Nicholas Reicher

Writing Your Next Blockbuster Film or Novel

Category: Screenplay (Page 1 of 3)

Character Creation Sheets

Character Creation sheets run the gamut from “Name Height Weight Hair Color” to “At what age did your character first drink a soda?”

I’m divided on this myself. Usually when I come up with an idea for a book, I usually can flesh the idea for the book out in 5 minutes, flowchart it, plan it, and have my synopsis created within a day. And start writing it the next. Hence my oft-repeated “It should only take you a month to write an average novel”.

I’ve just never done Character sheets ever. I got started a little on them, but not in depth.

But the other day  I wrote about the Dramatica theory of characters, so I made up character sheets to go in my notebook. Pretty much it’s the standard “Height weight M/F (circle one)”, BUT…

I added in the eight Dramatica characters.  All you have to do is put a checkmark in the space, or write a one word note about how they are that character type.

THEN I added Michael Hauge’s bit. In his book on “Writing Screenplays that sell”, he talked about inner motivation and outer motivation. So I added that, and may revise my sheets to have more stuff in them.

Here’s how the sheets look – you can copy this and paste it into the character profiles in Scrivener.

Name ______________________   M/F (Circle One)

Height______ Weight______ Age______

High School______  College______

Inner Motivation__________________________________________

Outer Motivation__________________________________________

Protagonist ______  Antagonist______ Reflection ______

Personality Type__________________________________________

Character Conflict__________________________________________

Start of Story Situation______________________________________

Changed by Outcome________________________________________

That’s about all I have in it! I don’t get into the “Favorite book in third grade” thing, because it’s like a movie writer once said, you’ve got them in a dilemma, they’ve got conflict and you can’t see the way out of it, and now you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to put in there that they like crunchy peanut butter.

But what I’ve got above really is enough for you to get a feel for your character.

The funny thing is, once I was done with the sheets, I filled out a few, and I saw  that I’d actually neglected to put some of this into my first novel! So I could see right away the value of at least minimal character sheets.

I may update this sheet in the future!

Cotagonist______  Sidekick______ Guardian ______ Skeptic______

Logic______

7 Common Dialog Traps Fiction Writers Must Avoid

One thing I have found out is that when you say, “They can’t teach me anything”, it is a self fulfilling prophecy. Even though I’ve written several novels and written several screenplays, I still read and watch everything I can on the subject of writing.

There’s nothing more personal than writing. And none of us can be completely objective about our writing – because it came from us. And since it came from us, if someone points out that a scene doesn’t make sense, or that it;s completely unneeded, we tend to react as if the criticism was about us, not our product. Writers are the only group of people in the world who can send a manuscript to a reviewing service and get offended by the report.

Dialog is something that apparently is my strong point. When I challenged out of a college class using a chapter from a novel I was writing, the English teacher made a comment that my dialog was strong and believable. Well, if you spend your youth doing more listening than talking, that’s going to happen.

Dialog often remains the one area that separates unpublished writers from published writers. So what can you do to improve your dialog?

  1. Stilted dialog. This happens to people who don’t realize that dialog not only has a rhythm, but also has pitch. I used to mimic human speech musically, to show people how this is done. You need to improve your dialog to the point that it has, even on the written page, the same spoken rhythm. The best way to do it is read your dialog out loud. If it seems awkward when you’re reading it, then it’s because it isn’t fitting the common rhythm we associate with it.
  2. Repetitive dialog. Yes, indeed. It repeats. And says the same thing over and over again, echoing what it already has said, mimicking itself. As Robert McKee says, dialog is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Saying it once has maximum effectiveness. Saying it twice has less effectiveness. Saying it a third time is now yielding limited effectiveness. Saying it a fourth time has no effect. “I need to talk to you.” “Go away.” That exchange is done. We’ve expressed that IDEA. To repeat that idea is to now start making the reader agitated. “You need to listen to me!” The next line had better be, “All right, but I don’t know how you’re going to change my mind”, or you just ruined the scene. Or, “Well, I’m going to talk – you can either listen and get this resolved, or you can walk away and lose everything we’ve worked so hard to build.”
  3. useless dialog. Sometimes, writers resort to dialog that simply doesn’t say anything. “How is mother?” Okay, you’ve got a great, great opportunity here to suggest something’s wrong with mother. “Mother is… you know mother.” Three or four word narrative sentence to show the subtext message is received… then, “Yes. We all know.” That dialog did something. But, “How is mother?” “She’s fine.” is useless, unless for comedy effect. If you’re writing dialog that does nothing for the sake of two people having conversation, you’re wasting precious white space on your screen. Dialog must have PURPOSE. We could even change the exchange to being more powerful. “How is Mother?” He looked away, not meeting her gaze. “You have to even ask?” He answered. “You know we’re still… Look, skip it.” See, that dialog has purpose, subtext, and it pushes the plot along.
  4. Dialog with no purpose. Dialog must push the plot along. The people in your book or script are having many conversations between pages that you’re not writing down. They’re stopping at the Wawa to buy a salad and a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda, and chatting with the bored kid behind the register in his red shirt. It doesn’t need to be in your novel, unless it somehow is part of your story. For instance, how many times in any Tom Clancy novel did Jack Ryan fill his gas tanks? He drove around a lot. And he probably said something every now and then to the people at the gas station. And Jack Ryan was married, and had a daughter. But we rarely saw him speaking to either of them – unless it pushed the story forward, or was part of the plot.
  5. Flat dialog. Dialog has emotion. I got very good at insistent communication when I was young. We call that “Whining” today. Plaintive communication, sorrowful, reluctant – there’s a million different forms. Flat dialog is dialog without any emotion. This too can be used for effect, to show someone is beyond caring or over it. But if your whole book is full of flat dialog, go do something exciting, then come back and write. When someone is talking to someone else n your novel, they want something, whether it’s asking or giving. There’s emotion involved in that. “How’s Mother?” “Why do you keep asking about her? Leave it be!” That’s dialog. “How’s mother?” “Fine, just fine.” Flat.
  6. Excessively wordy dialog. If your character just talked for four pages about shoelaces, um… chop that. Yes, I know War and Peace was eighty nine billion words, but you’re not Tolstoy, and I don’t think Tolstoy could get away with that even today. If you suffer from this, get a Twitter account – that will fix it. Or write on a piece of paper in your writing space, “What’s the shortest way to say this?” and the famous ONW – “Omit Needless Words.” If you have friends, you’ve learned to speak to them in the shortest way possible. If you have no friends, ding ding ding ding!!!
  7. Pretentious Dialog. The obsessive need to write something because it sounds like great literature. If you can elevate your writing craft over ten years to being someone who writes great literature, that’s a beautiful thing and I’m envious. But if you’re on novel one and you’re trying to write Wuthering Heights… um… take baby steps first. Write dialog that sounds real. Write narrative that communicates powerful actions, describes things with cinematic focus. Let age, maturity (maturity??? We’re talking writers, here!), and experience naturally give you the great literature skill. Don’t sound like Hyacinth from “Keeping Up Appearances” trying to write a novel!
Conclusion

Okay, I went about 400 words over the limit on this one. But I wanted to seriously talk about dialog because some people just don’t get it. If you’re a writer, I want you to get published. If you’re a reader, I want you to know how to read and understand the inner language of the novels you read. Character dialog is a powerful tool, if used effectively. Use it effectively!

The process of creating

Before you can become a writer, you must begin to be creative. Of course, it helps if you’re a creative person already.

To some extent, everyone is creative. It’s that little flourish you add when decorating a cake, or when you’re working on even the most simple wooden thing you’re building – but you built it entirely from thinking about it and then grabbing your tools and going for it.

Everyone’s walked away from movies either saying, “what if?” or “What do you think happened to them?” or “Why didn’t they just?” I know a lot of my movie writing motivation ended up being, “They should have… instead!”

Even if you plan on writing a non-fiction book (which oddly enough seems to be more popular than writing a fiction book), to a certain extent you need creativity to be able to do it well. And trust me, I’ve read a lot of really badly written books by both.

So… how do you foster creativity?

It’s a frame of mind that one enters. You train it by habit. One of the things I’ve recommended is a dedicated writing space. If you’re downright stubborn about “Don’t put anything into this space” to everyone else in the house, then after a while just entering that space already has your mind ready to create.

It’s something you develop through exercises. People who don’t know how to write (but want to), I make several recommendations. Play the what if game. “What if a man comes home and…”

Finish that sentence.

Exercise 2 – Take an article, and a noun. Write them down. “The car….”

The car what? Speeds up, slows down, pulls into a parking spot? Or screeches in, stopping with a lurch?

If you’re already self trained in creative writing, those little examples are writing prompts that should foster up an entire little story. Is it a FBI raid on a serial killer? Is it an angry house buyer confronting a crooked Realtor? Is it a pizza delivery guy who’s late habitually because in reality he’s a multi-dimensional traveler, and some kind of monster had him trapped away from the gateway?

Exercise 3 – describe an object. Okay, it looks like a cell phone. But is it really? Could it be a homing beacon for a horde of extra-terrestrial aardvarks, come to destroy the earth? The irony of it if someone is carrying this thing around, then drops it into a toilet by accident! You’re complaining about ruining your cell phone, but you just saved the earth!

One of those things a producer or an editor almost never has to tell a writer is to “Think outside the box.”  If you’ve finished something, you’ve already shown you pretty much live outside the box.

Learn to live outside the box. All that “let’s pretend” you did as a child – that’s your only required training. Remember how you did that? Sure you did. Let’s get started.

Seven Forgotten Secrets of Story Conflict

Let’s face it: If you don’t have conflict, you don’t have a story.

Photo by Clinton Naik on Unsplash

This is why every course in Screen writing you find will drone on and on about this for most of the course, while you wait for them to get to the “MOS means film without sound” stuff.
Courses about novel writing should literally spend as much time on it, but from what I’ve seen, they don’t – but should.

If you do not have conflict in some form, you do not have a story. The more conflict, the more story.

What is conflict?

The Pippi Longstocking stories never had conflict, right? Well, actually they did. Like the day she decided to go find her poppa, a seafaring captain. There’s conflict. A little girl living by herself decides to find her father, who is nowhere to be found.  It’s amusing conflict, because she doesn’t seem to really need him, she just misses him. Does she find him right away? No. That’s conflict.

Let’s say you want to write a story about a man who wants to buy a cup of coffee. No conflict.

Take away his money. Suddenly conflict.

People are trying to keep him away from any store that sells coffee. MORE conflict.
Take away his transportation. Even MORE conflict.

And add in another group of people who are trying to get him to go off with their polka band because he can play the clarinet… and all he wants is a cup of coffee!

Okay, you actually have the ingredients here for a comedy. Just keep loading it up with any obstacle whatsoever you can have to keep him from the coffee.

If you add too many obstacles, and manage to get him the cup of coffee at the end of the movie, it’s a comedy.

If you take away just one of the obstacles, now it’s a drama.

See? If you understand this, you’re ready to write a story. As I told my producer in my short, terse manner, “H wants something. We have to deny him that.”

That’s the essence of story. Let’s say you watch Die Hard, and McLain orders Hans and the others to drop their guns. They do so, raise their hands, and he has to resort to using their belts as handcuffs because he doesn’t have enough to go around. (did you ever figure out why McLain offers Hans the cigarette? He’s waiting to see if Hans holds the cigarette American style or European).

If everyone just surrendered, it wouldn’t be a story.

Add in the terrorists, guns, glass, bombs, unfinished office tower, brain dead FBI agents and a stubborn LA police Captain that doesn’t want to listen to reason, and a lack of shoes, and suddenly you’ve got conflict galore.

Why did people like Finding Nemo better than Finding Dory, even though Finding Dory was in many ways a better movie?

Because in Nemo, Marlin and Nemo were both facing sure death almost every step of the way. In Finding Dory, the conflict was they would lose Dory, or she would never find her parents. Sad, but not life threatening. Finding Dory was in many ways merely overconfidence on the part of Pixar. If the stakes had been raised – they have to find Dory’s parents or Nemo, Marlin or Dory would die – then it would have been more successful.

Get it now?

You’re got to have conflict. Your character needs something, and needs it badly. If they don’t need it badly, no big deal, no story. They have to NEED IT. Or die, or something symbolically like death will happen to them.

So, now that I’ve written the longest introduction known to man, how are some ways we can use to increase story conflict, since its so crucial?

  1. Insert a time limit. Not every movie has an overt time limit. Finding Nemo didn’t have an overt “You have twelve hours…” limit. But once Darla was introduced, we now had a limit. They had two days to get Nemo out. Marlin now had two days to find Nemo. Or Nemo was going to die.
  2. Insert other persons with their own goals that stop the hero. The LA PD, the FBI, and the News are all interfering with John McLain in Die Hard. The Police, other criminals, the mayor, the District Attorney, and even the legal system in Dirty Harry are creating additional conflict. Eisenhower, Montgomery, Beadle Smith and unintentionally Omar Bradley are all creating obstacles that are stopping General Patton in Patton. The Turtles, Jellyfish, Sharks and the Whale are all stopping Marlin and Dory in Finding Nemo.
  3. Insert Story B. Story B sometimes adds a cross current that delays the hero. The Tank Gang in Finding Nemo are trying to escape, and now that’s another plot interfering. Everyone and their brother are trying to get Tuco Ramirez arrested and hung in The Good The Bad and the Ugly. The LAPD in Die Hard are Story B, and the FBI are Story C! DR. Chilton’s desire for fame and control is story B in Silence of the Lambs.
  4. Place distance into the story. Die Hard III was more successful than II (I liked 2 better), because now McLain has to be run around (borrowing from Dirty Harry) New York, answering phones – and there’s both distance and time limits – he has to cover distances to get to the next phone call before it rings (just like Dirty Harry), and the distance each time is almost too much to cover in that time. Distance versus time creates edge of the seat anticipation. Believe it or not, this was probably a Bruce Lee invention, because the first person to use it effectively in a movie was Stirling Silliphant, a student of Bruce Lee’s. And in the style of Kung Fu Bruce Lee was teaching, distance is something he stressed.
  5. Somebody’s lying. In the Guns Of Navarone, one of the heroes is discovered to be a spy for the Germans – she’d lied the entire time (it was a male character in the novel). Hans is lying about being one of the victims in Die Hard. Ash in Alien is actually a robot, and fighting to protect the Alien. Where Eagles Dare features the very man who sends the soldiers on the mission has been a spy for the Germans. There’s a Traitor in The Matrix. When the audience is Audience Superior, it creates HUGE amounts of tension to know that someone’s lying. It’s somewhat less tension when the Audience is not Superior, but if you drop little crumbs the whole way that hint, then the reveal is a big payoff. What do you need more, the payoff, or the tension?
  6. Make the Obstacle overwhelming. Both The Terminator and Independence Day had insurmountable obstacles. It was pretty much unnecessary to add in Story B with those movies. No story B. Just insurmountable obstacle.
  7. Hostage. The fate of a hostage in Dirty Harry, Die Hard, Silence of the Lambs, and Aliens all figured into the story. Stop the killer, or the victim dies. Start adding in a time limit, story B, distance, and overwhelming obstacle, and suddenly you’ve got a tense thriller. Now, if you can add Someone’s lying to it too…
Conclusion

This isn’t the only ways to add conflict. Indeed, if you can think of another way to do it, you may have just guaranteed a sale in Hollywood! If your novel or screenplay is limping along, ask yourself how you can add more and more conflict!

Wow, I may go write the Coffee Movie now!

How can you use this information to help you with your novel or screenplay?

8 Simple Steps to Make your Dreams a Reality

The hardest part about “getting there” is this – the waiting.

Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash

I’m writing. I’m doing everything right. My writing is good. My productivity is through the roof. I’m working with a film company . I’ve sold scripts.

It’s the waiting.

People who don’t write but love books (that’s probably most of you) all probably wonder what it was like for Baldacci, for King, for every writer who finally made it… what was it like before then?

Frustrating!

I KNOW that if I could just get enough time to write, I could finish up enough projects to get something sold and into production.

My first novel just has a minor structure problem, and then it’s probably publish ready.

My second novel is publish ready.

My third novel needs a slight re-write, then is publish ready.

I’ve got about 30 film script projects that have log lines done, and just need time for me to beat sheet them (I think I’ve got about 12 beat sheets done).

The way I write, 30 film scripts would probably take me 2 years. I know that it usually takes other people about well… 30 years to write 30 movies. I kind of work really fast.

It’s just the waiting. It’s just the tapping your fingers, waiting to get somewhere.

Here’s where it applies to you.

If you’re not at this point, the dreams remain a dream.

Every day you are not working to make your dream a reality is another day where nothing happens. Whatever your dream is, you have to have a plan.

Then work that plan.

I developed the saying years ago (I’m sure someone else has said it) plan your work – work your plan.

So years ago, I sat down with two packs of 3X5 cards, a copy of “the Making of Trouble With Tribbles” by David Gerrold, and a pen, and I talked with a couple of guys I did karate with. “Let’s make a movie.”
They agreed. “What’s it going to be about?”
Well, Sho Kosugi was popular then, so… “Ninjas!”
Step one. Start buying Ninja props.
Step 2. Write a script.
Step 3. Get a production company.
Step 4. Get funding.
Step 5. Film it,
Step 6. Produce it.
Step 7. Get someone like Cannon films to buy it.
Step 8. Market it and release it.

Literally, we got to step 4 before things fell apart. HALFWAY.

Here’s where things went wrong. The funding fell through, and then the producer decided to try a different script, on a karate tournament. So I started writing that. The production company ended up dissolving before we could get to step 5.

What should we have done? Kept going with Script one, sought financing elsewhere, and KEPT GOING, while I wrote script 2! If this had been today instead of the 1980’s, I’d probably have a string of really bad martial arts movies credited to my name, and I’d probably have been writing novels and movies for the last 20 or 30 years.

I just literally gave you a plan to get your dreams done.

Plan the work.

Then work the plan.

One final key – do not stop. To quote one of my favorite movies (The Untouchables), there’s a Kevin Costner line that he actually delivered well… “Don’t stop fighting until the fighting’s done.”

Whatever your dream is, it requires the notebook paper, or creating a new note in Evernote or a sticky note on your desktop or whatever your system is for keeping track of it…!

  1. What is my dream? Write it down. I’ve read recently about the incredible power of writing something down. I’m not weirdly superstitious, but I know from a logical standpoint that writing down a goal in a place you’ll see it every day forces you to confront it, and make moves to get it done.
  2. What will it take to get me there? Let’s say you want to be a virtuoso violin player. How are you going to do that? Back in thew 80’s, there was a lot of talk about “visualizing’ things. Sorry, but essentially, that’s telling you to daydream. Daydreaming accomplishes nothing but wasting your time. You need to determine the steps you’d need to be a virtuoso violin player.
  3. Write down the steps needed to get good at it. If you were going to be an artist, maybe the Joy of Painting TV series on DVD? Set up a TV and DVD player in your art studio? Buy enough canvases, gel medium, paint brushes, pallet knives, thinner, paints, etc to stock your art studio? Or if you’re a writer, get scrivener, get some books on writing, decide on 25 short stories you’re going to write, write loglines for all 25, write Save The Cat for all 25, set up Scrivener, set up deadlines in Microsoft Outlook, and begin writing!
  4. Begin working at it. I’ve read statistics that say 15,000 is your magic number. You need first of all 15,000 hours of whatever it is to get good at it. Whether it’s gymnastics, Karate practice, writing, painting, sculpture, etc. I can remember LONG hours of just working on a side kick. I can remember LONG hours of working on roundhouse kicks. I can remember the long hours of taking a roundhouse kick, morphing that into a side kick, then a crescent kick, then a hook kick. It took HOURS. 12 hours a day for over a year. Other people never got that good, because well…. They didn’t work at it. If you’ve had a dream that’s been a dream for years, why is it still a dream? Work at it!
  5. Intermediate goals. The one thing I keep forgetting is that your first novel, painting, screenplay, is not going to be your Mona Lisa or your Sistine Chapel. You need to have short term goals, intermediate goals, long term goals. It doesn’t matter what your dream is – you have to work at it. Each step is a milestone. Each step fills you with confidence. It’s like Mark Spitz said after winning so many Gold Medals. “It’s just a lot of swimming.” Without knowing it, Spitz had set himself up for success. If he’d determined to do 10,000 laps in a pool, each lap was a goal he could reach. “One… Two… Three…”
  6. What do I need to make my ultimate Goal? You know, as I’m writing this, my mind is jumping back to Go Rin No Sho, or A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, a 16th Century Samurai. The subtitle is “a book of strategy”. It took people centuries to understand it, but Japanese Businessmen literally spend time each week reviewing this small little book, and checking their progress against it. Sounds stupid? Not really. How successful is Sony? No kidding, that’s how they became a success. Determine your goal, find your intermediate steps, review, and keep correcting until you’re there. You have to have a PLAN to get there.You have to Review that plan! My goal is to get movies sold, which in turn will lead to my getting signed to a publishing deal with a major publisher, which will lead to a home in New England, where I can sit and write, happy as can be. What do I need to do to get there? I need to write good product, get it publish ready, get a literary agent, get published. I need to get Michael Hyatt’s book on Writing A Winning Book proposal. I need to get more film seminars on writing by Dr. K, and by Karl Iglesias. I need to write, write, write!
  7. Review. You need to constantly measure your progress. If you were going to be a gymnast, you need to be almost brutal about your floor routines. Is it Olympic Caliber? If not, find every flaw, work that out. If you’re trying to be a painter, does your artwork still show signs you didn’t visualize it? Have you gotten the feel of loading your brush? Did you cheat a line or a corner? Spent the time learning the feel of that brush? If you’re a writer, have you run your writing through Hemingway, to find your flaws? Mine is complicated compound sentences and excessive passive voice. Compound sentences come from my heritage, so I’ve got to work that out. Passive voice comes from growing up in Rhode Island, where everyone speaks in continuing passive voice. Have I made my goals? Did I work on them today? How can what I write today be better than what I wrote yesterday? Have I read books on screen-writing and writing novels? Have I began to put into play what I’m reading? Have I started working on my books to make them flawless?
  8. Accomplish. This is the last part. You can dream about being a painter. But you need cold hard reality, twenty or so masterpieces. Until you get that, you cannot have an exhibition. Until you have written a lot, your dream novel shouldn’t be done. Once you’ve got it, is it ready to send to a literary agent? Have you written your query letter? DID YOU SEND THE QUERY LETTER OFF? At this point, it’s time to STOP DREAMING and DO.

Eight simple steps. Simple planning. Simple execution. But if you don’t plan it, you’ll be where you currently are – still dreaming.

Stop dreaming – do.

Unexpected Free Writing Tool!

Recently, as I attempt to go through and learn how to embrace the social media scene, I’m learning how to do Twitter. As Michael Hyatt promised, it’s having a radical effect on my writing to learn to get everything under 120 characters.

I know you’re supposed to write 140 characters, but if someone retweets, Twitter adds in RT@NSReicher. So now that’s 12 characters minus 140 equals 128 Characters to retweet! If you don’t understand that part, then get on Twitter and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

So, I try to keep below 120 characters. “If you want to change the way you write forever for the better – Scrivener! Bit.lyaBcDefG #writingtips #scrivener” is a Twitter “Tweet” I have written. It’s at 113 characters

This helps both with Screenwriting skills and with fiction writing. I now am getting programmed to write my thoughts in very short sentences, which is doing a LOT to get my brain organized for writing.

Screenwriting, you write in incomplete sentences, and ONLY what you see and hear.

Twitter is one thing you have to try to really understand, and to my surprise it really is quickly sharpening my skills for writing!

Have you tried Twitter yet? What’s holding you back?

What do you want?

What do you want?


What do you want when you read a book? See a movie? I can’t count how many movies I walked out of when I was younger, thinking, “Why didn’t they just do this instead?” Simple little things sometimes, major plot points or different endings.
Most of them I can’t remember any more. I remember thinking as I left the Day of the Dead movie that Bub should have spoken at the end of the movie, after he shot the captain.

I remember thinking as I watched Star Trek V they never should have filmed that sorry movie.

I remember thinking that the Deep Impact movie needed a re-write when I watched it. Very sad.

There was a World War II movie done in the 90’s I remember thinking should never have been filmed. I can’t remember what it was, but it seemed like every Hollywood star was trying to get in on it. Sean Penn was in it. That movie was terrible. There was a truly terribly-done scene where a man is mortally injured when he lands on a hand grenade, and people laughed at the scene as this man dies of shock. See Dr. K’s first golden principle, The Imperial Stormtrooper effect.
I don’t remember watching the Road Warrior in the Jane Pickens movie theater, except to say, it ranked as my all time high number of voiced complaints as to what they should have done – and first on the list was to hire someone else to write the soundtrack.

There are scenes I’ve seen where I wondered, “Why did they even include that sorry, uncomfortable scene?”

Arachnophobia missed on the chance to make a statement that would have been emotionally satisfying, and provided a laugh at the end of the tension – at the end, when the homeowner shoots the nail gun, he should have said… “…nailed him.”

Things like that.

I know you’ve done it too. You’ve walked out of the movie theater and complained. “Man, I can’t believe they did that!!!” I’ve heard people do it. I think it’s a universal theme. “They should have…”

I resolved years ago that if I ever got the chance, I would make the kind of movies that I wanted to see. I would write the kind of books I always wanted to write.

The first movie I ever saw where I said as I left the theater “I wouldn’t have done it any differently! That’s exactly how I would have made it!” was Aliens.

I’ve seen a few like that. But most I walk away from, thinking, “I’d have done that part differently.” It’s bad when I walk away saying, “That movie should have been in the reject pile.” The only assumption I can make is, it got tossed in the wrong pile.

So, my resolve is, make the kind of movies I always wanted to see. Write the kind of books that I always wanted to read. Like opening the Star Trek Technical Manual as a kid, seeing the Dreadnought, and saying, “They should make a TV show about that!”

That was a visceral reaction. When you get that, pay attention to it.

What did Star Trek fans want to see? A war with the Klingons and the Romulans! Certain Star Trek episodes were popular because they were action, not because of the lessons in them (although as you get older, you appreciate them!).

Like reading a book I got from a used bookstore and thinking, “That would make a really good movie!” Can’t remember the book, alas.

And I think this is a universal feeling. You see some movie, and you think, “That was terrible.” Or worse, “That was good – but they should have…”
It ruins it for us when there’s the feeling the movie would have been perfect IF….
Or they make a boneheaded mistake. Deep Impact – for all its well written pathos (it’s a tear jerker, seriously), is considered a comedy in Virginia, where half of the movie takes place. It seems that the characters are saved by climbing a mountain in Hampton, just off the interstate.

Um… There’s no mountains in Hampton. And the highway sign there reads, “Virginia Beach 14 miles”, not “Virginia Beaches 14 Miles.” A lot of people know Virginia Beach, because a lot of people are in the Military or grew up in Military families.

The point is, I absolutely hate it when I watch a movie, and the next phase, the next object to make it emotionally satisfying is completely disregarded. I think in many senses, this is why most sequels are terrible. The Must-have step is always ignored.
Really, it takes reading your script through a different way. You have to read it and ask, “what am I feeling?” Can you SEE the movie as you read it? The project I’m working on right now, I wrote one episode completely based upon this premise – write enough scenes and ask myself, what do I FEEL must come next? I don’t want the person seeing it to say, “He should have…”

Like the “You earned it” scene in “We Were Soldiers”. Cut from the final movie, but it really added a emotional fit piece. You promised us something with Joe Galloway as the reporter, you showed us the transformation into fighting soldier, and when we saw the payoff was coming it… was cut from the movie.
I want to write the kind of movies where you’re completely unaware how uncomfortable movie theater seats are. If you’re thinking something, then the movie is dragging or lacking.

Audience members should almost never walk out of a theater, saying, “They should have…”

Like World War Z. You know, guns are lying EVERYWHERE, and the hero keeps walking away from them! And takes on the zombies with a crowbar. Yeah, I understand the premise, but hey… it’s just ridiculous. Gerry should have picked up every gun he found lying around. If you’d been in his situation, you’d have done the same thing.

Dawn of the Dead remake – when Max Headroom is dying, and Ving Raimes sits facing him holding the shotgun. What was the needed dialog there? “How long do we wait?” “The rest of your life.”

So I resolve that my career is to write the kinds of books and movies where you leave, saying. “That was perfect!” and not, “why didn’t they…”

What do you want to see in movies? What do you want to see in books? What is it you like? What is it you don’t like? What movie have you seen where you think, “They went the wrong direction!” “They should have…” “Why did they…”

My Take Away Impressions from Three Writing Seminars

Right now, there’s a big sale going on at the Writer’s Store. I decided this would be a great time to buy EVERYTHING by Karl Iglesias.

Karl Iglesias

Karl Iglesias

Except, most of his stuff is sold out – and they may not be offering them again. (Karl, hey… I need the rest of your seminars!!!).

So, I got something from Dr. K also. Here’s my take away impressions from spending $10 and getting three seminars (!).

Writers Write
This was said again and again. Karl Iglesias ran everyone present through the scenario – “What would you do if you won the lottery?” He had a major point. After you buy the house, the cars, money in the bank, vacation, furniture, whatever you decide to collect… what would you do? Outdoor grilling? Go out in your sailboat all day?
I’d buy a house in Rhode Island, a boat, my Travato, new laptop, Mac, office furniture… and then I’d eat breakfast and go sit in my office, at my nice new laptop and my Mac… and I’d write.
It’s what I do.
I’ve always written. A ton of articles (most never published!), books, movies… I’ve been writing fiction since I was in 1st grade, sitting in my dining room table in Willingboro, NJ.
I don’t think my teachers at Midvale Elementary knew what I was doing instead of homework. Maybe I should have told them.
I wrote a play for my sister once.
Wrote stories. Started books. Went nowhere. I even – at the urging of my 7th grade English teacher – outlined a crossover story for “A Wizard of Earthsea” and “Lord of the Rings”.
Writers write.
If your answer was not, “I’d write”, then you’re not a writer. You want the end product of writing – the fame, the money, a nice living – but you’re not driven to write.
Bad news is… I’d buy a boat, it’d probably sit there in the harbor lonely while I sat at home and wrote.
But you know, that’s a Rhode Island thing too. I think 25% of Rhode Islanders own boats (it is the Ocean State!), and only 1% of them actually take them out!

Writing is hard work
This was emphasized by quite a few people at quite a few online seminars I’ve seen. Truby and Iglesias describe writing as the most difficult job on earth. I must be missing something, because I can sit down, work two hours, bang out 7 pages of movie script or 1667 words in a novel without breaking a sweat. I plan, plan, plan. I don’t worry about if it’s good – I can fix that. It’s not hard to me, maybe because I’ve always worked with words in some way or another. What I will say is that writing takes a LOT of work. If you become good at time management, then it’s not so hard. So, to me, the takeaway is that writing is a lot of work.

Writing costs you
Yup. It sure does. I’ve written scenes in my novels that have made me break down and weep, the kind of sobbing where you’re desperate to stop, your eyes are burning, you can’t breathe, your throat is sore and thick. I suppose everyone thinks a writer just puts his glasses on the end of his nose, opens Scrivener, drinks a cup of coffee while he types, as Mozart is playing in the background. Well, it’s not always true – I listen to Salieri and Paganini too.
But there are scenes that leave you exhausted. There are scenes that drain you, or enrage you. There are scenes you DON’T want to write, but you have to. There are scenes – like one in the project I’m working on right now – where I broke down and cried after I wrote it. It was so real to me – I could see it, feel it. I mourned the tragedy of what was happening, because it happened to my relatives in Europe during World War II, and all that feeling came back as if I was there, even though I wasn’t born for 20 more years.

The turns don’t have to be on page 25 and 90
This one annoyed me a little, but Iglesias and Dr. K both agreed on this one. The original script for Lethal Weapon was completely out of format, had every rule of Screenwriting broken – and it sold. For every Remember, there’s at least one rough movie that gets written with a late inciting Incident (or early – no kidding Star Wars has two, and the movie starts with one), or the turns in the wrong spot.

I’m here to learn, rather than say I know it all, so I’ll keep this in mind and adjust my thoughts on it. I tend to look at it that if I stick to the rules, it helps. I now know what to write! I know I need two turning points, an inciting incident…midpoint… etc. Save The Cat is not the be all and end all any more than Dramatica is for novels… but it’s my starting point.  “If it works, it works” is the lesson to walk away with!

Conclusion

I learned a lot from these (Dr. K’s seminar surprised me – I wasn’t expecting it to be so jammed full of necessary information!). I just wish I had another $100 I could spend to get more of these! The sale continues until October 19th, I think it was.

What do you think about these take-aways? Agree? Disagree? What online seminars have you watched that impacted you? Discuss below!

Rewriting Your Next Blockbuster Movie!

Rewrite Blockbuster Movie

My slogan or campaign motto – as you may have noticed – is “Writing your next Blockbuster Screenplay or Novel.”

I will do re-writes, too.

Do you have a screenplay you’ve got millions invested in? Something that’s got potential to be amazing – but it’s got a script or plot problem?

Maybe it’s got too much potential, but some thing’s just not coming together!

This is where I come in.

I write quickly (one full length script took only 24 days), and I do my best to try to bring out what you like about your script – and gently removing what you don’t like about it!

The realities are – you’ve got a lot of capital invested in scripts. To make a profit, they’ve got to sell tickets, have the potential for high DVD and Blu-Ray sales, and most important – you need your movie ready to film. Delays are money.

I’ve got experience re-writing scripts, and I’ve turned out 1 re-write and three full length scripts this year alone.

Invest in a proven winner, and get your project back on deadline!
Email me and check my availability.

Seven things to remember about Writing Movies!

Setting up your own domain

Years ago, I wrote my first screenplay, and it sold to a local company. I’d re-create it, but it was probably really bad. It was my first success as a writer.

Years later, I’ve learned a lot. In the last year or so, I’ve written lots of ideas, including many ideas for screenplays. I probably have enough ideas that if I sold every one of them (and they got filmed) I’d be doing okay, living up in New England, and probably thinking about going out on my boat today.
What things should you keep in mind as you try writing the movie?

It’s about a guy… I’ve learned the hard way that unless it’s a “buddy” film, it’s going to be about a guy. Supporting characters are supporting characters.
The Guy must be a strong character who drives the story. Your story is about a guy who wants something badly, and will move heaven and earth to try to get it. Then you have to deny it to him for most of the movie. Your movie CANNOT be about a passive character.
White pages. Everyone argues about how much in a paragraph is too much. 2 sentences? 3? 4? I’ve heard both 3 and 4. Suffice it to say that if you’ve got 5 or six sentences per descriptive, it’s too much. Dr. K says that 1/3D=3X – cut one third of your dialog in a section, and you’ll get a script that’s three times as powerful.
Broken sentences. Learn to write descriptives with incomplete sentences. What’s the most common phrase among sports fans? “He’s driving up the middle, He shoots, he scores!” Except that’s terrible screen writing. Try this: “He drives. Shoots. Scores. Crowd stands, cheers.” Put one sentence per line (vertical stacking) and your script has more power, a faster read, more likely to get the infamous “recommend” that so few scripts get.
Don’t be an English major. What do you need? Verbs, nouns, conjunctions. There you go. “Mike stands. Turns. Draws a .38 snubnose.” NEVER “Mike casually stands. He reaches behind him in a surreptitious move, then whips out a gleaming blue snubnose .38, leveling it with merciless anger at the whoever.” Words like “really” should only be found in dialog. (”really?”)
Enter late, leave early. Unless it’s crucial to the scene, never never never “He walks into the room and sits at the table. ‘Thanks for coming in.’” Instead, show the disapproving whoever seated at the table with whomever asking uncomfortable questions. “So, you killed and ate them both?”
Exposition only when you MUST. Is it crucial that your audience know how the bad guy got started being a bad guy? Is it crucial to know their motivation? No? Then leave it out. And when you get the novel rights for the script, THEN put it in! Do I need to know why someone is a killer? He’s the bad guy! I don’t care! “I was hoping you could tell me why I’m doing this?” “You don’t know? You’re a homicidal maniac!” “Oh! That explains it!” Actual dialog from a T script! Do you know what TV series? Heh! I know! And I don’t even own a TV!
This one’s an extra. I learned this the hard way, and everyone’s right when they tell you this. Never let anyone, see your first draft! You will be forever explaining to EVERYONE this is the “vomit draft”, and NOBODY will understand it’s not staying like this! And it will color the way they see your work! Let them see it when it’s ready!

Conclusion
Writing your screenplay is rewarding. I’ve enjoyed working on them. It’s such a GREAT feeling to finish up a script! Keep these simple rules in mind (print this out if you have to, and put it in your office) and your scripts will have far less problems!

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