Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (born in 1951) has given us some terrific films, including Point Break, The Hurt Locker, and Zero Dark Thirty.
Here are five quotes she has given us over the years that will help you in your writing process!
1. Perhaps the only thing in my favor is that I am very tenacious. I don’t take ‘no’ very well.
Being tenacious and not taking ‘no’ for an answer got Kathryn Bigelow to where she is today — one of the most talented and risk-taking directors of her generation. Being tenacious and not taking ‘no’ for an answer will also play a major role in you having a successful writing career.
You can’t let a bunch of ‘nos’ get you down. You can’t allow ten rejections make you quit writing. You have to have thick skin, you have to be tenacious, and you have to let each and every ‘no’ slide right off your back until you hear that very first ‘yes,’ and every ‘yes’ after that!
2. What’s most galvanizing for me is the opportunity to be topical and relevant and entertaining. That’s the holy grail.
There’s definitely a specific quality to Bigelow’s films. They’re often violent, hard-edged, super entertaining, and, yes, topical. You always want to be entertaining in your writing, of course, but there are pros and cons to being topical.
The pro is that if you write about something topical in just the right way and your story or novel is released at a time where that topic is hitting a nerve with the whole country (Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give comes to mind), you can have huge success.
The con is that if you write about something topical, and then that story or novel isn’t released for another few years, long after anyone is still talking about that subject, there’s a possibility your work might not find an audience. It’s definitely a toss-up, but it’s worth thinking about!
3. I’m drawn to provocative characters that find themselves in extreme situations. And I think I’m drawn to that consistently.
When you have absolutely no idea what story or novel to write next, you could do a lot worse than keeping this quote in the back of your mind. Provocative characters in extreme situations. It’s most assuredly a motto for compelling storytelling.
If you can come up with a fascinating, provocative protagonist we’ve never really seen on the page before, and then thrust that person into a scary and extreme situation that feels totally earned and authentic, you’ll hook your reader into your story right away.
The trick after that, of course, will be to never let them go!
4. Character and emotionality don’t always have to be relegated to quieter, more simple constructs.
A big trademark of Bigelow’s work is of course provocative characters in extreme circumstances, and rarely emotionality in simple, quieter constructs. Even in the quietest moments of a Bigelow film (I’m thinking of the incredible ending of Zero Dark Thirty), they come from a result of action-packed danger and high-stakes dilemmas.
When you’re writing a story or novel, whatever the genre may be, you don’t necessarily have to relegate character and emotion to quieter, more simple constructs. You can think bigger. You can go bigger. You can take your characters into places your readers might not be expecting, and such will make your story even more powerful.
5. I don’t believe in censorship in any form.
And I don’t believe in it either.
When it comes to film, television, and yes, novels. I think a writer should be able to write the book she wants to write. I do certainly think elements of a story need to be taken into account when it comes to writing books for children. But even then, I do think it does a young person a disservice for the author to censor their work just to make it more “appropriate” for teens or pre-teens or whomever.
At some point other people will become involved in your project, if you’re aiming for traditional publishing — beta readers and agents and editors. At some point you might not have a say necessarily in what can stay in your novel and what can go.
But if you believe in an aspect of your story, and people are trying to get you to remove it for the sake of censorship, fight for it as best you can.
Fight for the story you believe in with your whole heart — always!