Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Screenplays Are Not Written In English*

"Hi, my name is Jenna and I have a hard time elaborating."

                                       (via Matt-Richards / flickr)

I read through the first three (very short) chapters of my WIP yesterday, and while I like how it's flowing, I think that readers will have a hard time connecting with my main character. My screenwriting background is to blame.

To be a good screenwriter, you need to be brief. With comedy you can get loose. Play around with it a bit (thought not much.) With action / thriller / horror? Even less wiggle room. A scene might look something like this:


A cold wind sends autumn leaves skittering across the pavement.
STAN (20, All-American) exits, holding a steaming to-go cup. He holds the door for JULIE (20, bookish, adorable) who juggles her own cup and a backpack.
Thanks again for the coffee. I can’t believe I forgot my wallet.
I’ve always been a sucker for a damsel in distress.
She blushes. Doesn’t see the man racing toward her.
ARNOLD (20’s, bulky jock) slams into her. She falls to the ground. Hot coffee scalding her neck and chest.
Stan snags Arnold’s arm. Spins him around.
What the hell, man?
Arnold looks behind him. Panicked. He’s running from someone. Or something.
He shoves Stan. Wrenches free.
Julie picks herself up. Dusts herself off with scraped palms, leaving small spots of blood on her tee shirt.
She gingerly touches the burns on her neck.
Apologize to the lady.
Arnold stares at her. Fear in his eyes.
You’ve been marked.
He unconsciously scratches his neck. He’s got the same angry red mark as Julie.
His eyes flick behind her. Terrified. He runs.
Stan turns to Julie.
What the hell was that?
Julie’s lip trembles.
Let’s go. Now.

See how the eye kinda skims down? That's what you're looking for. The more white space on the page, the better.

Writing that way is so ingrained that I tend to race through the scenes in my novel. I don't let them breathe, or really let my character describe what's going on. This is going to lead to my WIP ending up at 45,000 words, and my breathing into a paper bag.

Elaborate. I'm gonna print that word out and staple it to my bedroom wall.

*I read that somewhere, and it stuck with me. It's absolutely true.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On Dreams and Ryan Gosling

I should just stop going to bed early.

I don't sleep longer. I just wake up more frequently. Though it is...interesting, I guess would be the word...in one way: when I fall back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night, I tend to have more vivid dreams, and to have the good fortune of remembering them better.

Hence, the story:

Last night I dreamed that I was filming a movie with Ryan Gosling. Not only was I starring opposite him, I also wrote the script! Oh, joyful day.

Why Ryan Gosling? I say:

              Ryan Gosling

He's a solid actor, he's musically inclined, and he's more than easy on the eyes. So, boom, Ryan Gosling.

We were working out a scene, spouting off dialog that I had written. Some quick-fire banter that just sparkled with wit and emotion. You know how I do. 

The director yelled cut, and I woke up.

I stared up into the dark, and do you want to know what I was most excited about? What my first thought was? 

Writing crackling dialog > Acting in a fake movie in a dream starring Ryan Gosling.

Let's be honest. If I ever had the chance to act in a real movie starring the real Ryan Gosling, I'd probably just explode.

Writer 4 Evah. Nerd 4 Life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Scars. Or, Why K-Mart Is A Death Trap

Over on YA Highway they're asking: What's the story of your best scar?


Wrong Scar. I do have the overwhelming urge to watch The Lion King, though.

Let's talk about mechanical horses, shall we?

My best scar is a little inch-long nothing right underneath my chin. My mother (who has been witness to the majority of my boneheaded ideas) is probably the only one who even remembers that I have it.

I was young. Probably four or five? My mom, aunt, six-year-old cousin and I were about to do a little shopping at K-Mart when my cousin decided that she wanted to ride the mechanical horse outside the store. You know the rides I'm talking about. It's usually a train or a horse; you pop in a quarter and your kid gets to take the slowest gallop of their lives.


Well, I just had to ride with her. I climbed up there on the horse behind her and promptly slid off, hitting the cold concrete chin-first. I blame it on the fact that I was probably wearing corduroy pants. No traction on those things.

One visit to the doctor and a butterfly bandage later, I was good as new.

My best emotional scar is a subject for another post. Or three years of therapy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Only Time *Success* Comes Before *Work* Is In The Dictionary

Someone a lot smarter than me said that, so I'm in no way taking credit.

It's just something I like to remind myself of when I'm feeling frustrated, or tired, or burned out, or blocked.

Sure, people get lucky, get nepo-tized,* or simply stumble into their big break. The majority don't. The majority sacrifice their social lives, their time with family, and their doctor-recommended eight hours of sleep to work their little booties off on a project that may never see the light of day.

So when the rewrites feel like they'll never end, when I'm quite sure that I just can't make that note work in the context of the story, when I'm positive that I'll just die if I don't get out of that chair and outside for some fresh air, I remind myself that the only way out is through.**

Shut up and get it done.


*a variation on nepotism, not actually a word
** also something that someone a lot smarter than me came up with

Friday, April 1, 2011

Comfy Chairs

Though my age certainly sets me squarely in the "adult" category, I am not yet settled in an adult-like way. I don't yet have a place to live that I can truly call my own.

Once I do, though, ohhhhh once I do. I will have a townhouse. That I don't own. Renter-4-life, yo. I don't want to have to mow my own lawn. Perhaps it will have some sort of common renter area, with things like tennis courts and a pool.  

It will be in the Northeast, where there are four seasons a year, and I'll be able to look out my beautiful bay windows and watch the leaves change, the rain fall, and the snow pile up. I will have a fireplace. And I will have a chair like this:

                  PB Comfort Grand Slipcovered Armchair

Maybe it will have some colorful pillows on it. I will have a mug of hot cocoa on a side table and a stack of books next to the chair, and I will curl up with a fluffy blanket and read until my eyes droop. And I will be happy.
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