Monday, September 30, 2013


Time for Scribosphere Carnival #2. A bunch of us have decided to post once a week on the same topic. This week's topic is brought to us by Jon, and it is about workflow. Jon gives us the following prompt:

WORKFLOW – Everybody has one, and none are the same. Inspired by a post from John August, you should explain where and when you write, what hardware you use, what software you use, and what you would change about how you write. Have at it!

I write at my desk, facing the wall. If I faced the window I'd spend hours just staring out at the bougainvillea. As it is, I already have difficulty not staring at the Gollum figurine on my book shelf. Here's a picture. I've added a couple of things since I took it, but not too much has changed:

The very first thing I did when we moved into the house was paint the walls in this room that awesome color. I wanted something soothing and pleasant while I wrote. Just be glad I didn't turn the camera around and show you Beefcake's side of the room. His desk looks like a hoarder's storage unit.

When I write, I put a Do Not Disturb tag on the door. It features Bon Jovi, mostly naked. The dogs do not respect this sign.

I prefer to write first thing in the morning. Most of my jobs take place in the afternoon, so when I'm writing I like to get up and eat breakfast while watching the news. Then I water the yard. Then I sit in front of the computer and get to work. I'm pretty regimented that way. I write until lunch, then I go walk some dogs.

That's my old computer in the picture. I had it for a very very long time, and eventually keys stopped working and I ran out of memory and I decided a new computer was in order, so now I have an HP laptop that works great and has a huge memory for all the crap I throw on it. I am swimming in software. For screenwriting, I use Movie Magic. Back when I was a school teacher, they offered a good education discount. They also have free tech support, unlike some other programs. There are a few things it doesn't do as well - side-by-side dialogue, for one - but overall, it's a solid program and I've always been happy with it.

For me, it's more important to have an inspirational writing space than anything. There's not much wall space in here, so I don't have room for all the posters I'd love to put up, but I do tape up quotes I like and reminders of good writing technique. When I'm working on a new script, I tape the character bios to the shelf in front of me so that I always remember what everyone wants in every scene. That's probably the most useful technique I've discovered in the last year or so.

So what would I change? Whatever I need to in order to write a better script. It's tough to say until I discover it. I'd love my own space on a shed on our property where I could go and feel like I have a real office to myself, but that's not feasible at the moment. In the meantime I just have to hide in here and throw Bon Jovi on the door handle and get to work after breakfast - and try not to spend too much time staring at Gollum.

Other participating blogs:
Red Right Hand

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Time Capsule

 Shawna Benson of Geekerati and Shouting into the Wind fame has started a thing. Ye olde scribosphere is going to participate in a weekly "carnival" of writing, starting this week. Somebody picks a topic and we all write our responses. I love nothing more than a group project, so of course I'm in. She may or may not have also bribed us with cookies.

So here's this week's topic:

TIME CAPSULE — This topic is actually a 3-parter. First, recount your journey in screenwriting up to this point in time.  Second, tell us where you are on your journey now.  Finally, for the really fun, creative part — blog as if it is one year from today.  What has the past year of your journey been like? What has changed? Be as realistic or not as you like — it’s your time capsule! One year from now, we will revisit our time capsules to see how we did with our predictions… Your post can be as long or as short as you like — the most important thing is to have fun with it!

I started writing stories in the womb to keep myself busy while I waited for Mom to shoot me out of her vagina. I was going to be a reporter who wrote novels on the side, but despite lots of school geared toward that purpose, I never did finish a novel, and I hated being a reporter. So I became a teacher. Then one day I read Bruce Campbell's If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor and I was like "Whoa. You mean people can just WRITE MOVIES? I'm fucking in."

Everybody said I had to move to Hollywood, so I moved to Hollywood and cranked out terrible scripts. I taught in a high school in South Central by day and wrote on the weekend. Then one day I wrote a script that was not terrible and I became a finalist in TrackingB. I got a manager at Circle of Confusion. I got agents at APA. I went wide. I wrote some more. I drank many bottles of meeting water.

I quit teaching, not because I had reps because that would be stupid, but because... well, I wrote about this already in part one and part two if you must know. I now walk dogs. Less money, but way less stress, and more time to write and hobnob with fancy Hollywood producers (call my agents!).

I've got more material about to go out soon and I am super excited because I love writing and meeting people and talking about movies. And I really want a house with a pool.

As for where I will be a year from now? Roll it:

Sept. 25, 2014

Dear Diary,

My huge studio assignment has just started production! I'm so excited. Today is the first day of shooting, and so far it looks like everything will be fantastic. It's amazing how great this experience has been and that everyone has listened to me and agreed with all my decisions. I am on set and ready for when they need new pages on the fly. Between this and the million dollar sale of my spec, the last year has been very good to me. After production wraps for the day, I'm heading up to Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner's house for a huge fancy party. I hope I still have time to go for a swim in my pool before I change into my BCBG dress. Also the web series I worked on is hugely successful. Also Emma Stone is my best friend. Also, cookies.

Gotta go! They need me on set! Thanks, Diary!

Love Always,

Emily Blake

Other Participating Blogs:
TV Calling
Red Right Hand
Jonathan Hardesty

Friday, September 20, 2013

Female characters are not just pieces of sushi

My fundraising drive is over, and although I still have a few scripts in my queue, I'm almost done giving notes for charity. Thanks to the contributions from so many writers, I was able to raise $2,570 for Angel City Pit Bulls, for which I am extremely grateful. I will do this again next year for sure.

I have given notes on a total of 31 scripts so far for 29 writers, and I think I have five left. If you are one of those five, fear not. I'm behind, but I should finish up next week.

Of those 29 writers, 26 of them were great about receiving their notes, which were from 4-6 pages in paragraph form and a bit blunt. I let everybody know I was going to be harsh because I am NOT a professional script reader and this is for charity, not my livelihood.

Writing really nice, polite notes takes time. It's much easier to just write down all the issues that jump out as I see them, and occasionally comment if something is really working and I want to see more of it. I always found something good to comment on, but I tended to get a little impatient and sarcastic whenever I saw the same problem crop up over and over. I thought people were gonna be all mad about that.

Instead, most writers laughed at my pointing out their consistent issues. Many of them said thank you and that I gave them lots to think about. Some followed up with questions, which I answered as best I could. Two writers enjoyed my notes so much they came back for more, which pleased me greatly.

One felt disappointed. I don't think I gave her exactly what she was looking for, which I regret, but what can you do? Two did not take kindly to my tone and argued the notes almost line by line.

So it was an interesting experience, and I learned a few things. Some of these scripts were quite good. One was so well written that I resorted to pointing out typos just so the writer would get something out of me. Some were terrible. Like, really really terrible. But not a single one was without promise.

There was one thing I noticed over and over that started as a mild annoyance, but was so common that I now consider it a full blown pet peeve:


 What does that mean, you may ask? Well, I am here to help, so I will demonstrate.

[scrippet]BOB ANDREWS, 42, is an old soul. His facial hair is peppered with white, and he stopped grooming it long ago. His cowboy boots never come off in public, and he only pulls a cigarette out of his mouth when he needs to make a point. Right now, he's making a good one.[/scrippet]

So the above is an example of the kind of description I commonly see for male characters. Vivid, detailed - maybe a bit TOO detailed - but interesting and filled with character.

In the same script, this is the kind of description I would frequently see for the female lead:

[scrippet]VIVIAN JAMES, 22, is stunningly beautiful.[/scrippet]

In other words, the male character gets all kinds of nifty details. The female character gets some version of good looking. Sometimes writers will say "gorgeous" or "pretty" and sometimes they'll even mention her hair color. They very rarely mention anything else about her.

This didn't happen one or two or three times. If I had to guess, out of 31 scripts I think I saw this happen about 20 times. And it wasn't just restricted to male writers; female writers did it too.

I'm not saying you can't describe your female lead as attractive. But look at the description of Bob Andrews again. You're picturing Josh Brolin, aren't you? Now look at Vivian's description. Who do you picture?  Victoria's Secret model? Megan Fox? Mila Kunis? Zoe Saldana? A fairy princess? Your little sister?

She's empty. With Bob up there - I never even mentioned how good he looks. If he's the lead and he fits the description, the casting agent will find you a good looking dude. And Vivian - if she's the female lead, the casting director will find you a good looking woman. So what else do we need to know? Is she all business? Is she a fashion plate? Is she wide-eyed and innocent? Does she have bad posture? Scary muscles? Is she lactating? Wobbling on her high heels? There are so many more interesting things you can do to give us a picture of this girl other than to tell us she looks good.

I know most of these writers did not do this on purpose, but it drives me batty nonetheless.

So I want everyone to go to your current script and check. How often do your female characters get introduced by nothing more than their looks? Remove the words "gorgeous" "pretty" "beautiful" and "stunning" from your intros unless her looks are actually plot relevant. Like, if your lead is a super model or a sex robot, or if she uses her looks to get what she wants, then it's okay. But if not, try to yank out that word. Instead, think of what else you can say about her. How can we picture her in our minds as more than just a pretty face?

Do it, or I will come after you with my angry sarcasm.