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

Advertisements

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.

 

 

Dream of Miley

Posted: April 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

It was a cool summer afternoon. The breeze blew in from the east over the back patio and pool. I sat in the living room watching television as a party raged on the other side of the glass doors. People drank, ate, and danced to the piped in pop music. There was a commotion as Miley Cyrus walked in, but soon the party resumed. Through the doors I saw Miley climb out of the hot tub and dive into the pool, chasing a brown bear out of the water. As the bear climbed out my nephew hoisted it over his shoulders and body slammed it onto the grass. The bear slunk away and the party resumed. The next time I looked out the doors Miley was at the food table eating ham, she turned and motioned for me to come out and eat. I refused.
And that ladies and gentlemen was the odd dream I had last night. You are welcome to analyze it in the comments.

Homemade Chain Calendar

My Chain Calendar

As you may know I am a part time writer, which means I have a day job that pays the rent, a family, and I also try to make time to write. Many nights I read, watch TV, play games, or scan the internet instead of writing. All of those activities are fine, but if you want to get something done you need to work on a consistent basis.

I was not doing that, hence I did not get much done. I have unfinished outlines, screenplays, short stories, and ideas strewn about the house. Without consistent work any project can take forever.

In early March Diane Beck, a twitter friend, tweeted a link to this blog post: How to Stop Procrastinating on Your Goals by Using the “Seinfeld Strategy”. She then challenged me to begin chain writing with her. I accepted and we began our journey writing and supporting each other. I’ve been able to write two short stories, and sections of my screenplay as well as working on some outlining for a new project in the two weeks I have been writing. I usually write for 30 minutes to an hour a day, some days less some more, but I write. It’s given me a sense of accomplishment to be able to cross off a day and continue the chain.

I’ve seen plenty of posts that say you need to write every day to improve. I’m not saying you need to write every day to improve, but you should if you want to complete your book, screenplay, story, or anything else you want to finish. Get some progress in every day, achieve your goals.

If you would like to join Diane and I in our chain writing adventure follow and contact us on twitter Diane Beck and jimmytwiz. We use the hashtag #chainwriting.

If you need a calendar run search for chain writing calendar. They are all over the web.

Copyright © 2014

All rights reserved.

It’s true.

I don’t know a damn thing. I’ve taken writing courses, and each one makes me realize I still have too much to learn. It’s overwhelming, my lack of knowledge. How the hell did I get this far in life being so damned stupid???

I once wrote a paper in 10th grade that was supposed to use adverbs, adjectives, prepubescent pronouns (that’s not a thing, is it?), and a bunch of other things. Somehow all that shit got into my paper, I still don’t know how that happened. I got a perfect A++. I was the MAN! I knew it all. At some point between 10th grade and today, I lost it.

Keyboard and Little, Brown Handbook

I blame screenwriting. Screenwriting is complicated, it’s structured, it must conform to a particular format, it’s hard to get correct. Lot’s of people are trying it, they are all over LA and on twitter, I’m one of them (on twitter). The question is how many of us are doing it correctly?  Who has enough knowledge of story, theme, character, dramatic need,  conflict and whatever else I missed? Not me.

I suck at this, but I still try, maybe one day I will understand, and the light will shine down on my keyboard and I won’t be able to stop writing.  I’ll finish the perfect A++ screenplay, someone will buy and produce it, I’ll win an Oscar, though it will have been nice just to be nominated (what a load of crap, I want to win).  I’ll be the writer du jour!

Even after all of that, there will still be people out there who know more than I do, and  who write better than I do. Hopefully they will teach me something, because I don’t know crap about writing. 

Some places you can take screenwriting classes:

Screenwriting Master Class

Screenwriters University

ScreenwritingU