Writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you’re bad at writing and don’t like to do it, you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated.
A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.
In the realm of psychology, there are three general theories that explain how humor works. According to the most common explanation for humor—the tension release theory—we experience, for a brief period after hearing a joke or looking at a cartoon, a tension that counterbalances what we assume about the situation being described or illustrated against what the comedian or cartoonist intends to convey. The tension is released only when the joke or cartoon is understood.
The second most popular theory of humor, the incongruity resolution model, involves the solving of a paradox or incongruity in a playful context. This theory is based on the deep relationship that exists in the human brain between the laughable and the illogical. As a species, we place great value on logic. Even so, we will playfully accept a situation that is highly unlikely or even impossible … as long as the scenario depicted in the cartoon is coherent and logically consistent with its theme. Incongruity resolution usually takes a little longer than tension release and occurs in two stages. First, expectations about the meaning of a joke or cartoon are jarringly undermined by the punch line of the joke or the caption of the cartoon. This leads to a form of problem solving aimed at reconciling the discrepancy. When we solve the problem, the pieces fall into place and we experience the joy that accompanies insight. Failure to get the point of a joke or cartoon causes the same discomfort we feel when we cannot solve a problem.
Finally, the superiority theory emphasizes how mirth and laughter so often involve a focus on someone else’s mistakes, misfortune, or stupidity. … The superiority theory lends itself especially to an explanation of cruel and hostile humor: the situation depicted in the joke or cartoon could never happen to us, hence our amusement. In a word, we feel superior to the person suffering misfortune.
In practice, most humor incorporates aspects of all three of those theories.
I’m not a scientist. Like a lot of journalists, I go out and talk to a lot of people who know much more than I do. And I’m always surprised when they think I’ve got something new to tell them after I’ve published. You’ll talk to a bunch of scientists, you’ll write a story about what they’re doing, and then they’ll invite you to their next meeting as if you have original information. You don’t. What you have is the ability to synthesize and tell a story.
The distinction between journalists and writers put in those terms does not distinguish anything at all: one cannot say a priori that a writer just because he is a writer is more capable of handling ideas and of seeing what is essential than a journalist when we are dealing with a good journalist.
I’ve always said there are – to oversimplify it – two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running, and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up. I think all writers are partly architects and partly gardeners, but they tend to one side or another, and I am definitely more of a gardener. In my Hollywood years when everything does work on outlines, I had to put on my architect’s clothes and pretend to be an architect. But my natural inclinations, the way I work, is to give my characters the head and to follow them.
That being said, I do know where I’m going. I do have the broad outlines of the story worked out in my head, but that’s not to say I know all the small details and every twist and turn in the road that will get me there.