The T-Rex Model of Writing
I’m 6 years old and at dinner. Friday for 6 year olds doesn’t hold the same kind of importance as it does for adults but it wouldn’t take long before it would be one of the most important days of my life.
There we are, the four of us-my mom, dad, sister and I, picking up all the dishes and I see my Dad casually pull something from a bag on the floor. And my eyes light up.
A two hour ride through a paleontological masterpiece complete with CGI, filmologically unmatched in the decades (!) since its release.
An unmapped island. Morally questionable science. A sparse IT team. A T-Rex. Pipes. Holding on to butts. Velociraptors. More velociraptors. And finally, a really giant T-Rex.
That comes out of fucking nowehere. Do you remember that?
To my utter horror, I found myself dating someone who had never seen Jurassic Park (or Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, any Marvel movie, etc.) and since I had worn out the VHS tape, this needed to be remedied. So at an outdoor screening in a nearby hostel, we watched as the T-Rex broke loose when the (underpaid!) IT guy shut down the power, and then a guy in a T-Rex costume ran down the aisle chasing after someone shrieking.
But since I had seen it so many times, I noticed one little thing at the end. Something that she didn’t. And something I hadn’t till I’d seen it more than 57 times.
(Spoiler: It’s been 24 years, come on) Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler and the kids backed into a corner by two velociraptors and nowhere to go. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a T-Rex shows up to save the day, or maybe just eat something since there was literally just one goat.
How did he get there? The visitor didn’t have a dock. All the doors were human shaped. And even if there had been a way to get in, how could they not have heard him? When the T-Rex first escapes, Spielberg made a big deal about the water in the cup, the thunder and the lightning, but they couldn’t hear this giant ass dinosaur walking right behind them? The characters were just as surprised as we were even though they ostensibly could see everything around them didn’t have the same frame of reference as the viewer.
Bibliophilic zen lightning in word form: the little details of the T-Rex don’t matter because the story is so good.
Michael Crichton and Spielberg spent the time to build these characters, creating genuine interactions developing their personalities and beliefs before even the first roar or scream. You care about the characters just as much as you care about the dinosaurs and the
So many times, as a writer, my routine goes something like this:
Step 1: <Gets excited, writes two sentences>
Step 2: <Opens wikipedia>
Step 3: <Falls down the rabbit hole of clicking Wikipedia articles>
Step 4: <Gets bogged down in trivial details that probably don’t matter>
Step 5: <Lose interest in the thing that I started writing about>
Step 6: <Continue looking at a mostly blank screen>
Step 7: <Repeat>
Stripping away the layers of mental censors and distractions has been the defining roadblock in preventing a proper writing habit. This is precisely because worrying about the small details prevents me forming a base of writing that can be molded, tweaked and edited to be something resembling a narrative. A grand narrative, even.
The T-Rex method is basically what I aim for since my quest to start a writing habit has me writing short stories, relying on the evocation of place and character to fill in the unspoken gaps.
Imagine that. In the 21 years since watching that movie, it took a 57th viewing of the movie to finally put two and two together and ask where the hell that T-Rex came from. For such a glaring omission, you’d think I would’ve picked up on that earlier but it’s a testament to the desperate action of the storytelling that as a viewer, the plot holes are relegated to little details, and the little details just don’t matter much.