and worse and worse.”

“Secure writers don't sell first drafts. They patiently rewrite until the script is as director-ready, as actor-ready as possible. Unfinished work invites tampering, while polished, mature work seals its integrity.”

“Deus ex machina not only erases all meaning and emotion, it's an insult to the audience. Each of us knows we must choose and act, for better or worse, to determine the meaning of our lives...Deus ex machina is an insult because it is a lie.”

“No matter our talent, we all know in the midnight of our souls that 90 percent of what we do is less than our best.”


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