I just read this letter from David Mamet to the writers of The Unit. This guy is a serious hardliner when it comes to plotting and scene structure. I really admire his stance on this and I try to stick to it as best I can. It is really hard, but when I pull it off, it really does make a good scene. Reading that kind of thing really inspires me.
I also recently read Stephen King's On Writing. I don't like every single thing he does, but that guy really knows how to write. He knows it inside out.
Cut to last night. I was hard at work on a big scene between most of the main characters. The tension had built, and the reveal happened. And it was just the perfect time, and it made perfect sense for a character who had been in the background to really enter with a punch line. It would have worked, and people would have loved it. But just that one moment. It worked as a stand alone, but not in the context of the story. It worked like one of those one-liners that they end a movie trailer with. And though it might have been a crowd pleaser, I knew it did not fit the dramatic through-line of that moment. I never even typed the words. It felt good to not go for the cheap thrill.
And then this morning I was listening to a collection of short stories on my way in to work. One of them was by Stephen King. Right near they end of it, he went for the cheap thrill. The cheap joke. It worked. It made me smile for a second, but it really ruined the moment and the character.
So, though our relative sales numbers tell a different story... at that exact moment, I out wrote Stephen King.
Moral of the story, Mamet is right. That impulse to take the cheap shot comes only from insecurity and the need to be liked. If you believe in the story itself, and your ability to tell it, then you don't need cheap thrills.