I’m a sucker for a heist movie. Always have been. On any day, give me The Thomas Crown Affair, The Score, and certainly, Ocean’s Eleven. Recently I stumbled on a gem (pun intended there, oh you bet) called The Hot Rock from 1972. With an all-star cast headed up by Robert Redford and George Segal, and directed by Peter Yates of Bullitt fame, it’s a winner. Well-written and well-played, I enjoyed it thoroughly.
And I think I finally understand WHY I am so enamored with heist movies. At one point toward the end of the movie, there is a scene where Robert Redford is tasked with, not surprisingly, having to construct the plan for a doozie of a heist. He knows he has to figure out a way. The camera pans to his face and he is angst-ridden, you can see it. Then he begins to write. Scribbles fly out of him, one idea, then another. Finally he returns to his crew and shows them his notes, one scrap of paper here, a napkin there, explaining as he hands them out why this one won’t work, or this one, or this one.
I think you all know where I’m going with this.
Now I’ll go out on a limb here and say none of us are professional thieves accustomed to constructing heist and getaway plans. We’re even better than that: we’re writers.
When Robert Redford was sitting there, burning holes in his notepaper with his eyes, I knew EXACTLY how he felt (well, minus the danger of incarceration). So many times as a writer I’ve known I had to get from point A to point B–I had to get the gem–but how? On a later draft of LITTLE GALE GUMBO, I had to rethink a key plot point. It simply didn’t work. It was too harsh and frankly it didn’t fit with the mood and spirit of the story. But the ending was to remain the same. Like Mr. Redford, I was faced with a set-in-stone ending, but I needed to find out how to get there. I went around and around. I scribbled. I charted and graphed. But no matter what, the safety deposit box was too thick, the bank guard was too alert, the alarm system was too foolproof. What I mean to say is: there was always a sticking point that kept my “heist” from working.
Until, one day, there wasn’t. Eventually, after enough huffing and puffing and scribbling, the solution was there. And it worked.
So how do you all “plan your heists?” Do you take long walks and let the ideas percolate?