My new writing wishword is..

.. diffusion.

I wrote my writing watchword is texture, those little details that run through your work like hundreds of little hooks sticking the reader to the pages. This follows on from that, but its not a personal mantra (texture still works for the writer) this is a plea. This is me as a reader, paying movie goer, story loving geek, speaking out – bugger it, I’ll get down on my knees and beg if necessary.

Diffusion. Learn it, embrace it, LIVE IT. Well actually I think they actually are living it, because it is in essence how we live, problem is they aren’t writing it. The big ol’ generic they. The they that make me weep, the they that are responsible for the interchangeable dialogue of every summer blockbuster so far. I realise that some are part of the same universe/franchise but they are supposed to be different characters.

Diffusion: v. the act of spreading evenly, to scatter,
adj. widely or evenly dispersed; not concentrated

Diffusion is about all the elements of your story being worked evenly and lightly through your text. Think of it like baking a cake. You don’t hand someone a couple of eggs, some flour, sugar, salt, vanilla essence and then wish them Bon Appetit! Its how the elements are beaten together. There are only a couple of drops of flavouring yet it works through the entire mix. Did you know there was salt in cake? You can’t taste it, but if it weren’t mixed, just stuck in as a clump to chow down in one painfully memorable mouthful?

Seems at the moment that very few people seem to know how to mix those elements.

homer cook

Is that the true skill of the storyteller?

They seem roughly aware of what elements would be good to have in there – good guy, bad guy, internal conflict, romance, humour, twist.. And then they deliver them in what appears to be barely more than a recipe. They know there should be ‘a theme or message’, they know there should be an inciting incident, which should come just after you’ve mixed in some sugar, and once its all been left to sit for a bit you need to add a ‘rock bottom’ moment.

Essentially they read a few how-to books.

Maybe skimmed. I don’t know I have never read one 🙂 But I’m presuming there is some notion of how you mix all the elements together so that they don’t resemble their raw selves, so that the reader can’t in fact recognise them as such, and just feels the benefit of what they add to the story.

For instance I am guessing they might point out that your theme is subtextual, not something that needs to be spelt out in your dialogue.

Like say Jor-El in Man of Steel

You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders

Its not like the theme of Superman is that he is the embodiment of the American Dream, the ideal of truth Justice and aw that shite..? No.. It’s completely normal for a father about to send his newborn son out in a wee metal bubble to cross the vast blackness of space, to leave this as a message. In fact, its perfectly normal for a man whose race is in the process of self destructing through ignorance, bigotry and stubbornness to assume his baby is better than the billions of people down there and will raise himself to be a God, cause he can jump really high.

Or perhaps Perry White, when confronted with the suggestion an alien with inconceivable power lives in secret amongst us

 I believe you saw something, Lois. But not for a moment do I believe that your leads just went cold. So whatever your reasons are for dropping it, I think you’re doing the right thing. Can you imagine how people on this planet would react if they knew there was someone like this out there?

Because dropping this clump of salt into your dialogue doesn’t mean you don’t have to add it anywhere else. You can’t tick  – people are amazed at Superman’s existence – off the list.

They might also point out that characters are built out of consistency shown through their reactions, behaviours, beliefs. They are not built by what you tell us about them in a big ol salty dump..

Take Mystique in the new X-Men (might contain slight spoilers!). We are told she has always been controlled by her big brother in the second movie.. though we see her acting completely independently and against his wishes. But in the first movie we see.. her acting completely independently and against his wishes. We are left at the end with him with a bullet nesting in his spine saying, I understand as she abandons him.. Yes, his controlling influence is for every bite of the movie except the salty ‘telling’,  utterly absent, a salt free bland nothing..

So as I prepare to list my best and worst movies of the year so far, and find one side very short on names, I offer up this plea again..


Figure it out. Apply it. Please. For the love of story.




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