Some of the best movies of the past three decades came from the successful writing partnership of Joel and Ethan Coen, responsible for “No Country for Old Men,” “The Big Lebowski,” and “Fargo,” among an impressively long list.
When discussing their writing process in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, they mentioned an interesting factoid from the days of silent movies. Some screenwriters set up brainstorming conferences that included a participant called a “wildie,” someone from the local asylum who’d sit at the story table and offer insane non sequiturs, which might actually make it into the plot of a story.
Like most writers, I’ve toyed with the idea of a writing partner. While there are obvious negatives—having to compromise your ideas, trying to meld together two distinct voices—there have been successful partnerships, none more so than
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, who are responsible for the Pendergast book series as well as other outstanding work.
The duo came together when Link wanted to commission a book about the American Museum of Natural History, which has a fascinating history. Link noticed that Doug wrote the best articles for the museum’s magazine, and a fruitful, respectful and all-around beneficial partnership began.
The pair say their writing process is very organic and has been evolving since their first project, “Dinosaurs in the Attic.” However, these days, they bring their minds together for a detailed outline before writing, and that while they sometimes argue like an old married couple, they ultimately respect each other’s opinion.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and chatting on several occasions with Doug. I believe he and Link are one of the most talented writing teams ever. Doug is a leader of the ITW (International Thriller Writers) and has been instrumental in helping the organization grow by leaps and bounds. (He also was a persistent advocate for Amanda Knox, and was very helpful in keeping her story on the front burner. See his new book, Trial by Fire.) I’ve read every book they write, as well as books they’ve written separately. I believe Pendergast is one of the greatest characters ever created, and I can’t wait to read their latest, White Fire.
The key for me would be finding the right partner, and if none come along, that’s okay. However, I think I can say with some assurance I won’t be trolling the local insane asylum. (I wonder how Dog and Link would respond to including a Wildie in their collaboration?)