paddy chayefsky

They stood in the middle of the room, a slight, light-haired man of thirty-seven, beginning to bald just a bit but looking boyish at the moment in his jeans and T-shirt and bare feet, smiling, at least it seemed he was smiling; and a slim, gracefully naked young woman, her face pressed against his real body, her arms wrapped desperately around his real waist, a pair of young living human beings standing embraced in the white sunlight of their living room.
—  Paddy Chayefsky, from Altered States

Directed by Delbert Mann
Screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky (adapted from his own television play)
USA, 1955

Watched on 12th February 2013
Second viewing

With Valentine’s day coming up, being single as per usual, what better film to watch? The eponymous Marty, played brilliantly by Ernest Borgnine, is (along with Jack Lemmon’s C. C. Baxter in The Apartment) one of the most accurate portrayals of loneliness on screen. Some of it rings so true that it hurts to watch. But that’s part of why I love it.

Sooner or later, there comes a point in a man’s life when he gotta face some facts, and one fact I gotta face is that whatever it is that women like, I ain’t got it.

But if things can work out alright for Marty, maybe they can work out alright for us too. See, dogs like us, we ain’t such dogs as we think we are.

I am imbued with some special spirit. It’s not a religious feeling at all. It is a shocking eruption of great electrical energy: I feel vivid and flashing as if suddenly I had been plugged into some great cosmic electromagnetic field. I feel connected to all living things, to flowers, birds, to all the animals of the world and even to some great unseen living force, what I think the Hindus call prana. It is not a breakdown. I have never felt so orderly in my life! It is a shattering and beautiful sensation! It is the exalted flow of the space-time continuum, save that it is spaceless and timeless and of such loveliness! I feel on the verge of some great ultimate truth.
—  Paddy Chayefsky, Network (1976)
2 Novels that Taught Me How to Make a Story Hum

Inspiration can be everywhere: in music, in movies, in books… This month, we’re spotlighting inspiration in its many forms. Today, Wrimo Michael Roberts, shares where he learned the importance of elegant story construction:

As a kid, I really loved Farley Mowat books, especially Lost in the Barrens. Reading it as a ten-year-old, I was entranced by the story and the characters and the “exotic” Canadian wilderness setting. Now, as a writer, I can appreciate the pacing and narrative tricks that Mowat used to tighten the story and make it hum.

 When I was an adult, I found Altered States, screenwriter/playwright Paddy Chayefsky’s only novel, and a densely packed thriller set in the world of scientific research. I was surprised to learn later that Chayefsky had no background in science but had researched everything in that book over two years and incorporated it seamlessly into the story. From that I learned the importance of research disappearing into good storytelling.

As a reader, I love the stories; as a writer I admire the technical skills of the writers and how they hide all the hard work they put into the writing. Now, when I send my work out to beta readers, one of things I ask for is feedback on how well I construct the story and then how successful I am at hiding that construction in the story.

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