Thursday, May 08, 2008

The story of Not Dead Yet

I didn't write yesterday because I was ever so busy. I went to hip hop dance class last night where I learned that although kickboxing has given me power and strength and endurance, my flexibility is for shit. I think I'm gonna start going to yoga. My legs hurt. Also I suck at following choreography. I spent most of the hour flailing my arms about at random.

A question was posed some time ago that I have been hesitant to answer. I was asked to go through my process with Not Dead Yet from conception to finish. It's not my first script by any means, but it is the first script I feel totally good about. I can pitch this sucker. I could sell it to somebody with piles of money.

But that's all according to my own opinion. For all you know it sucks donkey balls. I certainly haven't sold it yet and I may never, and I'm not a professional writer until I do. So I feel weird about going through my process because it makes me sound like such an authority. But I did write a script I feel good about and I was asked to explain my process, so I will do so.

I've talked before about how I got the idea. I thought about what it would be like to survive the zombie attack only to be stuck with the only other survivor being someone you've just started dating. My family of zombie hunters, 20 years after the attack has killed off almost every human on earth, must travel to California to join up with the only other people they know to exist.

I started by brainstorming. I always start by talking the script out loud to anyone who will listen. Ex-Boyfriend, who helped me come up with the story, was invaluable because the geography of the story was all from his neck of the woods. I planned out the trip the family takes from beginning to end so I knew where they would be each step of the way. Then I got out my index cards.

Everybody has their own theory of index cards. I use them. They force me to organize my story by plot point so I know where I''m going. I only use about six or seven because they're just rough ideas and then flesh them out as I write, so an index card will say something like this:

Chris, Josh and Kate fight their way into the hardware store. Josh kills a zombie alone. Kate goes alone to drug store, she's attacked. Walkie talkie dead, out of ammo, boys come to save her. Gas tank blows up.

All my index cards are pretty colors so when I put them on the bulletin board in my room I'm encouraged to work on the pretty story because it's always there where I can see it as I go to sleep and right as I wake up. I also put loglines on yellow cards so that if I ever have to pitch to someone on the spot I have my logline all bright and cozy on my board.

Then I just write. I start with page one and keep right on 'till I'm done. I sometimes skip scenes if I know what happens in them but either need to look something up or just plain don't feel like writing that at the moment. Usually it's a dialogue scene. I don't really know exactly what the characters say so I leave it for later. But most of the time I don't skip because something important happens in every scene, so if I skip it I'm not sure how my characters have changed since the event unfolded.

This caused me some major problems on Not Dead Yet that stalled me out for almost a month. I came to a huge set piece that involved a lot of research and comprehension of physics that I don't necessarily have seeing as how I suck at physics. I couldn't get past it because it was a very important sequence of events and even though I tried to skip it I just felt lost.

I kept reading and thinking and writing and rewriting and throwing things until finally I called up Ex-Boyfriend and said help! And we went to Dougboys and I had the after school special (OMG so good) while he helped me figure it out because he understands that stuff.

After that I finished the script and then left it alone for about a week. Then I printed it out and read it out loud and marked up things that didn't sound right. I don't usually pay too much attention to typos or grammar at this point because I'm just going to make more later.

I did my first revision then I took it to the group. My writers group is pretty solid. I cannot express enough the importance of a group whose opinions you respect. With this script I came out of the meeting with a clear sense of where I was headed next because the feedback was overall pretty consistent. Plus there were snacks.

I did another revision then sent it to Ex-Boyfriend for a technical read-through. He came over and told me what did and didn't work. He's an expert on guns and geography and tidal waves and was the reason I ended up with a character who's obsessed with trying to flame throw all the zombies, which was one of my favorite things to write. I don't know why, but having a teenage boy wax philosophic about how much he wants to set the undead on fire fills me with glee.

After I did another revision I sent it to two more people. They gave me very few notes so I figured it was ready, but just in case I still let it sit for about two more weeks without looking at it. Then I did one read through focusing just on typos and grammar issues and then I shipped it off to the contest circuit.

And it's still out there, somewhere, waiting to be loved.


  1. Thanks for sharing. =)

    The script I'm working on is wearing me out. I've been receiving a lot of good feedback from my online group, but it's exhausting work.

    I usually feel the opposite when I write. I might be putting too much stress on myself.

    Hopefully this feeling will pass.

    I want to submit my script to the Silver Screenwriting Competition.

    Will you be submitting to this contest as well?

  2. Writing should be fun! If it's not fun you gotta fix it. Your hobby shouldn't make you upset, it should bring you joy.

    No, I won't be submitting to that contest although I think it's an excellent opportunity. I think it benefits people who don't live in LA more than those that do, which is a great thing, but since I live in LA it's not designed for me.

  3. So when you say you use eight index cards or whatever, you're using them to map out sequences instead of scenes? I have some friends who swear by focusing on sequences, but I've never tried it.

  4. I guess you could say that. I never intended to do it that way, but I guess that's how I do it. I know what the characters need to do but I leave the details on how to do it for when I'm writing.

  5. Anonymous3:21 PM

    I have to say, this is a wonderful place to settle in for the day. Just relax and put your feet up with a cup of coffee...and see what's up with emily blake.

    I just one day stumble upon this website. Been quite a while actually. I intend to hang around, hang out,

    I take the information from this site as seriously as I do from the other professional sites that I visit...and there are a few.

    That said, how do you decide on the career or just job for that matter, for your hero?

    In my story, I want my guy to do something different (than what we ALWAYS see) because unlike a lot of stories...we will spend some time at his workplace.

    Although (kind of crazy) his job doesn't have a lot to do with the story (told ya).

    Sorry, I didn't know where else to ask you a question.

    I know the question's wack...but huh?

  6. 1) Thank you for the compliment! I'm glad people find my ramblings useful.


    2) That's a great question. I have a whole rant on how tired I am of seeing the same jobs in movies so now I know what to post tomorrow.


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