One question to rule them all

April 26, 2016



An epic adventure based on the fate of a piece of jewelry

I recently had the pleasure of giving a friend some notes on his script (a drama). It was a great take on a familiar subject, but I had some trouble determining what kind of story they were trying to tell.

One of my suggestions was to streamline the story so it was more focused on the primary storyline as indicated by the central question. He asked me to elaborate.

I put it this way:

The inciting incident raises the central question of the story, and everything after that revolves around answering it – which takes place in the climax/showdown part. Anything that’s not connected to the central question doesn’t need to be there and should therefore be cut.

This isn’t to say you can’t have subplots, but even those should be in some way tied to the central question.

What would you say are the inciting incident and central question in your story? We, the reader/audience, want to know; we’re constantly asking that central question and want to see how the answer comes to be.

To put it in perspective, albeit from an action-adventure approach, in THE LORD OF THE RINGS films, after some necessary exposition, we learn the central question as “Will Frodo get the Ring to Mt Doom?”

Notice how everything after that revolves around that question in some way. Each scene continues to ask the question and gets us a little closer to finding out the answer, even if it might seem like the scene isn’t connected to it and about something else entirely.

On top of all of that, since you need conflict, the hero’s journey to achieve their goal is going to be rife with obstacles that would otherwise prevent them from doing that. Every time they encounter one of those obstacles and the hero reaching their goal is put in jeopardy, the central question is once again raised.

Hope this helps.

Bulletin board mode activated!

April 22, 2016
bulletin board

Always room for one more announcement

Today is all about promoting other folks’ projects. All I get out of it is enjoying helping out some good people.

-Filmmaker and friend of the blog Scotty Cornfield is getting ready to shoot his short Goodbye, NOLA later this year. A crowdfunding campaign will be launching very, very soon. Until then, check out the website or the Facebook page for updates.

-Previous blog interviewee Michele Wallerstein will be teaching a one-day workshop called Find and Keep and AGENT! on Saturday, May 7th in Studio City, CA. She also just launched her online course Moving Your Writing Career Forward.

-Previous blog interviewee Barri Evins will be hosting her Big Ideas Tiki Bar Seminar the weekend of June 10-12 in Los Angeles. Barri’s seminars also include 6 months’ worth of individual mentorship. Expert screenwriting advice, 6 months of help, AND a tiki bar? How could you pass this up?

The Great American Pitchfest is taking place May 20-22 in Burbank. Use code Z15 to get 15% off any package EXCEPT the Writing Partner or Scriptfest ones. But hurry – the code’s only good until May 1st, and the organizers tell me it’s filling up fast. This is a great opportunity to network and hone your pitching skills. I went last year and got a lot out of both.

-I’m a huge fan of the Comedy Film Nerds podcast, and co-host Chris Mancini has launched a Kickstarter campaign for his graphic novel Long Ago and Far Away. As of this posting, they’re getting close to hitting the goal. If you’re a fan of comics and supporting original works, feel free to donate if you can to help get them there.

Got your own project coming up that you’d like to promote? Drop me a line.

Commencing transfer to second horse

April 19, 2016

All these new ideas were really starting to nag at me (C’mon. They can’t all be gems)

Notes continue to come in for the low-budget comedy spec. I am very fortunate to benefit from the insight of such savvy folks. Lots and lots of great notes that will come in handy for the next batch of rewrites.

Taking a look at all the notes, along with the new ideas they trigger, makes me think about what changes could be made in future drafts. Changes that would strengthen the script on several levels, especially those where it’s been indicated the most work is needed.

This isn’t saying that I’ll blindly accept every single suggestion that’s been made. More like a combo of taking the ones I think work best and some of my own new ideas. That’s one bonus of getting multiple sets of notes.

I’m also expecting to alter parts of the story just enough that it’ll be slightly different from these earlier drafts while still retaining a lot of what originally appealed to me about the overall story/concept. There are a few new factors being thrown in, some of which I’m looking forward to begin implementing (and also fall into the category of “why didn’t I think of that before?”)

Thus the fun and thrillingness of it all continues…

Expiration date: NEVER!

April 15, 2016
arthur dent

Don’t throw in the towel just yet, Arthur

A friend emailed me earlier this week to vent his frustration regarding the latest development for pitching his TV pilot. Suffice to say, it didn’t go the way he’d hoped.

“Writing is hard work for me, and to have a project like this dismissed completely deflates me. I think I need to set a deadline (end of 2016?), and if I haven’t gotten a sale or at least representation by then, exit, stage left.”

I can totally sympathize. Who hasn’t been in that boat before? You try and try, feel like you’re making no headway and going nowhere fast.

But setting up a deadline of when you’ll stop once and for all?

Um, no.

As we all know, this is not an easy thing to do. The odds are already stacked against us, and it takes an extraordinary amount of effort, determination and perseverance to keep moving forward. And that’s just to get your first break.

I of all people can attest to feeling like nothing good is ever going to happen for me, and why again am I putting myself through the agony of all of this?

Because we’re writers. WE WRITE BECAUSE WE LOVE DOING IT.

For a writer willing to give up writing is, to quote the late, great Vizzini, inconceivable. As crazy as it sounds, I’d rather write and continue to fail than not write at all. (But in theory would be improving after each failure, thereby resulting in an inevitable success.)

DON’T GIVE UP. You never know when things will work out for you, so continuously having at it will always increase your odds.

Continue to work on getting better. Even if only a handful of people read your stuff and like it, that’s still a victory. And they do add up.

IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT. It takes a very, very long time to get to the finish line, let alone at your desired pace. And even then, you’re always striving to improve on it. Take this from someone who writes screenplays AND does half-marathons.

Believe me, there will be shitty days. Lots of them. You will be angry and frustrated. You will see others succeed while you feel like you’re going nowhere. It happens. But that’s the price you pay for setting off on this seemingly impossible journey.

But also keep in mind that you’re not alone. There are lots of us out on a similar path. Feel free to make the occasional turn so your path intersects with somebody else’s. It can help make the journey a bit easier.

My friend responded with a note of thanks and gratitude, which included “I’m ultimately a storyteller, a writer. This is what I exist to do, even if my audience is a small one. I will work hard to find it and share my stories.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Hang in there, chums.

Not everybody’s going to like it

April 12, 2016

Astonishing as it is, some people actually don’t like pie. Heathens.

Notes and comments continue to come in for the comedy spec. I’m seeing some very insightful stuff that will prove most beneficial for the next draft.

Reactions range from “I loved it!” to “I was very disappointed with this.” The author of the latter even started things out by saying “I wanted to like it, but just couldn’t. I guess our senses of humor are just too different”.

And you know what? They’re right, and that’s totally fine. Comedy is subjective. Everybody likes different things. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you.

Would I have preferred they liked it? Of course. But they didn’t, and that’s all there is to it. I still value their opinion and will continue to ask them for feedback in the future.

But I also shouldn’t totally disregard what they had to say. They made some valid points and suggestions in their explanation of why it didn’t work for them, a lot of which could potentially be applied to the aforementioned rewrite.

Nor should I take one person’s rejection as the final word. They didn’t like it, but in no way does that mean everybody else will have the same opinion. For all I know, this one dislike is the exception to the rule.

This is one of those things that a lot of writers, especially newer ones, fail to grasp. You slave away on a script, and then you send it out, convinced it’s a work of genius. And you don’t get the reaction you were hoping for. PASS. Thanks, but no thanks. We’re working with something similar.

Heartbreaking, ain’t it? “How could they not have liked it?” you cry out to the writing gods. It’s just the way it is. Remember – it’s not about you. It’s about the script.

So you’ve got two choices. Obsess over the rejection, or accept it, put it behind you, and keep pushing forward. Maybe figuring out why their reaction was negative could help.

But don’t let that negative slow you down. Do what you can to turn things to your advantage. Like with practically everything connected to screenwriting, it won’t be easy.

Start by making sure you like it, and then take it from there.


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