Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Max, Maxene, and Marvin go into a bar...

Coming up with good names for a story can be quite challenging and an enormous pain in the ass.

If Will Farrell's character is named Bobby and Harrison Ford's character is named Berry you are not going to mix those two up on the screen. On the page it's another story. If your character names are too similar they can bleed into one another and make it confusing for the reader. I also stay away from ambiguous names or using girls names for boys and vice versa.

I like strong names for my Hero's but seriously, not everyone can be named Jack. I tend to use names of my friends for the good folks and names of people I can't stand for the assholes in my script. A neat side effect of doing this is that it helps me keeps my characters straight.

I also make an effort to not have any character's name start with the same letter. It's stretching it a bit but it makes me be creative with names.

When I snowplow and I find myself getting hung up on names I default to Hero, BadGuy, Girlfriend, Henchman, Hotshot, etc. This way I can continue getting the good stuff down on the page without staring at the screen. Find and replace is your friend.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Do's and Don'ts and everything else

As a new writer I struggle through the massive mental checklist of all the do's and don'ts of writing a story. Many fall by the wayside as I focus on completing a coherent screenplay.

I suspect, and hope, that as I become more experienced I begin to do and don't some of these things subconsciously, therefore being able to focus more on the complex aspects of creating a story that is simple, clear and fun.

In the mean time it's all about having fun and writing stories that I would pay to see in the theatre.


Monday, March 29, 2010

How to train your Dragon and in the mean time write a kick ass movie...

I'm from the Snyder-Ackerman school. Blake Snyder taught me how to break down a story and Hal Ackerman taught me the process of building a story.

Walking out of the movie theatre this weekend after seeing the excellent "How to Train Your Dragon" I was ticking off beat points, recalling the inciting incident and identifying the universal device. It was awesome. Makes me think I am finally learning something.

Off the top of my head;

**** Minor, vaguely referenced Spoilers ****

The opening image and the final image were complete opposites.
Fun and games were funny, scary and action packed.
All is lost was heart breaking.
A and B stories intersected perfectly at the beginning of Act 3.
They actually stormed the castle.
The universal device was spaced evenly and called back at the end.

**** Done ****

Most people think their rebellious artistic side are selling out by following a template to write their stories. Well who fucking cares? If you can keep a theatre full of six year olds rivited to the screen so much so that my son wouldn't take his eyes off the screen to lean over and tell me he wanted this movie on DVD... 10 minutes before it ends, you're doing it right.

Go see "How to Train Your Dragon". Good stuff.

Oh, and fuck 3D, it's just fine on normal mode.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Rewrite strategy

After reading the "Rewrite" section of the book in the previous post I am changing my tactics a bit.

First off I had a great discussion with my wife about Air Bears. Typical newbie writer issues like fuzzy story lines and I coddled my hero. My secondary characters rocked, she really enjoyed them. On my hero she was kind of meh.

I took down a page and a half of notes on areas that I need to focus on. I have some great ammunition for the rewrite.

Next time, after a first draft and I will send it to two people I trust to get feedback. I have let the draft sit for two weeks however I think I am going to break this next story and write that first draft before going back to Air Bears.

I have to say it was a unique feeling discussing a story that I created from scratch in such detail with someone. How she felt, when she laughed, when she smiled. Even though I have a lot of work to do, it was an awesome feeling.

So this weekend it's SNOWPLOW!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

This book changed my screenwriting life...

I struggled mightily over the last several years trying to come up with a process of writing that a) worked for me, and b) worked for my family , and c) worked around my day job.

During a Northwest Screenwriters Guild meeting with Greg Poirier (Rosewood), who by the way is a very cool person, he mentioned that his process was taught to him at UCLA by Hal Ackerman. He didn't have time to go into it but he thought that Ackerman had written a book so go check it out.

I did and I put it on my Amazon wish list.
Writing Screenplays That Sell

My lovely wife got it for me as a Christmas present. I read it. Used the processes described inside and I completed my first screenplay three months later.

I'm not saying this is going to work for everyone. But it sure helped me get my shit together and put a story down on paper.


Breaking a new story...

There are no such things and UFO's... they've all been identified.

Snowplowing my new story. My goal is to at least have 7-10 plows done before the weekend (on #3) so I can begin rewriting "Air Bears".

The wife is almost done with her read. Getting some good feedback from her. It was neat for me to learn that she picked up on stuff and even came to the correct conclusions about some story points even though I thought I hadn't explained the parts well enough. That made me smile.

Things are good.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Air Bears Complete!

After all the books, a couple of seminars, several stops and starts, and years of trying to find myself as a writer, I finally completed a script.

I discovered a process that worked for me. I followed it faithfully. I set a schedule that worked for me. I followed it faithfully.

Now I have a 106 page first page of Air Bears in my hands. What a feeling it is.

My plans are to let is simmer in the drawer for two weeks (ending this Sunday). In the mean time I am breaking my next story. Once I get the next story ready to go I will hit Air Bears for a rewrite that I feel comfortable having people read.

I feel like I have finally stopped stumbling around in the dark. I see the light coming from underneath the door. I am walking towards it. Hopefully I can find the handle and open that door...