Go To

Contrary to popular belief, when energy, motivation, and/or creativity is low in the Writing Cave Keep, I do not resort to singing along with Ms Krall ad infinitum.

If it’s a technical challenge, I turn to the writing library, top most being William Goldman‘s Which Lie Did I Tell?, Alex Epstein‘s Crafty Screenwriting and Stephen King‘s On Writing.

If a project has certain constraints or is more long-form, there’s these classics to crib from:

  • Joss Whedon‘s Buffy the Vampire Slayer — not just a scantily-clad teen-girl who can kick serious demon ass1;
  • Jed Mercurio‘s Bodies — a visceral and heartbreaking look at just how little separates life and death in a maternity ward; and
  • David Simon‘s The Wire — its novelistic approach to presenting a criminal investigation, showing us every shade of grey between the police and their adversaries, as well as the world in which both operate, is something to which I can only dare aspire.

The words "The Wire" in white lettering on a black background. Below it a waveform spectrum in blue.
And if it’s all too much and/or I want to procrastinate for hours I just need a little kick, I never go wrong with any of these:

  • James Cameron‘s Aliens — a war movie in space;
  • Quentin Tarantino‘s Jackie Brown — a small-time crook’s One Final Score;
  • and David Mamet‘s Spartan — a rogue agent’s attempt to Do The Right Thing.

Spartan movie.jpg
It’s not necessarily the story I worry about — it’s how I’m going to make it interesting. I want to grab and hold the reader’s — and, eventually, the paying audience’s — attention, take ’em for a ride, and then afterwards, drop ’em back in their seat, exhilarated, exhausted, and begging for more.

All of the above touchstones do exactly that.

Most times, soon after referring to any of the above, I’m back at the keyboard, writing.


1   But oh how The Goddess rolls her eyes when I talk about superior subtextual story-telling amidst well-choreographed ass-kicking.


Point & Click

Some rather thin screenwriting-related links this month.

  • Heee.

    (Fedora-tip: Alex Epstein.)

  • I’m a Joss Whedon fan from his Buffy days (Dollhouse has yet to reach these shores) but this Cracked list of 5 Reasons It Sucks Being a Joss Whedon Fan is both funny and spot on, with my fave being:

    … There is only one real lesson in Whedonland, and it’s that loving cool people is dangerous because someone’s probably gonna shove a flaming rock into their skull.

    Yep: that’s how I got hooked in Season 2.

    (Fedora-tip: Lucy Vee.)

  • And Roger Ebert‘s post about performance artist Chris Burden has really gotten under my skin.

… Hey, this is my 250th post. Woo-hoo me.


Point & Click

Mm. Hmm.

  • It’d be just like John August to kick-start 2009 with a short and sweet pep talk.
  • A new blog of note: TV writer Earl Pomerantz (Major Dad, Becker) is Just Thinking. (Fedora-tip: Alex Epstein.)
  • Kiwi scribe (and fellow guild board member) Mike Riddell joins the scribosphere with The Interminable Moon, about the journey his novel, The Insatiable Moon, takes on its way to the silver screen.
  • My favourites of multi-hyphenate Edward Zwick‘s ten filmmaking rules are –
    • 3.  No plan survives contact with the enemy.
    • 10. Where there is no solution there is no problem. At some point in every production, the director loses faith in the movie and the crew loses faith in the director. Somehow it all works out.

    (Fedora-tip: Movie Maker Magazine, by way of Mr Epstein.)

  • The mighty Joss Whedon has ten writing tips, my picks being –
    • 4. Everybody has a reason to live. Everybody in your scene, including the thug flanking your bad guy, has a reason.
    • 7. Track the audience mood. Think in terms of what [your audience is thinking]. They go to the theatre, and they either notice that their butts are numb, or they don’t. If you’re doing your job right, they don’t.

    (Fedora-tip: Catherine Bray, by way of Danny Stack.

  • John Rogers‘ episode-by-episode online commentary and Q&A his Leverage series is a must-read for television junkies. Favourite moment so far: an ep that [seemed] so simple. It begins with us in the writers’ room cheering “They’re on an airplane, and have to pull off the con before they land! It’s practically a bottle show!” and ends with a 70-foot replica fuselage on the soundstage. Oh, and we had to build an airplane bathroom with wild walls, because you just can’t get a camera in there.