Reasons and things


Story

I may have said all this before, I may not. To be honest I tend to get a bit confused nowadays and can often be found wandering the aisles of my local supermarket in my pants demanding to know where Kevin went.

But that’s another story for another time.

What I may or may not have said before is this:

I’ve been thinking about structure a lot recently and looking for shortcuts to my writing process which I can apply to scripts/stories which don’t appear to be working properly.

As I said last week, I like the three act structure. It makes sense to me … but it’s fairly useless when it comes to writing a script because it’s the story-telling equivalent of saying this is how it begins, then some stuff happens for ages, then this is how it ends.

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I’m quite fond of looking at animated features when I’m musing on structure because I think they tend to get it right far more frequently than anyone else (Pixar/Disney in particular) so I was delighted when the excruciatingly awesome Michelle Lipton pointed me in the direction of this by Michael Arndt:

Which pretty much sums up how I think about beginnings but using much more better wordences than what I can.

That’s the first act sorted … but what about the rest of the film?

To me writing a script is a process of breaking it down into ever smaller chunks. A sentence which sums up what’s going on becomes four bits (act one, act two (a), act two (b) and act three) which becomes eight bits which becomes umpteen scenes which finally becomes 100+ pages.

At each stage, I try to find names for the bits.

Well, not the pages. I rarely name the pages. Unless I’m feeling exceptionally procrastinaty: Anna, Bruce, Caitlin, Devon … only 106 more to go!

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At the four-bit stage I’ve taken to experimenting with:

SET-UP
WRONG THING/WRONG REASON
RIGHT THING/WRONG REASON
RIGHT THING/RIGHT REASON

… which seems to work for me. Now I know in the grand scheme of things this is equally unhelpful for creating a story, but it helps me to break the story into chunks so something changes goal/personality-wise on the long plod through the second act.

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Take The Incredibles as an example (because it’s superb). The set up follows Michael Arndt’s video (more or less. Mostly more) and establishes Mr Incredible needs to come to terms with the loss of being a superhero and the gain of having a family. Or perhaps integrate the two?

WRONG THING/WRONG REASON – Mr Incredible lies to his family and sneaks off to be a superhero again. This gets him into a lot of trouble and puts his family in danger.

RIGHT THING/WRONG REASON – working together, they beat the bad guys and get off the island. This gets his family out of danger … but isn’t the answer. When they get back to the city, Bob is still trying to keep his family life/super life separate. He’s still driven by fear.

RIGHT THING/WRONG REASON – only by fully merging his two lives and allowing his family to help him can they work together to beat the bad guy. He can be a family guy AND a superhero!

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Wreck It Ralph’s another great example:

THE SET UP – Ralph wants to be accepted by the ‘good’ people in the game. He wants to be thought of a hero.

WRONG THING/WRONG REASON – he tries to steal a medal because he thinks that’s what make the Nicelanders like Felix. He can’t see the cause preceding the effect.

RIGHT THING/WRONG REASON – Ralph helps Venelope attain her goal for purely selfish reasons, to get the medal back. He’s doing what a hero would do, but not why the hero would do it.

RIGHT THING/RIGHT REASON – Ralph tries to sacrifice himself to save not just Venelope but the entire arcade. He is a hero.

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I’m not sure if this always applies to all stories, but it seems to apply to the kind of films I like to watch and tends to be a useful tool to get me thinking about my own stories.

I don’t really believe in universal rules or solutions … but I do believe in stocking my toolbox with a variety of ways of getting the job done and at the moment this appears to be working for me, so … you know … it might be worth a go?

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Categories: My Way, Someone Else's Way, Things I've Learnt Recently | 2 Comments

Three acts – why not?

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This week I’ve been listening to/reading about writers who rail against a three act structure – it doesn’t apply to my art, it’s constrictive, it’s prescriptive, it’s just plain bollocks …

I’ve never quite understood the problem. To me the three acts are BEGINNING, MIDDLE and END … don’t all stories have those?

Except Mr and Mrs Smith, which I seem to remember just stops at the end of the middle.*

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But generally, all stories have a beginning, middle and end, don’t they? They might not follow chronologically, but all three bits should be there.

“Aha!” people exclaim, righteously pleased with themselves for having out-thunk me ” MOMENTO doesn’t follow the three act structure and that’s a great film!”

Well, yes it is … but it still has a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning is a murder, the middle is a ‘why did/will he do it’? and the end is when the story concludes and we understand what did/will happen.

Still three bits to my brain.

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Generally the beginning and the end are shorter than the middle, that makes sense to me.

Beginning: this is a story about someone who wants something but can’t get it because of reasons.

Middle: this is all the things they go through trying to get the thing they want.

End: they get it. Or don’t, in a way which is fairly permanent.

That’s it, three acts.

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“Aha!”

Oh fuck, it’s him again.

“Shakespeare wrote in five acts and Shakespeare is awesome so therefore the three act structure is wrong!”

Well … maybe. I don’t have any Shakespeare to hand (at the time of writing this) but I’m fairly certain those five acts will divide up into beginning, middle and end.

Maybe acts one and two are the beginning, three and four are the middle and five is the end? Or some other combination, but I’m fairly certain there’ll always be three bits.

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Every time I read someone who propounds a five act structure, on closer examination there turns out to be three acts broken into smaller bits. People break the beginning into two bits: before and after some kind of inciting incident (which seems to be what Shakespeare does, if memory serves). Then they break the middle into two bits and call them different things. Five act people rarely seem to divide up the end, but sometimes they do.

The other advice which comes with the three act structure is exactly that: chuck in an inciting incident halfway through the first act – in other words, introduce us to the main character before you start changing things for them. After the inciting incident, maybe have them worried about accepting that change before taking the plunge?

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In the middle, maybe consider changing something around halfway through? It’s a fuck-long way from the beginning to the end, so maybe get to halfway and pull the rug out from under them? Or in someway alter the story to stop it being monotonous?

At the end of the middle, it’s dramatically satisfying to make the audience thing everyone is fucked. Then they win. Maybe.

That’s all the three act structure is … but still people rail against it and I think the problem is the word ‘act’ – it’s either misleading or completely the wrong word.

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What is an act?

To me, it’s a place where you could cut to an ad break or close the curtains for an interval or otherwise just pause for a da-da-daaaaaaa! moment.

And that’s it.

I guess we should feel free to divide it up anyway we like to help us write it … but when we’re discussing it with anyone, it helps to think in three acts because the three act structure is just a codified way of talking about the components of a film. It’s the beginning, the middle and the end … with a few handy signposts along the way which *most* satisfying stories hit.

Most. Not all, just most.

So why is the idea of a beginning a middle and an end so offensive to some writers?

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* Lots of films seem to struggle with the concept of a beginning, middle and end. Like HANCOCK which has a beginning, middle, end and then another beginning, middle and end. Or CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER which has a very clear beginning, middle and end … and then carries on for another hour because there are apparently there are still story-extraneous Nazis who need punching.
The lesson I learnt from these is to try to put the end of the story at the end of the film. Like all lessons, it’s easier to say than to do.
Categories: Industry Musings, Someone Else's Way | 3 Comments

Fancy free

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The other day I heard Footloose described as a guilty pleasure.

Why? Why is liking Footloose a guilty pleasure? What’s wrong with Footloose?

Some people seem to think it’s this cheesy teen dance-movie … but have you actually sat down and watched it beginning to end recently? It’s an awesome movie with some really nuanced and poigniant moments.

Okay, so there’s the cheesy “I’m so pissed off I have to dance” moment. And there’s a cheesy-ish montage. And maybe the final dance is a bit cheesy … but overall the film really isn’t.

To me, Footloose feels like it was meant to be cheesy, like Dean Pitchford was given the assignment (I don’t think it was an assignment, I think it was a spec – loosely based on a real story, if memory serves) of writing a cheesy teen-dance movie and instead handed in a script which is all grey areas and no absolutes.

No one in the film is right or wrong. There’s no villain. John Lithgow is, nominally, the antagonist, but he’s not a bad guy by any means.

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All the characters have satisfying arcs … except Sarah Jessica Parker, but … fuck it, you can’t have everything.

Take some of the potentially more cliched scenes:

The love-interest’s boyfriend shows he’s the unsuitable suitor by hitting her.

Well, yes … but actually she hits him first. The scene starts with him pissed off at her because he thinks she’s cheating on him … which she is. She hits him. He hits her back. She smashes up his truck. He loses his temper and hits her again to make her stop.

Violence is (almost) always wrong … but who’s in the right in that scene? Is it good girl/bad guy or is it more nuanced than that?

What about the town hall scene?

Kevin Bacon makes an impassioned speech to the council about dancing, using their terms and their religious text to make his point. A more cheesy film would have him win and then go straight to the dance … but he doesn’t win. He loses. You rarely change people’s mind with one speech, no matter how impassioned. Life’s not really like that and neither’s Footloose – so it takes a more difficult route to the final dance.

Kevin Bacon (sort of wins) when he goes to ask John Lithgow if he can take his daughter to the dance … but John Lithgow isn’t humiliated. He’s not taught a lesson and he doesn’t really change his mind – he’s still terrified and uncertain at the end.

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Every scene is like that. Nothing’s clear cut. It’s not pro-teen, adults are stupid. It’s not dancing is the be-all and end all of living. It’s not even chock full of super-amazingly good looking people. I mean, yeah, it’s a Hollywood movie and everyone’s attractive … but no one looks like a model.

I love it. It’s a genuinely great movie with a few cheesy moments and 80’s songs … but it’s easily one of my favourite films and one I can watch again and again and again.

In lesser hands it would have been a cheesy piece of shit. It sounds shit … but it’s really not. And it shouldn’t be a guilty pleasure – it should be a fucking joy to behold for everyone.

Plus, if you don’t at least tap your feet to the theme tune then you’re clinically dead.

Categories: Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way | Leave a comment

Okay google

I love technology. I love gadgets. I love how they make simple things slightly more complicated but cooler. In particular, I love mobile phones.

People who know me well find that amusing because of my outspoken hatred of mobiles for many, many years. I hated them. I found them intrusive and unnecessary and socially destructive … but, as I often say, if you’re going to change your mind, change it properly.

The best way to change your mind isn’t by increments, it’s by swerving wildly from one extreme to the other.

Probably.

To be fair though, the point at which I changed my mind coincided with the point at which phones stopped being just phones and became cameras and music players and Internet portals.

mobile-phone-texting-autocorrect-omg-i-gotta-tweet-this-apocalypse

Nowadays I use my phone for emails, for satnav, for web browsing, as a remote control for the telly (and our lounge lights), as a camera (a 3D-ish camera, even!), for messaging and as a calendar … but rarely for phone calls. When it rings, I’m surprised – what the hell is that noise?

From a scriptwriting point of view, I still hate mobile phones. I hate how they can deflate dramatic situations – why is he running across town? Why doesn’t he just phone her? Why doesn’t she just google how to pick the lock? How come all these people keep running into trouble in areas with no phone signal?

I also hate sitting in cinemas while people are checking their phones. Presumably they’ve paid to be there, why aren’t they watching the film? And if they haven’t paid to be there, I fucking have! Turn it off!

Or maybe don’t?

Maybe it’s time to use this technology for mischief?

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Apparently 60% of smartphone users own an Android device. If you think that’s incorrect and believe close to 80 or 90% of people have iPhones then you probably work in media of some description because, for some reason, everyone in media has an iPhone.

You may choose to believe that’s because they’re the best phones on the market or because media-folk are unusually susceptible to marketing, depending on your point of view. Neither of which are probably correct.

Anyway, according to official(ish) figures, 60-odd percent of smartphones are Android and (as far as I’m aware) all Android smartphones can run Google Now and a significant proportion of them are always listening for the words “Okay Google”.

For those of you who don’t have an Android phone (which given the media-focus of this blog is probably everyone reading this), Google Now is the Android equivalent of Siri, but a bit more intrusive and Big Brother-ish. It watches you, it collects information, it makes frighteningly accurate suggestions about things you might want to do, visit or be interested in and … it listens.

“Okay Google” is the activation phrase. Say it while the screen is on^ and the phone responds to any command you give it. No buttons need pressing, no other action is required.*

It occurs to me that it’s our civic duty as scriptwriters to abuse this technology wherever possible.

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I hereby call upon all our writers worldwide to include the phrase “Okay Google” in every film from now on … and follow it with something embarrassing and/or annoying.

Feel free to be as creative as possible here.

“I understand you! I just disagree, okay? Google it, call mum and see if she gives a fuck, because I fucking don’t.”

At which point, a small proportion of people watching the film will find their phones dialing their mothers. The ‘it’ probably won’t register since there is a slight lag between saying the phrase and the phone activating.

Why not call a henchman ‘Google’ because he’s dead clever and knows how to find all sorts of shit. Then you can crowbar in phrases like:

“Enough’s enough, okay? Google, send John a message, I can see you … want to hurt him.”

If you make the pause between ‘you’ and ‘want’ big enough then a small percentage of the world’s Johns will get a text saying “I can see you.”

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Or why not include a phrase like … butt plug? The phone will search for anything it doesn’t recognise as a command. Best case scenario, it will read out the Wiki definition of ‘butt plug’ to everyone in the cinema. Worst case, Google Now will spam the fuck out of them with ads and articles for butt plugs forever more.

I think the potential here is limitless. It’s our civic duty to do this. If we work together we can really, really annoy a small handful of people worldwide … which, when I put it like that sounds slightly less appealing.

Plus … I’m not really sure it would work.

Still, it would amuse me and sometimes that’s all that matters.

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^ I’ve just found out some Samsungs do this with the screen off, which is even better. I guess other phones must do it too?

* I think Siri does it too, but I’ve no idea what the activation phrase is. “Hello Siri” maybe? I think I heard that somewhere … kind of hard to get into a script. Cortana … no idea. Sorry.

Categories: Bored, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 3 Comments

2014

2015

Hooray it’s 2015. The future! The actual future. That’s where we live now. We’re here.

That’s the Back to the Future future anyway. Other futures include 1999 (as in Space), 2001 (as in a Space Odyssey) and 2010 (as in … another Space Odyssey). We’ve smashed through all those future and they were all fucking wrong … but this time, this time I’ve got a feeling we’re actually here.

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Hoverboards and flying cars by October!

So this is my yearly end-of-year round up which I completely failed to do at the end of the year and am instead doing now.

2014 was a funny old year. I didn’t have a film produced for a start – which is odd for me, I’ve had one (more or less) produced every year for almost a decade so it feels a bit lacking.

On the other hand, it was a year of new stuff and exciting things. A year of regrouping and changing direction. Twice.

lost

 

It was a year of earning more money by not getting films produced – a strange phenomena whereby people seem to be paying me to keep quiet. I earnt more last year than in the few previous years combined by writing things I actually enjoy with and for people who are actually interested in that specific film as opposed to just banging out any old tosh.

I’ve been doing uncredited re-writes on things and polishes and itty bitty bits and bobs like that.

I’ve written a couple of features for new clients which have come out well and been thoroughly enjoyable experiences.

Money

I even got to work a bit more on one of my favourite scripts which has since gone out to actors (including a popstar whose jeans I once wore after his ex-girlfriend stole them and an actor so ridiculously A-list and cool that I’m not even allowed to think his name let alone tell anyone).

At the beginning of the year I was thinking all telly with some really cool meetings … but halfway through the year I accidentally got myself some US management and switched gears to US-focused studio movies. Well, sort of switched gears – it’s taken me six months to politely disengage myself from all previous UK commitments.

But I’m disengaged now and re-engaged with US stuff for 2015.

As for 2014 in blogs … well, it was a bit sparse. These things take up a lot of time and I don’t have much of it to spare. Still, for anyone who was or wasn’t paying attention, the blogging year went something like this:

JANUARY

A witter about Christmas and a moan about Sherlock, followed by bigging up Danny and Tim and then slating myself for being sexist.

sexist-children-book05

FEBRUARY

First up was The Spec Chain … which we all agreed was a waste of everyone’s time. Particularly mine. Next up was a rumination on cliffhangers and page three (not the booby kind, the normal kind between pages two and four). In an amazing splurge of blogging I managed to write another post about minor character names which is at least vaguely interesting and then in an even more amazing splurge I actually wrote yet another post where I decided I’m the font of all factual knowledge.

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So there.

Wow! Four posts in one month! I’m awesome at this blogging lark!

MARCH

Ah, right … so March wasn’t so good. All I managed in March was that Blog Tour meme (which doesn’t count as a proper post) and a bit of a ramble about using bold in a script.

I think I’d decided to post every Monday at this point … and was already failing. Still, it’s good to fail fast.

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Isn’t it?

APRIL

Another 50 percenter – two out of four, not too bad. Unless there were five Mondays in April? In which case it’s piss poor. All I did that month was tell people not to get upset about not getting through the first round of the Red Planet Prize and burble on about synopses and why my first draft ones are always terrible.

Ooh, I also transformed a TARDIS into a War TARDIS – the first of many extra-writing projects I undertook in 2014.

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MAY

The Need to Know List – ooh, that sounds exciting.

Oh. No. No it isn’t.

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JUNE

June brought the first installment of my Conversations to Quit Over series – a pointless grumbling of fucking moronic things I’ve been asked to do by people who should know better. I wonder how many installments of this thrilling series there will be?????!!!?!?!?!?!???!!!?!?   !   ?

The rest of the month was me bemoaning my own inability to hold my enthusiasm back and a second shout out to Tim and Danny or, rather, to Nelson Nutmeg – pffft, bet they’ll never get that off the page.

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JULY

Repointing the Pyramid – I like that analogy far more than I like that post which largely seems to be covertly apologising for not having finished a script.

Sorry.

AUGUST

Two posts this month! Hooray!

hooray

Or not, depending on your taste.

One about how script readers aren’t as stupid* as we think they are. And even when they are, just pretend they’re not. The other was about how one extra word on page one added a complete page to the end of the script – incredibly frustrating when you have to keep the page count under a certain (arbitrary) number. This is when the one page = one minute rule falls apart: one extra word = one extra page =/= one extra minute.

* Incidentally, a director who read the title as opposed to the post itself helpfully pointed out I’d written a script for him which was incredibly well received by script readers as proof they’re not all stupid. He then sent me all the super-positive comments to remind me how universally loved that script is. That was a lovely little ego-boost that was.

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SEPTEMBER

Hooray! Part two of Conversations to Quit Over – thank god for that, I was beginning to think there wasn’t a part two … or maybe that was just wishful thinking? Clearly I was a bit bored or busy in September since I rambled on about Tales of the Gold Monkey for ages in the first installment of a new series I’ll probably instantly forget about, posted photos of sexy TV stars …

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… and then compared writing to cooking. I quite like that post. Here’s a musical interlude.

OCTOBER

In October, shit got serious – I decided to be brave and attempt to do two projects live on-blog for all the world to see. No more fucking around, this would be a warts and all insight into the creation of a script and a Ghostbusters Proton Pack. Every Monday, without fail, an update. Here goes …

NOVEMBER

Yeah … well that didn’t happen.

The updates, I mean.

Or the script – other projects got in the way.

The proton pack, on the other hand …

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Yeah … that was okay.

I also fessed up to being a Needy Writer in a post I quite like.

Which brings us to …

DECEMBER

When all I did was re-plug this ebook:

Detective Strongoak book cover

Which is enough for one month, don’t you think?

December was a mad scramble to get everything done before Christmas and to finish off my last extra-writing project of the year for a New Year’s Eve party:

2014-12-31 21.31.33I made that costume. All of it. From scratch. Well, from material at any rate. Do you know how difficult it is to starch an Elizabethan ruff?

I do.

I made bits of Mandy’s too – the cool bits like the cape (actually made for a Robin costume) and the voice changer sewn into the hankie/mask.

Come to think of it, I made the background too.

But not the sofa.

Or the throne.

My favourite part of the costume was the codpiece – complete with squeaker. That’s the mark II codpiece there, the mark I codpiece went a bit wrong …

10857800_10152979701338338_1041508421043160588_nNot really suitable for a child-infested party. Still, all in all, I’m pleased with that.

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And that was my year – a good year all round with codpieces and writing and new management and a proton pack. And a War TARDIS.

Who knows what 2015 will bring?

I do.

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Happy (almost) New Year!

Categories: Career Path, My Way, Random Witterings | 1 Comment

Cracking follow up

Detective Strongoak book cover

It’s December! That means snow is in the air! Or on my blog at the very least.

Somehow I’ve completely failed to post all of the fantastic posts I’ve written over the last few weeks. Why? No idea. Just haven’t, leave me alone.

Ah well, maybe next year.

Last year around this time I posted a series of Christmas Crackers promoting random things. I was going to do the same again this year … but haven’t. (see above)

This one I will re-post though, because good things have happened:

https://phillbarron.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/christmas-cracker-3-a-dead-elf/

Since (roughly) this time last year the almighty Terry Newman has had his ebook epublished by Harper Collins. Ooh! Good job that man! And he’d quite like you to buy it.

I’d like you to buy it too.

And read it.

And tell me if it’s any good because I still haven’t got over my dislike of ebooks despite never having read (or tried to read) one. I’m waiting for the paperback because that’s how I roll … over trees.

This is what it’s about:

Private eye Nicely Strongoak is your average detective-for-hire, if your average detective is a dwarf with a Napoleon complex. In a city filled with drug-taking gnomes, goblins packing heat and a serious case of missing-persons, Strongoak might just be what’s needed.

But things are about to turn sour. When on the trail of the vanished surfer, Perry Goodfellow, Nicely receives a sharp blow to the head, is burgled by goblins and awakes in a narcotic-induced haze on the floor of a steamwagon with an extremely deceased elf, who just happens to have Nicely’s axe wedged in his head.

Nicely must enter the murky world of government politics if he is going to crack his toughest case yet. He’ll have to find Perry, uncover who the dead elf is and leave no cobblestone unturned…

And this is where you can but it:

http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008101206/detective-strongoak-and-the-case-of-the-dead-elf

Go on, treat yourself. More importantly, treat Terry because he’s ever so nice.

Categories: Someone Else's Way | Leave a comment

Needy writer

needy

I’ve discovered recently that I’m a needy writer and I’m working hard not to be.

Not needy in an emotional sense or a whiny, weepy, please love me, I need your approval sense …

Although I am that as well. Come on, we all are. Deep down?

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No? Just me?

Not like that anyway, more in the sense of thinking in terms of what the script/story/characters need.

Several times recently on a couple of projects I’ve been deep in discussion with the director or my co-writer about a script which isn’t quite working and saying something like:

“What we need is a scene which shows the character loves gerbils and is a homicidal maniac who’s afraid of cheese.”

To which everyone agrees … but how do we show both in the same scene?

Hmm.

What can we do to visually show both of these things in a single page or image? I mean, after the script needs it.

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Needs. It.

Or does it?

What happens if we take that bit out? What happens if we change it? What if we make the character love cheese and get all stabby over gerbils? What if we make the character something completely different?

How much of what we think we need do we actually need?

In both cases, the answer was the same – we don’t need that. Not at all. In fact, if we do the complete opposite then the story actually works and is completely satisfying as opposed to merely kind of okay.

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The script I’ve just finished, to get specific without giving any of the plot away, is about risk and the taking thereof. We needed the protagonist to be risk-averse and to be forced into taking a huge risk in order to win through at the end.

We needed that. The script needed that. The story hinged on it. It had to happen.

The only problem is, it was making the protagonist incredibly boring. It’s quite hard (within the confines of the pre-existing story) to make this particular protagonist interesting and fun and likeable (or empathetic or loveable … or whatever you want to call it) and still be risk-averse.

I mean, how do you show that someone’s risk-averse?

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You show them not doing dangerous things. You know, fun things like not skydiving or not being spontaneous or not gambling their career on a promotion or not … well, anything. And in order to show someone isn’t doing something, you have to have her standing next to people who are doing things. You have to see her next to someone (or someones) who do throw themselves out of a plane or off a building or running across a busy road while she waits behind looking scared and/or disapproving.

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One of the quickest ways to build empathy with a character is to show them being good at something. Or compassionate about something. But if all you’re doing is showing them not doing it, then they’re just not interesting.

Okay, so there are ways around this but we found ourselves building in an incredibly detailed backstory to explain why she’s like this so the audience are on her side. She’s risk-averse because her mother was a compulsive gambler who lost the family home and was forced to work as a drug mule, taking the young protagonist along for cover who then witnessed first hand what happens when you are indebted to the mob and/or get busted for … blah, blah, blah.

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An extra fifteen pages later and the script is waaaaay too long.

And the protagonist is still dull. Justifiably so – we understand why she’s dull and know this is the story of how she learns to stop being dull … but still, dull is dull.

But this is what the script needs, it’s about risk. Stories work best when the character has a thematically ironic problem to overcome. The theme is risk. The irony is she doesn’t take any.

That’s what the script needs.

Needs.

app

Or does it?

What if we put that idea aside (because it’s terrible) and look at it from the other direction?

What if, instead of being risk-phobic, she’s a riskophile?

What if she’s the one throwing herself out of a plane while someone boring looks on disapprovingly? What if she’s a fuck-load of fun?

Well, for one thing it makes the story much more enjoyable.

She takes too many risks, learns about consequences and then, when she’s begining to fear taking risks, has to take the biggest one of her life.

Luke-Skywalker-Took-The-Biggest-Risk-Ever-In-Star-Wars

Suddenly the script is far, far better.

Why do people take risks? Why aren’t they afraid of the consequences? Why doesn’t she care enough about herself to rein it in?

Suddenly the script is wide open … without actually changing any of the pre-existing story points.

But what about the antagonist? He was the one taking the risks she was afraid of, now he’s pretty much the same as her. If we change him, we change the whole story … which we can’t do.

Okay, fine. So let’s make him the worst version of her to show her how dangerous her present course of action is. He is what she will become if she doesn’t begin to comprehend consequences …

consequences

And so on.

Forgetting about what we thought the script needed allowed us to find something the script actually needed. It allowed us to find a way to make it actually work.

So that’s my plan from now on – every time I find myself with a fixed idea about what the script needs but not what that thing might be, I’m just going to set that aside and try to imagine what the opposite might be.

And the end of the day, the previous option is still there. Thinking outside of what I believe the script needs might not provide the results, but it doesn’t hurt either. It’s a technique which is serving me well at the moment so, you know, it might be worth a try?

Bullshit or not?

Categories: Bored, My Way, Random Witterings | 2 Comments

Oh dear

So … regular updates. Yes. That didn’t quite happen, did it?

I think it’s fairly safe to say October didn’t go quite as planned.

On the writing side, I had to do a rewrite for a script which is just tipping over into production, got sidetracked by being asked for ideas for a completely different genre to the one I intended to write and also ended up completely junking my existing idea and starting again from scratch. So it’s not like I’ve done nothing, it’s more like I’ve got nothing to show for it.

At least nothing useful to show for it.

Yet.

This is as far as I got with the new idea in October.

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That’s my new laptop, by the way. Sometimes it looks like that, sometimes it looks like this:

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All courtesy of my lovely wife.

On the Proton Pack side of things … well, it turns out a month of weekends isn’t quite enough time to build one. Not when you’re using papier mache anyway. You see, it turns out papier mache takes ages to dry. Hours and hours. Bordering on days. Five layers of papier mache at three days per week takes … well, several weeks.

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Luckily it all accelerates after that …

2014-10-09 12.42.32 2014-10-10 14.41.14 2014-10-11 08.36.09 2014-10-11 15.21.57 2014-10-13 21.43.42 2014-10-13 21.46.47 2014-10-17 22.27.45 2014-10-17 22.27.51 2014-10-17 23.47.11 2014-10-17 23.50.30 2014-10-18 11.11.45 2014-10-19 00.03.12 2014-10-19 12.07.59 2014-10-19 17.15.55 2014-10-20 00.07.38 2014-10-20 00.07.59 2014-10-21 00.31.02 2014-10-25 21.33.09 2014-10-27 19.48.39

But not fast enough.

I even had to take some sewing to my secret writing island in order to get it all done.

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On Halloween itself, desperately jetlagged, I was still fucking about with LEDs and soundcards and painting bottle tops and lolly sticks. I didn’t quite manage to get the smoke machine working, but it kind of came out okay though:

And although the paint was still wet and a few glued on bits fell off … overall, it was a successful night of tricking and treating:

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I even got a free cup of tea from the lovely people at Tennis in the Park.

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So that was my October.

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November won’t involve any Proton Packs (well, bar maybe a teeny bit of finishing off) …

SMOKE!

… but hopefully should involve a new script.

Probably.

Categories: Random Witterings | 1 Comment

Proton script

Waitress-photo

Happy October!

Is it October yet? If it’s not we must be nearly there, surely? I have a plan for October, even if I’m not 100% certain when it begins. It’s a plan with lots of parts. It’s quite a good plan. I think.

Or maybe it isn’t? I don’t know.

Two sets of circumstances have occurred to lead me to this plan:

1) Both of the scripts I’ve been working on are … well, if not finished then currently in a good place. One’s going out to actors (in a really, really good way), the other is in the hands of my management. Both are awaiting the next phase, whatever that may be.

2) It’s nearly Halloween.

These two things form the crux of my October-Plan.

1) Write a new script. One for me. Something I want to write.

2) Make a Halloween costume.

Number 1) is something I haven’t managed for a long time … despite threatening to do it every six months or so. Something always comes up, but this time I’m pretty certain I’ve actually got the time to do it.

Number 2) … well, I’ve been picking at it for a while and need one last push to get it finished. You see, a couple of months back a mate of mine was going to an 80s’ fancy dress party and decided to go as a Ghostbuster – I offered to make the proton pack for him, for I like making stuff.

Nothing fancy. It had to be cheap, but look vaguely like the real deal. It should be recognisable, if nothing else.

This was the result.

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Made from Tupperware and assorted knick-knacks which were hiding in my shed (if anyone knows why I had all that tubing, I’d love to know) it’s lit with a few Poundshop lights and decorated with labels found at the frankly awesome GBFans.com.

The switches work. It lights up. It fires. It does the job.

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But I can’t help thinking I could have done better.

Plus … I want one. I’ve always wanted one.

And now’s my chance! If I make my own, we can go trick-or-treating with the kids! Last year I went as Batman … there’s at least one kid who thinks he met the real deal.

This year … Ghostbusters all the way!

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This decision was made a few months back and I’ve since been fiddling with various bits of costume. I wanted to make sure I had a fairly accurate one and, like I say, I just like making props.

I started out with the Belt Gizmo. In 1984 this was the insides of a calculator stuck to the Ghostbusters’ belts to make them look all science-y. It didn’t do anything and is never referred to in the film, but I wanted mine to actually do something … so mine detects ghosts:

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Next up was the Ecto-Goggles, as modeled here by Dan Ackroyd:

goggles-screen-grab-2_zps468e2454

Again, I felt mine should do something so I made them with a night-vision mode:

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An infra-red mode:

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And Slimer-vision:

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After that I got a bit cocky and made the PKE Meter out of a clothes brush:

I should probably point out none of these are my original ideas – I’ve copied them extensively from various Internet sources.

Yesterday (depending on when I actually post this) I turned these craptastic 80s toys:

2014-09-28 17.25.59

… into replicas of the Motorola MT500s used by the boys in grey themselves (depsite them actually wearing a kind of beige colour).

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I’ve got a couple of bits and bobs left to do, but mainly I’ve got to build the proton pack … which has to be better than last time. The last one lit up. This one has to light up and make noises and shake when it fires and possibly vent smoke.

That would be nice.

And I won’t be alone. Alice will be joining in:

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So that’s my October planned. Hopefully I’ll finish both by the end of the month by following this schedule:

Tuesday to Friday: off to the Secret Writing Island for some serious, uninterrupted, head down scripting.
Saturday and Sunday daytime: family time.
Saturday and Sunday evening and all day Monday (aside from the odd bit of kung fu in the evenings): build an unlicenced nuclear accelerator.

Anyone who’s interested in seeing my progress (on both projects), there’ll be regular updates here.

Anyone who isn’t … come back in November, I’m sure I’ll be back on ranty-sweary form by then.

October or not, the work starts now.

Is there an emoticon for *excited cackle* or *gleeful hand rub*? If not, please imagine one in this space:

2014-06-18 07.25.41

Categories: My Way, Sad Bastard | 1 Comment

Recipe for success

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I hate following recipes.

That’s not to say I’m one of those people who can fashion a gourmet meal out of kitchen scraps, artfully combining them in new and inventive ways by pure instinct. Truth be told, I hate cooking anything I haven’t cooked before – especially if it’s meant to be something recognisable at the end.

Cooking-Disaster

The problem I have is recipes aren’t really instructions. They kind of try to be sometimes, but generally assume you have a degree of cooking knowledge and can understand the difference between complex terms like ‘fold’, ‘beat’ and ‘whisk’ which to my feeble mind all mean ‘stir’.

Possibly vigorously.

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They also use phrases like “a pinch”. A pinch? How much is a pinch? My fingers might be bigger than yours. How do you know I haven’t got massive fucking fingers? That’s hardly fucking science, is it?

My main issue with following recipes though is the fact I can follow them exactly and still not produce the meal I was supposed to be cooking.

2012-08-20 23.27.27

“This is what we’re having for dinner” says Mandy “and here’s the recipe.”

Okay, should be easy. We’ve eaten this dozens of times over the years. I know what it’s supposed to look like and taste like and …

By the way, there is a scriptwriting link coming. Honest.

… roughly what goes into it. Following the recipe should be a doddle.

Except it’s not.

IMAG0479

It never is.

Because one of two things happens: either I get halfway through and discover Mandy hasn’t bought a vital ingredient (for she does the shopping in our house since she spends far less time in the Caribbean than I do) forcing me to stop at a crucial junction and either run to the shops or substitute something random for something I have no idea what it was supposed to be.

“Olive Tapenade? What the fuck is a tapenade? Will Frosties do?”

More often than not, it’s at this point I give up and head for the nearest burger joint.

If I’m not missing an ingredient then I finish cooking to discover the result doesn’t look, smell or taste anything like it does when Mandy makes it.

IMAG0156

Which is frustrating since I was following her recipe.

Of course, the key to unravelling this mystery is to understand one simple fact: Mandy doesn’t follow recipes. She invents bits, for she is a wonderful cook. She doesn’t use Olive Tapenade because she knows I don’t like olives (I once drank a pint of olive oil – that sort of silliness tends to put you off) so substitutes it for something tomato-y.

Killer-Tomato-l

In other dishes she doubles, halves, omits or adds various ingredients because she’s cooked these dishes a few times and likes to experiment. When she serves a specific dish it’s not actually the one specified by the recipe because she’s altered it into something else. I can follow the same recipe a hundred times and never come close to approximating the dish she serves because I have no idea what it actually is.

And I don’t think this is uncommon. A good cook looks at the recipe and then disregards the bits which don’t fit his or her tastes. A good cook recognises a recipe isn’t a set of instructions, it’s a set of guidelines. It’s a statement which says:

“I did it this way because it works for me, do something similar which works for you.”

It occurs to me that this might be the correct approach to use when learning screenplay structure. Some writers are appalled by the notion that something artistic might have rules … completely ignoring the fact that ALL art has rules. Or perhaps just guidelines. Or recipes.

They’ll point to great artists like Picasso and go “well he didn’t follow the rules, so why should I?”

Pablo_Quotes_02

Which is odd, because if you ever go to the Picasso museum in Barcelona (you know, that one somewhere down off Las Ramblas – near that bar which has trees in it and fairies and a haunted castle-room-thing at the back … no idea what it’s called. The museum. Or the bar for that matter.) then you can clearly see Picasso learnt all the rules, painted some rather dull portraits before giving up and just taking the piss out of people.

At least, that’s my theory. There’s this great exhibit which you see an original artwork by someone or other and then Picasso’s version next to it. The original is a near-photo-quality portrait. Picasso’s version looks like Bod.

bod

And is worth ten times as much.

In other words, Picasso learnt the recipe and then did his own version. He changed the bits he felt needed changing to suit his style … but he still followed certain rules of composition.

Probably.

I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about and appear to be mixing metaphors all over the place.

download

Or am I folding them?

Possibly beating. Not sure.

The point, if I ever had one, is there’s nothing wrong with seeking out other people’s recipes for scriptwriting. I find it interesting to study them and see what I can learn from them. I don’t follow them to the letter though – I like to mix and match, to deviate from the recipe in ways which enhance the script.

Or at least I think they enhance the script.

Maybe they don’t?

Maybe I should just follow the recipes exactly? Maybe I should just shut the hell up because I’ve no idea why I started talking about this crap?

Yes, that sounds more likely.

Here, have some recipe-themed funk instead.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

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