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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.


The Working First Draft

I finished a first draft last week. It’s what I call a working first draft – a partially muscled skeleton of a script that I don’t show anyone for fear of their never reading my scripts again. I think one of William Goldman‘s Screentrade Adventures – or was it Stephen King‘s On Writing? – had a name for it. Can’t find the reference. Anyway:

  • I have completed a draft;
  • it has a beginning, middle and end;
  • and I’m still excited by the idea behind it.

While I was typing out the epilogue, I found I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye – touching reminders of why I’m so attached to the story. It was great. If When I have that effect on the reader a few drafts from now, I’ll be pretty effin’ stoked.

The current draft is a pretty measly 85 pages long. The story’s a 120 page kind of script. The missing pages are currently in the form of, at best –


Our HERO has dinner with his MOTHER and FATHER.





MOTHER puts her cutlery down.


Stop it – just stop it!

HERO and FATHER look at her.

– or, at worst –


PLACEHOLDER – until I decide how to establish our HEROINE as ‘a woman not to mess with’ without making her come across as having regular testosterone injections.

This week is time-out from the script. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

And I can’t wait.

(Big-ass fedora-tips to Mr August and Nima Yousefi for making the above scrippets available.)


Telling Stories

(This one’s for Mr Power – we just ran out of time after that screening.)

Disclosure: I still haven’t read Robert McKee‘s Story (which I’ve requested from the local library). But I can heartily recommend William Goldman‘s Which Lie Did I Tell?, Alex Epstein‘s Crafty Screenwriting and Stephen King‘s On Writing.

Mr Epstein gets it in one: just tell a good story that keeps people interested.

Okay.  So all the good stories have been told already and there’s no pressure to be, like, truly creative. Therefore it’s not necessarily the story I’ll be worrying about – it’ll be how I’m going to make it interesting. My mission will be to grab the reader’s – and eventually, the audience’s – attention, take ’em for a ride and then afterwards, drop ’em back in their seat, exhilarated, excited and begging for more.

How do I do it then? I write the story how I’d like to see it done.

This springs partly from all the films I’ve watched and thought, I could’ve done better’n that! Fighting words – and extraordinarily naive ones, in hindsight. (Ah, those were the days – watching bucketloads of films and videos and television, taking it all in and un/sub-consciously figuring out what worked for me and what didn’t, and why.)

I believe I’ve seen enough films, videos and television, and read enough books, comics and stories, to know what stories worked.  I survived film school and have had people pay me to write to trust my own sense of story telling and sturcture. I may have foolishly uttered in a script meeting, “I don’t necessarily think and write in terms of protagonist and antagonist,” but I certainly made up for it by referencing enough films to show that I knew what I was talking about.

For me – and at this stage in my career – I still see the script as a story: ninety-plus pages to be read by someone. That script had better transport the reader into my world for each and all of those pages. And all the while, hidden in the text is a subliminal message: Wouldn’t this just make a freakin’ great movie?