Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Canadian Storytelling

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I am spending 32 hours this weekend in a seminar room with 170 other people, listening to a man called Robert McKee. If you saw Adaptation with Nicholas Cage as Charles Kaufman, you saw Robert McKee — or a facsimile played by Brian Cox. McKee is a stern man in the lecture hall. Interrupt him with a dopey remark or the uncalled-for answer to a rhetorical question, and he will call you down. Last night, he did just that to a woman who had paid $600 to hear him.

McKee started the weekend by mourning the current state of stories — in the cinema, in novels, and especially in theatre. Classic story design, he thinks, has been ruined by ignorance and pretension. Writers don't read anymore. Canadian cinema is in a bad, bad way, he thinks, because we're reacting to Hollywood by emulating bad European storytelling.

Canadian films must be culturally specific, he said, truly Canadian. And within that, find a universal humanity.

This is contrary to everything a young writer who wants an audience learns: avoid writing about Canada, because the world thinks we're a boring, unconflicted, cold sort of place. According to McKee, the world is dying to read about Canada and watch Canadian films set in Canada. It's about the anthropological pleasure of entering a new world, he said. And in that world, you find yourself.

I'm inspired, though I'm not saying so out loud, in the lecture hall.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Todd Babiak

Todd Babiak is the author of the bestselling novel The Garneau Block (McClelland & Stewart, 2006) and the award-winning novel Choke Hold (Turnstone, 2000). His latest novel is The Book of Stanley (McClelland & Stewart, 2007).

Go to Todd Babiak’s Author Page