Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Kevin Walker’

“I can’t go on to page two until I can get page one as perfect as I can make it. That might mean I will rewrite and rewrite page one 20, 30, 50, 100 times.”
Dean Koontz

Writer Dean Koontz was born in Everett, Pennsylvania and raised in Bedford, PA. He was raised poor in a small four room house with a violent alcoholic father. That no doubt shaped his dramatic sensibilities. He told CNN, “There are so many demons in me I could write for another 100 years.”

After graduating from what is now known as Shippensburg University he began, like fellow best-selling author Stephen King, teaching high school English. (He happened to teach at Mechanicsburg High School which is where Se7en screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker graduated from school in 1982.)

I’m not sure how long Koontz was a school teacher but in 1968 he had his first book published and since then has written enough books to be named by Forbes as one of the top ten best-paid authors. More than ten of his stories have been made into films or TV movies.

It’s three for one day here at Screenwriting from Iowa as I’ve pulled three quotes by Koontz from his book Writing Popular Fiction.

“The theme, the ‘meaning’ of a story, is not something you can sit down and plan out ahead of time. Or, anyhow, it shouldn’t be. Theme should grow from your characters and your plot, naturally, almost subconsciously. If you sit down to deliver a Great Message to the reader, above all else, then you are an essayist, not a novelist.”

“Duty. In Shakespeare’s day, duty was a valid motive for a writer’s characters but is now dated. The masses no longer blindly give their loyalty to king and state. It is not sufficient, for example, to establish that your detective or secret agent is investigating the case because it is his job. The reader finds little empathy or escape in the exploits of a man just doing his job. Your protagonist must have a reason for his actions aside from the fact he’s paid for them. Why is he a spy or detective? What is there about him that makes him want to do these things, what need is satisfied? Therein lies your real motivation.”

“Of the seven major categories of modern fiction, the mystery and suspense forms—especially suspense—provide the writer with the greatest opportunity for financial success.”

Koontz has written thirty plus New York Times best sellers and more than 200 million books so if you’re looking for advice he’s a solid source.

FYI—Koontz has an excellent website including podcasts.

Scott W. Smith

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Now that it’s 15 years old, I think it’s safe to say that Se7en is a modern-day classic. When Se7en director David Fincher first started to read the Se7en script he didn’t get too far because the set-up was too common. It was the old detective/young detective scenario. But his agent encouraged Fincher to continue reading the script and he soon discovered what set the story a part and knew he had to make the film.

One key element that made Se7en usual (other than the ending) was the use of the seven deadly sins as an integral part of the story:


On the Se7en DVD commentary, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker says;

“I don’t think I ever really had the seven deadly sins preached to me, just an awareness of what they were. I don’t know when I thought about it I could have sat there and named them for you even. I mean I was stupid, I thought—seven deadly sins—you could look them up in the Bible. But they weren’t in the Bible. I had to do the research to find out about St. Thomas Aquinas and them being used as a teaching tool. I love the fact that I think now more people can name them than maybe used to be able to because Brad Pitt was in a movie about them.

Researching the seven deadly sins it was like, I didn’t sit down and read all of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas because that stuff would just go flying over my head. Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is a perfect example. In order to make a character like Somerset, who is kind of hyper intelligent on the intelligent scale you just have to have the tip of the iceberg intelligence to imply that the iceberg that lies underneath is Somerset.”

What that means is that personally in his writing Walker did not have to go as deep as he implied the character Somerset appeared to go. You don’t need to be as smart as a character like Somerset to write a character like Somerset. And when writing and directing the scene to show Somerset’s intelligence the filmmakers only needed one scene in the library to convey his attention to detail, research methods, and intelligence. (And Fincher and Walker basically conveyed that info without any words, just visuals and Bach music.)

And even that one scene can be boiled down to one five second clip that shows Somerset writing a note to Mills (Brad Pitt) that reads:


You may want to check
the following books RE:

7 Deadly Sins:
Divine Purgatory
The Canterbury tales
The Parsons Tale
Dictionary of Catholicism

So when you have expo you need to convey in a script, remember you usually only need to show the “tip of the iceberg.”

Another good example of “tip of the iceberg” writing is in Good Will Hunting where we just need to see one quick scene to show Matt Damon reading a book with other books around him to know that he is smart and a voracious reader.

Can you think of other movies that revealed character by just showing the “tip of the iceberg”—or a scene that implied there was a lot more beyond the surface?

Scott W. Smith

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