I don't know if storytelling really is the second-oldest profession, but it makes sense, when you think about it. After the oldest profession, we need someone to tell about it, right? As old as it is, there's always something new to learn about the craft. That's why, even after writing 30-something novels, I'm going to be attending a workshop with Michael Hauge. Michael saw his first showing of “Gone With the Wind” just down the road from my house at the old Lynwood Theatre. The acclaimed author and lecturer is quick to point out that it was a revival showing, not the original release. Afterward, there were treats at the adjacent ice cream parlor. Hauge’s grandparents lived in a rustic log house on the island’s north end, and as a boy, he spent many a summer on there, combing the beach and digging clams at the State Park. “The island has always been a place I’ve loved,” he says. “I’m looking forward to seeing it again.” He remembers a bucolic, rural place that was a wonderland to a young boy, and there was the occasional trip to the city, to view the mummy at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop and to pick up souvenirs and penny candy. Growing up in Salem, Oregon, Michael remembers the public library as a special place, hushed and musty with old books and a massive card catalog. He was an avid fan of Landmark Books, a series of non-fiction books published by Random House in the fifties and early sixties. The books were wildly popular, thanks to good writers like Armstrong Sperry and Jim Kjelgaard, and appealing, heroic subjects that fed the imagination.
At the library, he discovered the magic of series books, beginning with a story called The Three-Two Pitch by Wilfred McCormick, featuring a character named Bronc Burnett. As an adult, Hauge was a fan of big, rich novels like Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey–set on the Oregon coast, and even Moby Dick, the bane of high school English students everywhere. “I never wanted to read this big book,” he confesses, “but once I did, I discovered it was just enthralling. Revelatory. It’s become one of the things I talk about in my lectures–the ability to tell a story that’s really involving. It’s such a great example of a book that turned out to be so much fun and still have all those layers of meaning.”
One of the more important books for Michael, professionally, is Hitchcock’s Films by Robin Wood, an in-depth analysis of the director’s most influential work. The book was “about a director I loved, and it influenced my teaching and the way I talk about the movies.” Hauge believes “great movies are not great because they’re about a great subject, but because they’re entertaining and layered with underlying meaning.” Other books he cites as particularly instructive include The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier, The TV Writer’s Workbook by Ellen Sandler, and Linda Seger’s recent …And the Best Screenplay Goes To…, an analysis of Oscar-winning screenplays.
Michael Hauge’s own books belong in the library of any working writer–screenwriters, novelists, authors of narrative nonfiction–anyone who has a story to tell. In Selling Your Story in Sixty Seconds, Writing Screenplays That Sell and The Hero’s 2 Journeys, Hauge illuminates the core principles of his teaching. “I focus on everything that will give the story commercial potential while retaining the writer’s passion and vision for the story.” He addresses key questions, like “What is each character desperate to achieve? What makes that goal seem impossible? What terrifies each character? “Writers willing to dig deep enough to answer these questions are well on their way,” he says.
If you’re a writer, and you’re up for the challenge, you’ll have a chance to do that on Saturday, October 11, Michael Hauge will present a special event for Field’s End. Join him for the intensive workshop, “Uniting Story Structure and Character Arc.” You can find details online at http://www.fieldsend.org/events.html.
Causes Susan Wiggs Supports
Bainbridge Island Library, Field's End, West Sound Wildlife Shelter, Bainbridge Island Land Trust, The Authors Guild