Two Objectives

April 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments

One more round of edits done and sent to my editor. And now I’m waiting for line edits. As I said to my editor, pretty soon this book is going to be a thing in the world. It still doesn’t seem like reality.


Aside from reading as much as I can, theatre and acting have been the strongest influences in my writing. The biggest tool I learned while studying theatre that also applies directly to writing is the universal “show not tell,” which is of course something that should be true for all art whether preformed, written, or drawn. But, aside from that golden rule, my other favorite is the two objectives.

Regardless of what the action or the plot may be, the two objectives are: you either want to kill the other person in the scene, or you want to have sex with them.  These two extremes ripple  underneath the surface of your performance. It informs the actual objectives and motivations. It can make it very raw, and in some cases very twisted. Or it can just add a touch of flavor. This is as useful if you’re performing Equus as it is if you’re performing The Importance of Being Earnest.

When I write, I don’t sit around and think, “does character P want to have sex with or kill character K?” But I still return to these two objectives, like a touchstone, as I’m writing. I like to play around with it, and then let it go.

It’s also kind of fun (by someone’s definition of fun…) to ask yourself  how this either/or applies to whatever it is you’re reading or watching. For example, with Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, I mean, come on, does Merricat want to have sex with or kill her sister Constance? We know she wants to kill everyone else and darn near does so. Does Constance want to have sex with or kill her sister? Or both!

An amusing film for this is Mr. and Mrs. Smith, in which the two main characters spend most of the film trying to kill each other when they really just want to have sex with each other.



Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, by Richard P. Feynman

The Fifth Child, by Doris Lessing.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson


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