Writing a story, fermenting wine

“How long does it take you to write a story?”

That’s one of the questions people generally ask me. The truth is that the actual ‘writing’ is fairly fast. What really consumes time is the research on the topic I have to write about.

As I originally wanted to be a scriptwriter for film (theatre is something that really happened by accident to me) I tend to think by images. What I need to have is a strong beginning and end. Once I’m sure I have a direction to follow I usually spend months (if not years in some instances) thoroughly doing my homework. I tend to isolate myself and dive into books, films, even personal interviews if I can.

I also talk extensively about the ‘story’ I’m working on pretty much with anyone I meet. I repeat it over and over to strangers, people I’ve just met in a bar or bystanders at bus stops. If I’m unable to describe the story in less than 30 seconds it means it is still foggy and needs rework.

I spent quite an amount of time thinking about the title. Personally, I like 1-word titles or maximum 2 words. Having done my bit of fringes and off-festivals around Europe I’m aware of the importance of a strong title. When you’re browsing hundreds of shows in the EdFringe catalogue your eye tend to fall on graphics and title first.

Another thing I like to work on is the main graphics of the show. It all comes from a story I heard about Dino De Laurentis, the great movie mogul and producer. Legend goes he used to print a large poster of the film he wanted to produce (Serpico, Conan the Barbarian, King Kong) before he even had a script . He would then shop around his film laying his huge poster on the desks of the potential financers of the project.

In other words I have to see the story, feel it, and meticously prepare all the ingredients. After that I mix everything well and push it deep down into the inconscious to let it ferment for a while. Pretty much like wine making.

How long will that take? Difficult to say. It depends on the quality of the grapes and the kind of wine you want to make. Sometimes the process is fairly fast… sometimes it is excruciatingly slow (I have a story I’ve been working on for a solo show since 2014 and it’s still there… going nowhere).

Mind, it is a painful process. Also because you simply never know how it is going to end. I have never written a single story which ended up the way I thought at the beginning. Stories seem to take a life of their own once you start working on them. It is therefore advisable to be like a wise parent. Be patient and supportive but never ask too much of your kid.

Finally, the last kick into getting in front of the keyboard and start tapping the bloody script is FEAR. It works like a charm…

Charles Bukowski wrote Post Office‘ in 3 weeks. When his publisher asked him “How did you do that?”, his reply was “FEAR.”

Dostoevsky wrote ‘The Gambler‘ in less than 6 weeks in order to save himself for a bet he took with his editor, which would have left him destitute.

So you want to be afraid, very afraid when writing that damn script.

It is not a pleasent sensation. Bukowski would get by with whisky and cheap cigars.

I content myself with fatty cheese and red wine.