Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

 

Boys Don’t Cry

Driving home the other night The Cure came on the radio. From the back seat came a question:

“Why don’t boys cry?”

“What?”

“The name of the song is Boys Don’t Cry.”

“Yep.”

“What does that mean?”

“Oh, it used to be that boys were supposed to be tough, and strong and if you are tough and strong you don’t cry.”

“What about girls?”

“People used to say that girls were weaker and not as strong as boys so it was okay for a girl to cry. But you know, I don’t think that’s really true, I think some girls can be much stronger than boys in many ways.” 

“You mean like when I stopped taking medicine and the doctor said some boys bigger than me had to still take the medicine even after getting out of the hospital?”

“Yep.”

A smile spread across her face and filled my rear view mirror.

 

copyright ©2016  J. Power

 

 

Today I failed

Posted: September 20, 2015 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

Today, I failed, it was turn in day and I wasn’t ready. I joined a group of like-minded people in working to write 10 pages a week for 10 weeks. It’s week 9, almost done, and I just failed to complete my 10 pages. I only wrote 5 pages this week, didn’t even get close to 10. A big failure.

I feel like crap, I wish I had a good excuse for failure – family emergency, I had to work 80 hours, I got sick, I was in the hospital – but none of those possible excuses happened, I was just distracted and a bit lazy.

So does one failure make you a failure? And how do you stop the first failure from snowballing into continued failure?

One failure does not make you a failure. But you do need to review how and why you failed to prevent continued failure. That is how you learn from failure.

I failed because I wasted too much time playing games. I also struggled to write the next scene. I was lost in my own story, and instead of writing my way out, I played games. That was why I originally deleted all games from my computer, to remove the temptation. However, I recently loaded two games back onto my computer as a reward for continued writing.

The solution? Play fewer games and reset writing as my objective when logging into my computer. If I can do that I will get back on track and finish the first draft of this script. I just need to get it done. Easy fix, but I still have to implement the plan. This week, I write until I am done with my total, then I can play a game or two. If I fail again, I may have to delete those games.

 

Happy Writing,
Jim

 

Copyright © 2015  J. Power

Amber sits, belt latched and hands clasped, as the plane prepares for takeoff, “Please lord let this plane take me to my destination safely.” she whispers. She never changes the routine. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, isn’t that what they say? As the plane lifts off a man jumps into the seat next to Amber, grabbing and buckling the seat belt.

“Hello. I’m Gio.” he states extending his scarred rough hand to her. Amber, who is looking out the window, peeks at Gio. “Hi.” says Gio, waving his hand a little. Amber turns and looks back out the window, hoping Gio will get the hint and go back to his seat. As the plane reaches cruising altitude Amber turns to face front. Gio is still sitting there, with his hand out.

Amber turns, “What do you want?” she states coolly.

Gio stares into her eyes, “Just wanted to say hello. I noticed you said a little prayer before takeoff. You believe in god?”

Amber takes a closer look at Gio. He has translucent white skin with a scar running diagonally across his face and some smaller scars on his neck. His hair is short and dark brown with silver streaks. “I don’t think that is any business of yours.”

“Just an observation, you seemed a bit nervous, that’s all. I also believe.”  says Gio.

Amber looks out the window and rolls her eyes. Oh god I hope he doesn’t start preaching to me she thinks. “That’s nice.” she says matter of factly.

Gio squirms in his seat. The captain comes on the intercom, “We have reached our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. It should take about 2 hours to reach our destination. Bermuda is 70 degrees and sunny. Please sit back and enjoy the flight.”

Gio unbuckles his seat, “Do you want a water? I’m going to get one.”

“Sure.” Amber says absentmindedly.

Gio walks to the front of the plane and speaks with the stewardess for a couple of minutes. She hands him some drinks. Gio comes back to the aisle seat in Amber’s row. “I got water and peanuts! Always be courteous.” he smiles and holds out the water and peanuts for Amber. She looks over, “Thanks.” Amber takes the snacks.

“No problem.” says Gio, smiling. “I think we can maybe get a free beer or whiskey if we are very nice.”

Amber opens the bottle, takes a sip then rips open the bag of peanuts, spilling some. She grabs the loose nuts, puts them in her mouth, then dumps in the rest of the bag. Her cheeks bulge slightly like a chipmunk while she chews. When she is done Amber washes the salt and peanut bits down with her water.

Gio looks at her, “I knew you were a peanut person, I can tell these things.”

Amber looks over at him, “Really, how is that?”

“It’s one of my talents. I can figure things out about people. Some say it’s a gift, but I think it’s mostly a curse.” he states.

Amber looks at him quizzically.

“The one thing I am really good at figuring out isn’t the cheeriest news for anyone to hear,” Gio states, “It’s actually rather morbid.”

Amber leans toward Gio slightly, he now has her full attention, “Go on.”

“I really don’t think you want to know. You won’t be happy.” Gio says.

“Try me.” Amber challenges.

Gio looks her in the eye, then turns and looks around the plane to see if anyone is listening to the conversation. Most passengers appear to be engrossed in a movie or listening to music. He leans close, there is a faint odor of lilies as he whispers, “I know when people are going to die.”

Amber almost laughs, “What? That’s just silly, now I know you’re just making stuff up.”

Amber looks out the window. A couple of rows in front of them the stewardess is pouring drinks and hands out small bags of pretzels. When Amber turns back to look at Gio he isn’t smiling. “Now might be a good time for that beer,” Gio says.

“Better make it a whiskey.” Amber smiles politely.

Gio nods and turns to speak with the stewardess who has just stopped the cart in front of their row. “Anything to drink sir?” She asks.

“Yes please!” Gio says charmingly, “One lite beer for me and a whiskey for my friend.”

The stewardess looks over at Amber who nods. A beer and a whiskey are delivered to Gio and Amber. “Thank you very much Amy.” states Gio, reading her nametag.

“It’s on the house.” says Amy with a wink. Gio smiles large. Amy moves the cart to the next set of rows.

Gio leans in to whisper again, “Ha! We did get free booze, Cheers.” Gio touches his beer can to Amber’s plastic cup of whiskey and takes a sip. Amber slams the whiskey feeling the burn in her throat as it disappears. She coughs a bit, and sets the empty cup down on the tray-table.

“So,” Amber says, clearing her throat, “Is there a reason you are on this flight and talking to me.”

“Well, there is, but I’m not allowed to say.” Gio says.

Amber looks out the window. Tears begin to flow from her eyes. As she cries her body begins to tremble a bit. “We’re going to die, aren’t we? Who are you really?” Amber asks.

Gio gently touches Ambers shoulder, “I am the angel of death, I escort all to their final destination.”

Amber looks at him, wiping the tears from her eyes. “I don’t understand. Why? Shouldn’t you, I mean don’t you just come and…” Amber’s voice trails off.

“I sometimes appear to a select few to ease them into the afterlife, give them comfort.” Gio says softly.

The plane lurches, shakes violently, and begins to lose altitude quickly. Passengers around Gio and Amber scream and begin to cry as the plane continues its plunge. Airbags drop from the overhead compartment and people begin to put them on. The captains voice comes over the speaker. “Stewardesses, prepare the cabin for crash landing.”

Amber leans forward and grabs her knees. Gio grabs Ambers hand, holding it gently. “All will be fine, you are loved,” he whispers. Somehow Amber heard him clearly over the roar of the plane. As the plane hits Amber looks at Gio, the plane begins to break around him and a piece of metal shears off the back of his seat passing right through him.

When the plane stops smoke and fire begin to fill the cabin. Amber sits up and looks around, “I survived?”

Gio nods his head. “But, you said,” Amber begins to protest.

Gio holds a finger to his mouth, “shh,” then fades away.

Amber unbuckles and begins to move toward the nearest exit away from the fire. Behind her she hears the scream of a baby and a mother pleading, “Help! Help! I can’t…save my baby!”

Amber stops and looks behind her, no one else is there, she takes a step forward then turns and moves quickly to the back of the plane.

The baby and mother are sitting midway back, the baby is sitting in his car seat crying. The mother looks at Amber and then down at her lap. The seat in front of her has pinned and crushed her legs, “I can’t move.”

Amber tenses and pulls, but is unable to move the seat.

“Please just save my baby.” pleads the mother.

After unbuckling the belt around the baby seat, Amber takes one last look at the mother, then turns and races out of the plane as flames begin to engulf all of it. An explosion knocks Amber to the ground, the baby and seat tumble and end face up staring at Amber. She tries to move, but is unable.

“He’ll be fine, it’s time to go.” Gio whispers.

Amber turns her head. Gio has beautiful large white wings and a pale but unblemished complexion. He holds out his hand, “Time to see your grandparents.”

Amber smiles.

 

Copyright © 2014 J. Power

There a plenty of blogs about screenwriting out on the web. Occasionally I will highlight one of them that I read and feel is worth your time. The first blog is Go Into the Story the official screenwriting blog of the Blacklist.

Scott Meyers has a fantastic blog full of helpful information about screenwriting, he highlights upcoming movies,  industry information, interviews with working screenwriters, and he also teaches classes on screenwriting. This month he is running a scene writing challenge. Write 10 scenes and you can attend a free class, well worth the effort. I have included the monologue scene I wrote the other night for day 15 of the challenge.

 

SCENE 1

INT. HOTEL BALLROOM

The room is full of sharp dressed older men eating and drinking at each of the 20 round tables. At each exit stands two large men with semi-automatic machine guns slung across their chest.

JASK, a rotund older man stands and walks to the front of the room. He raises his hand and a bell in the back of the room rings. The crowd stops eating and turns to view Jask.

JASK
Go back to eating your dinner. I’ll be short.

Some in the crowd return to eating.

JASK (cont’d)
I want to start with a little story. When I was young, I had a pony named Jackson. I loved that damned pony and I rode him everyday. One night Jackson got outside the fence and was hit by a truck, he was in great pain and soon died. Freedom killed Jackson. If only Jackson had stayed in his fenced in world, all would have been fine.

Jask shakes his head back and forth and sighs.

JASK (cont’d)
Why am I telling this story? Because, some in here are outside of the fence, reaching for freedom, and freedom gets you killed. Johnny Starks was one of the ponies, and like my pony Jackson, freedom killed him. Let’s have a moment of silence for our good friend Johnny.

Jask bows his head.

JASK (cont’d)
Some of you may still be lost, wondering what the hell is going on. Well, the rumors you heard were true. I will be taking over all operations within the Detroit area. I like it here. You are all welcome to stay, but you will be underlings to me. I control the ships, trucks, and trains. Everything you need to get your product into the city. Earlier this evening paid off the unions, police, and everyone else I might need in the future. They had two choices: money or death. All of them chose money. Thank you for coming, finish your meals and make your decisions. It was a pleasure doing business with all of you.

The large men guarding the doors open them to allow more armed men to enter, guns ready. Jask walks out of the room whistling as he goes.

 

Be sure to read down the left side of the Scott’s blog to find links to the amazing amount of information on his site. I’ve added a couple of links here:

2014 scene writing exercises

30 things about screenwriting

How I Write a Script

Free Script Downloads

Screenwriting Master class

Thanks for reading.

 

Copyright © 2014 J. Power

Last Night

Posted: June 1, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

Last night I failed. Not spectacularly, or in a deadly way, but I failed. I wanted to create a daily writing habit using the chain writing method, cross one day off at a time, keep the chain going. Sometimes life has other plans, and last night I didn’t get any writing done. The chain is broken.

For 2 months I was rolling along, 4 blog posts, 4 stories (flash fiction and short), 3 outlines for longer stories, and one very crappy rough draft screenplay. A good bit of production for me, considering some nights I only had 20 minutes to write. Now I have to start again, no reason to walk the streets punishing myself like the monks in Monty Python.

 

 

It’s time to grab a pen, laptop, or desktop and get back to writing.

 

Copyright © 2014 J. Power

All rights reserved.

When you write every day you sometimes come up blank when the computer is on and it’s time to write. That’s when you need to find ways to slam some story ideas into your brain. There are many ways, but it depends on how your brain works.

Word Document

The Blank Page

Do you need stimuli?

  • Get up from the computer, turn on the TV, watch a couple of minutes of random TV. (Don’t stay on one channel too long)
  • Flip open a book, read a couple of sentences, if that doesn’t help, keep reading. (limit your reading time).
  • Turn on some music, close your eyes and listen. What picture does the music paint? Use that image to start a story or write a scene.
  • Open up a photo album and scan your photos, write a scene that takes place at the location of one of your photos.

Do you need some quiet time?

  • Try meditating, sit up straight, breathe in, count to three and breathe out. Relax your muscles.
  • Sit in a dark room, with your eyes closed, clear your mind, just be.
  • Try going outside, sit on the deck, close your eyes and put a label to each sound that you hear.
  • Engage your mind in a different activity, do some math.
  • Pull out some paper, a pencil and draw something, anything, it doesn’t have to be good, it just needs to distract you for a bit.

 

Alternately, you could just write blog post about what to do when you have no ideas.

Do you have any ideas on getting started when you don’t know what to write? Let me know.

 

Copyright © 2014 J. Power

All rights reserved.

I occasionally read a friend’s work, a logline, a treatment, or a script and give feedback. I follow some simple rules when I do.

  • Don’t be personal: You don’t want to alienate your friend. Never use the word “you”, focus on the story, use it as a chance to learn about what works and doesn’t work.
  • Review all aspects of the story: Pay attention to formatting (scripts), structure, characters and mood. Is anything missing from the story?
  • Ask questions: Does something not make sense? Ask questions.
  • Give ideas/suggestions: Suggest ways that you might add to the story. The writer may use your idea, or it may be the spark for another idea.

The most important aspect of reviewing writing is trust. Are you trusted to give honest advice without being personal?

Here is one of my responses from a recent treatment for the pilot of a series I read:

 

I think it’s missing a punch, but I don’t have an answer for what that punch would/should be…AAGGH!!! 

Sorry I can’t give you more if I figure it out I’ll send it your way.

 

For me, the treatment was missing a gut punch at the end, the hook that makes people want to watch the next show.  Two days later I figured it out and suggested a change that was part of the story, but not obvious in the treatment. I suggested he highlight that bit of information to give the audience an additional reason to tune in again.

My suggestions may be ignored or used, it doesn’t really matter, what matters is that I gave them what they wanted, honest feedback.

If you are in a writers group, or helping out a friend, remember, give them what you would want, a straight forward honest reading of their work, with suggestions.

 

NOTE: I am still consider myself a neophyte when if comes to storytelling. I am always honored when my dear friends ask me to look at their writing. Their writing is far above anything I have written. They can easily produce 120 or more great pages for a script, I struggle to get to page 90.

So gather a circle of friends, or find yourself a writer’s group and get to work. Write. Review. Grow.

 

Did I miss anything? Don’t agree with me? Let me know, leave a comment.

 

Copyright © 2014 J. Power

All rights reserved.