Betrayal at Krondor: Remastered Blog Updates

Since we last checked, two new updates have been published on Neal Hallford's "Krondor confidential" series of blog post. Part VIII is a particularly affecting read, as Hallford's experiences at a Hollywood scriptwriting seminar paid by Sierra Online are bookended by his experiences as a survivor of the Amtrak train derailment in Palo Verde, Arizona and a misadventure on a plane that thankfully ended with no trouble for anyone on board.

Part IX focuses on a time of change at Dynamix, both concerning the studio's management and the building they worked in, and Hallford's own geek passions. An excerpt from the first blog post:

Now in the name of full disclosure, before the seminar, I’d never even heard of our instructor Robert McKee. He hadn’t written anything I’d ever read, nor had he been the screenwriter of any movie I’d ever seen. All I knew was that he was evidently The Definitive Big Thing to writers in Hollywood at that time, and was well known for his talks on story structure. (Four years after our seminar, he’d go on to publish his best-seller Story which in essence is the same thing as we got in his lectures, but you can buy it for twenty bucks on Amazon rather than spending several hundred to sit through his lectures.) Lucky for us, we got to see the show for free.

Over the course of the next few days, McKee would take us through a self-guided tour through his theories about writing, both for good and for ill. On the upside, he was a knowledgeable speaker with a wealth of stories about the creation of several of my favorite movies. He analyzed Casablanca and taught us about using supporting and negating resonance within a narrative, and how the thematic conflict between two subplots could be used to create emotional tension for the viewer. He demonstrated the utility of the film’s central McGuffin while also pointing out the absurd artificiality of it (the Nazis would never have recognized the “unrescindable” authority of transit papers signed by General DeGaulle.) We danced with the psychology of Hitchcock, and cracked open the skulls of the writers behind Chinatown. Had we stopped there, I probably would have come away from the lecture a happy camper, glad to have had a peek at the inner process of other successful creators. It was when McKee decided to get truly abstract about his theories of writing, however, that he set an insidious time-bomb ticking inside my brain that would catastrophically go off many years later.

McKee was very fond of diagrams. You’ll find a few inside of Story as just a small sampling of how fond of them he was. I remember him drawing the story spine, and diagramming subplots, seemingly taking every opportunity he could to scribble on the portable white boards in the conference room. His analysis became brutal, clinical, and robotic, insistent that all good stories had the same base DNA. Every good story had to fit the pattern. In the back of my mind I remember flashing on Dead Poet’s Society with Robin Williams at the chalkboard as he drew a diagram of good poetry as defined by Dr. J. Evans Pritchard. A part of me was screaming that I should get up on my table and shout “My Captain! My Captain!” but I kept my seat and studiously copied his notes like a good little screenwriter drone. His marker kept moving, creating more and more little boxes, putting little pieces of my soul into prison cells. I had to accept it because he was a professional and there were long lists of people out there who considered him the expert. I wouldn’t realize what that lecture had done to me until long after my time at Dynamix.