Friday, April 27, 2012

How stupidity can lead you to your own voice

I'm one of those writers who has a personality on the page, the kind you get all mad at because my style of writing can occasionally overcome the actual content in the story. Mind you, I never ever write something without putting my best effort into it, but I get a lot of credit for the way I use my words.

I enjoy saying things like "homeskillet" and "heavens to Betsy." In real life I say "Oh for heaven's sake!" on an hourly basis. This is my style in life and it is my style in writing. I have been told that how I talk is exactly how I write, that there is no filter between me and my written words.

Not everybody knows how to do this, so I will tell you how.

The secret is, I am dumb and impatient.

The other day my boss emailed the English department a form for us to fill out with statistics and jargon and lots of complicated details about how we plan to improve learning in our classrooms. I read this form like twice and did not understand a goddamn word. My brain does not function that way. I can bullshit by copying what other people write, but I am completely faking it. I often have no clue what the hell I'm talking about. This is how I survived Astronomy class.

Of course, with this particular document, I might have asked for help or read it another two times, but I am impatient. Instead I deleted the email, and prepared to say to my boss, "Look, dude, I don't know what this bullshit means, but I can tell you what I'm doing in the classroom and why." Fortunately he never called me in to talk about it, probably because he's met me and he knows how this conversation will go.

When I was in band, I sucked at sight reading. I am too impatient to look at all those black notes and figure out what they mean, so I'd just start to wander off with my flute and make up my own music. It sounded pretty good, way better than the sound I squeaked out when I tried to play Mozart. I shake my fist at Mozart. I do not have the patience to, like, practice or whatever.

You can see where this is going.

I am dumb and impatient, so I don't even bother trying to figure out what anyone else wants me to say. I just say what's in my brain and figure they'll all just deal. Miraculously, so far everyone has.

It's weird. Somehow what would get other people in trouble has been my greatest advantage, much to the chagrin of one particular coworker who always does what he's told and doesn't understand why I never get lectured. I'm fucking charming, that's why. Or everyone's afraid I will punch them in the face.

So I guess if you want to learn how to harness your own voice, act dumb and impatient. Just forget about how you're supposed to sound and say, "fuck it" and let your brain loose on the page. You're telling a story to someone who really wants to be entertained. You're explaining something to someone who may be dumb and impatient, like me. So if you can put yourself in dumb and impatient mode, and you can rip out that filter and let those thoughts fly directly to your fingers, you too can have a distinct voice.

And the most important thing is, just accept that you're dumb. Don't try to sound smart. Remember that you can always go back and use bigger words later. Right now just let yourself sound stupid. Embrace that shit. Be the best idiot you can be.

It's also possible I'm completely full of shit and am too dumb to know better.

Monday, April 23, 2012

And it's not just because I want to bang the male lead, I swear

Seriously, look at this dude.
It's Monday. Know what Monday has become to me? Lost Girl night. This post will come as no surprise if you follow me on Twitter. I cannot shut the fuck up about this show.

It started in college. Or maybe not. Maybe it started when I was six and obsessed over Fraggle Rock. I didn't want to go to bed; I just wanted to spend more time with the Fraggles. It got so bad my parents took the TV away until I was 14. I read books. I went outside to play.

Then in college I got my own television.

One day I flipped some channels and found a show where some girl was holding two Pez dispensers up - one a witch and one a wolf, because she was a witch and her boyfriend was a werewolf. And I decided not to change the channel.

Probably in the same week, I saw a tiny gray puppet wandering around on a space ship calling himself a "Dominar" and negotiating with a gigantic space bug.

So I don't remember which came first, Buffy or Farscape, but in both cases I remember the exact episode that got me hooked. I'd been out of the TV loop for so many years that this was fucking amazing to me. And I started to obsess. I wanted more, always more. When Buffy gave her life I cried. Shit, I still cry even though I know she's coming back. When John Crichton destroys entire armadas to get Aeryn back in his arms, I cheer.

And that's probably when I really began to appreciate moving pictures. I write features, not TV, but the truth is, my love of visual story telling began with two great genre TV shows.

Remember when Veronica Mars opened the door at the end of season one and we had to wait an entire summer to find out who she saw? That shit drove me crazy. I thought about it all the time. Who's at the goddamn door?

And the horror I felt at the end of the last episode of Firefly as I realized there would be no more story - I don't want to relive those moments.

But then I became a very mature adult. I still enjoyed television. I loved Lost and enjoy Doctor Who very much, but I don't download wallpapers or search for spoilers or join fan forums. I moved on with my life. If I missed an episode of television, that was okay. I had a life to live and these people weren't real. I was a grown-up now, not a kid who imagines what character she would be if she was in this show. Not that I ever did anything so nerdy as that. I mean, come on, I'm pretty cool.

Then one day after Being Human on Syfy, I stuck around to see the pilot for Lost Girl. And fuck me. The little genre-obsessed girl inside never left. She was just waiting for the next great show. I was in from the minute the credits rolled.

I am obsessed with this show. In case you don't know about it, it's an incredibly popular Canadian production about a bisexual succubus named Bo (Ana Silk) learning about a Fae world hidden from humans. They're already filming season 3 in Canada, but Syfy's only beginning to air season two now.

I couldn't wait. I kept going online and looking things up and getting spoiled. As soon as I found out about Dyson (the wolf man pictured above, played by the sweltering Kris Holden-Reid) giving up his love to protect Bo, I immediately went online to see if he ever gets it back. And of course I spoiled myself on that and other things in the process.

I realized at this point that if I didn't go ahead and find these episodes and watch them, I was going to ruin the show for myself. It was the whole "Who's at Veronica's door" thing all over again, only now I can actually look it up and find out. And that just makes watching it later not as much fun. So this weekend I found them online and marathoned them all. I have now seen all of season two, and I am relieved. But now I can't wait for season 3.

But it's Monday today, and that means I can watch the episodes again on Syfy. And I will. Because I am once again reminded of how easily I get addicted to good stories. Some people can't stay away from their cell phones. Some people need food or booze or meth. I just need a weekly injection of a genre show with a great love story and some action.

And I am Team Dyson all the way.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Update, podcast and a piece of advice

My podcast is up! Here's all the information I'm too lazy to type out for myself:

This episode was really long. The one they posted on ITunes is trimmed down from the original broadcast, and it's still really long. I am a tangenty individual. But we had a grand time. I love these guys and I am always up for talking about what makes scripts work.

Meanwhile, I haven't actually written any screenplay pages in months. I've been working on treatment after treatment but not any scenes. Last weekend I kicked off the first few pages of a new script and it was fun. This morning I cranked out the first big action piece, and the words just flowed. It's like they were backed up behind the fence and then I released them into the world. Feels good.

Writing is fun. Now if someone would just pay me to do this, I'd be golden.

The best thing about having a fiance who's in law enforcement is that he's always got clever and realistic ways to pull of action sequences. He's like my action scene consultant. I say to him, "Beefcake," says I, "if you were trapped in a mine and needed to get past some bad guys to get to the entrance, how would you do it?"

And then he'll give me a three-hour lecture on different procedures and what kind of weapons would be best.

Sometimes I'll be like "Hey Beefcake, what kind of gun would you use to shoot zombies if you were trapped in a mine?"* And he'll give me a list of possible options.

Plus he has friends in like EVERY branch of law enforcement, so if I ever need to know about some procedures I can just find someone to ask. It's a pretty sweet deal for me.

So if there's one piece of advice I could give to writers in search of a career in action films, it would be to marry a law enforcement agent who really likes talking about how to shoot shit. And get him to take you shooting because it's fun, even if he does get embarrassed when I pretend I'm shooting zombies with the shotgun.

*I am not actually writing a story that takes place in a mine or anything about zombies. But maybe I should be.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

You should see this movie

Many years ago, a roommate rented a movie called Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human, and I fell in love. You probably have not seen this movie, which is why I have a copy of it; so that anyone I know who has the least inclination to watch it can always borrow it from me, as long as they give it back promptly. It's become my go-to suggestion whenever a friend asks for a recommendation for an obscure comedy.

The film stars Mackenzie Astin (brother of Sean, son of Patty Duke, fully adorable) and Carmen Electra as a mismatched couple that meets, falls in love, and experiences various forms of birth control until they finally make a baby. It's a faux documentary, narrated by David Hyde Pierce. Lucy Liu and Marc Blucas are also in this movie.

Okay so Carmen Electra, who works in some kind of office setting but wears the sluttiest fucking clothes to work since Shannen Doherty on Charmed, goes out to a bar wearing what appears to be a wash rag over her gigantic fake boobs. Mackenzie Astin mans up and hits on her, and the dating ritual begins. David Hyde Pierce tells us all about it.

After some basic datey type events, they get it on, and that's when the fun stuff happens. During their sex scenes, we cut to a track where men dressed as giant sperm act out the fertilization process. When the gun shot goes off, they all race for the zygote at the end of the track, later represented by an X mark on a tiny trampoline. But at this time they do not reach the X, because Mackenzie Astin has put on a condom. All the sperm men SLAM into a giant gym mat put in their way.

Later she puts on a diaphragm, and uses birth control, and there's a scene where he either masturbates or pulls out - I can't remember which - but the sperm guys just keep running and running and running until they sort of stop and look around and realize the zygote is nowhere to be found. They're very disappointed.

Basically, this movie is hilarious. Carmen Electra wears slutty clothes and gets naked with Mackenzie Astin, and David Hyde Pierce narrates it all in his Niles Crane voice, and there's giant dudes in sperm costumes racing each other to babyland. And somewhere in there is a romantic comedy and some dialogue and shit. So you should see this movie if you enjoy awesome things. There are no explosions in it, but there are some magnificent fake boobs and a dude dressed as Arnold shoots a machine gun at some point, so there's something for everyone. Look it up: Making Habits of the Earthbound Human. It's available on Netflix.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Finally, something to work on


I am now prepared to write a screenplay again. And it is rock 'em sock 'em wall to wall action: my favorite. It only took four months to get here. In that time I have learned a whole lot about what makes a marketable script, so hopefully next time this won't be so difficult.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Maybe Han Solo likes to dance, you don't know

And now, Spring Break is over. Today I have to grade papers and do lesson plans, and next week our yearbook is due so I'm going to be wrapped up in that. But this week was great for screenwriting. I got a ton of work done - work I can't talk about, which is awesome.

I also got and played Kinect Star Wars. Overall, pretty fun. It's not a perfect game, but I'm enjoying it. The weird thing is, the constant clenching of my fist is actually making my bad hand hurt. I have to start playing with an open hand or something. And my shoulders hurt. This game is an excellent substitution for an upper body workout if you're like me and can't really pick up weights.

I know people have been complaining about the whole Han Solo dancing thing, but I don't think it's that big a deal. In case you don't know, there's a side game that involves dancing in the Star Wars universe, structured like the game Dance Central. The first level is dancing with Princess Leia in Jabba's palace. Later in the game you dance with Han Solo.

And everyone's losing their shit about Han Solo and how undignified his dancing is.

Hey, people, Leia is undoing her chains and dancing for Jabba, and then gets all pissy when she doesn't win the contest, as she walks back to put her slave chains back one. How is this more dignified than Han getting his swerve on in Cloud City? But nobody's talking about Leia.

But whatever. It's just a game. The game is meant to be fun. It doesn't even have a good plot.

Sure, I miss Knights of the Old Republic. I miss that brilliantly constructed plot with the love story and the side missions and the characters that had more depth than any of the Star Wars prequels. But this isn't that game.

It probably would have been cool to have a story like KOTOR where it's in the same universe but without any of the same characters. Then you don't have to worry about offending people with Han Solo's dance moves or that rockin' tune about how glad he is to be free from the carbonite.

I don't mind the Han Solo dance or the Leia dance. I don't think you needed that, but it's not like I'm offended. A game should get a little more leeway than a film. It would be nice if every game could be KOTOR, but it's not. This is about throwing lizard guys through the air and waving your light saber around. And then dancing and raging around as a Rancor and podracing, at which I am fucking terrible.

Anyway, whether it's right or wrong, I'm gonna go play it until I can't fake grip a light saber anymore.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Podcasted again

I'm going back on Scriptcast Friday morning at 10 because it's fun and I'm on Spring Break. This will be my second appearance, but I'll be back. I'm going to be the John Goodman of this podcast.

Script Doctor Eric posted about it.

If you have any stuff you'd like me or us to talk about, email Eric or tweet at him: @scriptdreric and he will ask.

We'll be discussing the past few months, surreal as they've been, general meetings and how to define style. Or that's what we're supposed to be discussing. I'm sure I'll find a way to careen off subject in spectacular fashion.