I just figured something out. Something about writing characters. Something so obvious, it’s going to sound dumb as a revelation.
The first important rule I learned as a screenwriter was the 3 Acts Paradigm. Even if you don’t agree with Syd Field, you have to admit, every story needs a beginning, middle and end. Each of these must have a catalyst, or “plot point,” that shoots us into the next act.
Once I mastered this, I could write a plot.
The next most important rule I learned was a character’s motivation. Each character can’t arbitrarily go on a life-altering trek. There has to be an event that catapults them into a new world, and they need to have a reason to want to return to homeostasis, or whatever it was life held for them previously.
Once I mastered this, I could insert characters into my plot.
Characters can’t exist in a vaccuum. They need to have a scene to explore. The problem with characters in scenes is they just want to stay there. They can meander about, using trivial dialogue until they stumble across something meaningful to say. The writer’s job is to curb this aimlessness. The writer needs to figure out what has to be done, and what has to be said. He needs to leave out the wandering. He needs to take the “American Psycho” Christian Bale and make “the Machinist” out of him. The minimum.
It’s like going to the potty. You go into the bathroom knowing what needs to be done, you take care of it, and you leave. No dilly-dally. It’s like going to church or your ex’s birthday party. Get in as late as possible. Get out as soon as possible.
Once I internalized this, I could give my characters a playground to advance the plot.
Today, I was reading a book on acting, “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff. He has a “guidepost” for taking acting to the next level. Find the love. He’ll ask an actor in a scene, “where’s the love?” This helps create a dynamic to complicate a pedestrian scene into a complex one.
When a mother and daughter quarrel, it’s not because they don’t love eachother. It’s because they do. The daughter loves the mother and wants to know that the mother loves her. She wants to win her mother’s admiration by demonstrating what an independent girl she is. She wants to prove how little she needs her mother, so in return her mother will realize how much she needs the daughter around, and thus will show how much she loves her daughter by trying to win her back.
The mother loves her daughter so much, she wants the girl to feel slightly inadequate and realize how she still needs her mother, and will then show an outward lovingness towards her mother.
A woman tries to leave her husband and fights with him to convince herself she doesn’t love him… but this proves difficult, because she really does love him. The man fights for this woman, because he loves her, but also because he loves himself. “How dare she think she found someone better than me.”
I took this one step further. Why does the daughter need the mother’s love so bad? Because the mother was cold and less than open about her love for her daughter when the girl was a child. Why was the mother so cold? Because the girl took the attention from her father away from the mother. Because he showed his love for the young girl more openly than he did for the postpartum woman with visible baby weight. Even after the mother lost the baby weight, the father had already become less interested in the mother, and his life became about providing for his daughter.
Why is the husband so wounded by the wife trying to leave? Because his mother showed him so much attention as a child, he believed no woman could ever resist him, no woman would ever reject him. Etc.
These aren’t just circumstantial motivations. These are inherent motivations. These are ingrained in our DNA. This is such a core part of who we are. This isn’t the a motivation for a scene, why a character acts this way for the remainder of the script… but why he is this way for his entire life.
I was struggling with a character’s motivation in a rewrite of the script EAT IT (look under the “SCRIPTS” tab for more info). Wouldn’t it suffice to say, “his motivation for eating these weird things is because it’s what he and his friends do?” I was told, this isn’t sufficient motivation for such an integral part of the story.
I just figured it out. The character Chip is a hobby-less kid. He goes to school because he has to. He had no drive to do well in school. He belongs to no extra-curricular programs. But why? Because I wrote him this way? Yes, but also…
Chip grew up fatherless. He never had a father show him about tools, or sports, or music. He has no interest in these things because he had nobody to show him how cool they can be. Nobody to pique his interest in anything. So why does he have eating competitions with his friends? Because it’s the only skill he posses: the ability to eat. He’ll never win accolades for his writing or scholarships for his GPA or trophies for his athletics abilities, but he will win the attention and respect of other students by eating what they won’t.
Once I master this, I’ll be able to create three-dimensional characters and arcs for them to slide down.
Then, I’ll be a writer.]]>
My apologies for taking 3 days off. Here are a list of excuses:
Congratulations if you made it this far. Or should I say, conblogulations (no, I guess I shouldn’t say that).
I’ve now restored my faith in my blogging ability. This is the confidence booster I needed to return to the blogosphere (note to self: never use the term, “blogosphere” ever again. Gross).
Looks like I’ll be seeing you around tomorrow. Until then, I will boldly blog where no man has blogged before (the toilet store).]]>
Here are some of the suggestions from YouTube (of videos I might like).
KKK Display stuns Oregon Community
I thought this was because I’ve been watching a lot of “Community” clips lately (it is my favorite show on TV). Turns out, it’s not “community” which is the focus, but rather “KKK.”
Let me explain. I was watching, “the Amazing Racist” clips on youtube. They thought because I watched some of those, I would like more KKK related videos. Falso. While I do enjoy watching Ari Shariff push people to the brink of physical violence, I know he’s an actor, and this is a social experiment to guage the tipping point of someone trying to be polite.
RoboCop vs Terminator
It’s just a guy playing a guitar, but just yesterday I researched the rhythm for the Terminator song (dum-dum DUM dum-dum). I watched a video posted by some Swedish metal band, who covers the song. I don’t know how robocop breaks into this equation, but I’m glad he’s there to accompany his friend.
The Craziest Dunk Ever
From watching, “17 craziest field crashers,” YouTube thought any sports fan would want to experience an unrelated-sport event. Isn’t this what YouTube was designed for? To bring together communities of people… but also to show somebody with zero interest in basketball the coolest, most complex, most impressive part of the sport without all the other pointless fat. This way, if I ever do try to get in to the sport, my level of expectation will be set too high, and I will inevitably give up on it… with the exception of watching 42sec highlight reel clips on YouTube (and then move on with my life).
Red Riding Hood Trailer 2011 HD
I watched a trailer for a nature documentary (narrated by Morgan Freeman, of course), which is a film I am really excited to see and will be released soon. I love documentaries and I love stories about freeing/restoring the life of an animal. Why the hell did you suggest a Twilight spin-off?
The CRAZIEST EVER Animal Clips – Ultimate Compilation!
Wait? What is this? You combined my love for animals with my enjoyment of anything “crazy,” wacky or zany? There’s a Chimp doing martial arts in a karate Gi – hilarious. A baby tiger playing with, and getting teased by, a tree-climbing monkey. Brilliant. One of those lizards that run across the water like Jesus on fire. Amazing! And an African-music soundtrack. A kangaroo drop-kicking a dude into a pond. The sneezing baby panda. Elephant vs. Rhino. Elephant vs. Elephant. Elephant vs. Bus.
This video’s got it all. YouTube, you’ve done it again!
Here’s one way to tell if somebody you know is crazy:
Do they refer to their parents as “mom” and “dad” and not “my mom” and “my dad?” This might make them crazy.
So, Mom said Dad shouldn’t have given me his truck, but you know Dad, so laid back.
By not inserting the teeny-tiny two-letter word, “my,” before “mom” or “dad,” this probably means they have trouble understanding the world from the perspective of another (anyone who exists outside their own head). This is a clear sign of a) Autism, b) self-importance, or c) craziness!
I realize I’m over-generalizing, but I’ve definitely noticed a pattern between this intrinsic habit and people who lack the ability to grasp the world around them.
Sometimes you know the person well enough, or have met their parents, and maybe if they’re that comfortable enough around you, they can refer to their parents that way and get away with it. But this scenario is much worse:
The crazy person refers to somebody you clearly do not know, by a name you’ve never heard.
“It’s what Richard calls Groundhog-syndrome. Mittens is afraid of her own shadow.”
Who the hell is Richard? And why would I care for his opinion on your cat’s hiding habits?
Granted, there are incidences where she can be mistaken, and falsely assume you were introduced to this un-mutual acquaintance… but odds are, because she knows Richard, she doesn’t understand how everybody doesn’t know him too.
Odds are, this kind of individual rarely reciprocates the mundane conversational questions you ask them, too.
- I’m not asking you because I want to know your favorite kind of frozen yogurt, I’m asking because I want you to ask me about my favorite kind… and it’s frustrating that you don’t care enough to want to hear about my brilliant 4-flavor swirl with oreos and kiwi sprinkled on top-
And isn’t that the true sign of a crazy-head? Somebody who doesn’t want to know about your favorite kind of dessert?]]>
(the following was written as a stream of consciousness via 750words.com – I apologize for any grammatical errors or lack of clarity)
Allow me to express my animosity towards the American-consumerist tradition known as, “the wedding.”
Before I jump into it, allow me to explain: I’m engaged. I’m probably going to get married next February. I live in a different city than my fiancee. We are stuck with the decision of a nice wedding, or for her to move out to Los Angeles (where I live).
I am all in favor of stepping before a judge and assuring him that I am choosing to join my fiancee in marriage by choice. It’s not romantic, but it’s to the point. And it’s within our budget. My fiancee prefers a big expensive wedding, of which I disapprove.
Allow me to air some other grievances first: relatively speaking, for us to spend 15 to 20 thousand dollars on a wedding is cheap… for a wedding.
In perspective to any other day of our lives costing that much… it’s way too f-ing much! I could buy a new car for that much. I can get myself mostly out of debt for that much. I could put down a down payment on a… okay, not quite there yet.
I’ve been roped into this kind of expected swindle before. I was told, as an uninformed 18 year old (with nobody to wise me up), that I needed to go to college. I am eternally in debt because of that decision. I have, as of today, gone in debt by several thousand dollars, for a degree which has currently made me: zero dollars in return. I’ve never been given a job as a result of this college degree.
The most expensive part of the wedding is the venue/food. We can get a venue pretty cheap (again, “cheap” being a relative term). It’s the food that’s the killer. And not only that, by assigning a monetary value to each head, to each friend or relative or acquaintance, we are forced to cut certain guests out of the wedding. Why? shouldn’t they deserve to be there? Some of them, yes. My third cousin who doesn’t even know my middle name or what school I went to or what my degree is in… you’re invited. Why? Because I’m told I have to invite you. Why do I have to invite you? Because I’m told, a) it’s the right thing to do (who the hell is the judge of that?), b) I have to, or (and this is by far the best answer of all) c) we’re family. Again, what’s my degree in again?
I hate blindly following customs or traditions or rules or norms because nobody else has ever dared to challenge them. My mom is a sheep. My fiancee is a sheep. We’re all sheep who are told to spend as much money on this impersonal tradition as we can. It doesn’t matter if we go in debt. Just please throw your money back into the American economy. We need it. Desparately.
I could keep going… for hours. There’s nothing personal about a wedding. There’s very little I like about the wedding tradition. It should be about two people officially commencing the remainder of their lives together. It should be the single most romantic day of my life. It should be about me and my fiancee. About how happy we would be in a vaccuum without the rest of the world pressuring us. It should be the happiest day of my life. I get to pick the music. I get to pick where. I get to pick who’s there. With the exception of the music, I have very little pull in this wedding.
Weddings suck. I want to have a potluck. If you don’t get why, or you think it’s tacky, or it’s too much effort on your behalf – fine. You’re uninvited. Anyone else who gets it, or who appreciates that I’m making this wedding new and more intimate and not stuffy or prissy or about money or about how impressive a party I can throw… Anyone who wants to be there because of me and the bride. Anyone who wants to be there despite how irritating I am and how bratty I sound… you can come. You should be there. If you know my fiancee or myself, and you want to come join me in what should be the happiest day of my life because you want to SEE ME HAPPY or because you care about me or because you love me…
I’m getting married in Chicago on the weekend of February 18th 2011. You should be able to come.
And I’m sorry if I can’t invite you.]]>
This evening I came across a film which I was coerced into viewing. Michael Crichton’s 1984 classic, RUNAWAY, starring Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons (yes, the dude from KISS).
If you like bad movies, then you’ll love this one.
Here are ten things you’re certain to love about RUNAWAY.
10) The imdb.com synopsis: “In the near future, a police officer specializes in malfunctioning robots. When a robot turns out to have been programmed to kill, he begins to uncover a homicidal plot to create killer robots… and his son becomes a target.”
9) Near futurest = a time when we have (highly malfunctioning) robots to do our household chores (think Rosie from the Jetsons, not the Roomba) but we don’t have flat screens or smart phones.
8 ) Also from the synopsis, “… and his son becomes a target.” Spoiler ALERT! This happens in the last 10 minutes of the film. Why would they give away the third act? And it’s not even true. His son isn’t a target of the killer robots… just the guy who creates them.
7) We are introduced to Gene Simmons character when he leaves a doorbell video-message, and introduces himself as the repair guy from ACME Robot Repairs. Brilliant!
6) Except for the few main characters, none of the characters have full names. “Who is this guy?” “His name’s Johnson.”
“You just sit tight Ms. Rogers. (aside) She’s very attractive.”
Other character names, “hooker,” and “hooker at bar.”
5) Classic dialogue such as,
“Why did jack quit the regular force?”
“He tell me [sic] because of vertigo but I don’t believe him”
“Well it’s true, in a way. A few years back Jack was chasing this guy, bad guy. This guy ran into a building that was under construction. Jack freaked out. Started sweating. Couldn’t follow him. Guy got away.”
“So the guy got away?”
“Yeah, well later that night, same guy killed six people.”
3 things we learn from this dialgoue, a) when jack sweats, he can’t follow guys, b) jack hates construction sites. c) Jack hates letting guys get away.
Add this to previously learned facts, jack hates robots, and jack has vertigo, guess where the climax takes place: on the 40th floor of an all robot construction site. And Jack is very sweaty.
4) Michael Crichton wastes 74 seconds of the climactic scene on Tom Selleck clutching to an elevator as it rises (at the “human speed” setting) to the 40th floor. We get it, Michael. He’s afraid of heights.
3) There are these Mechanical Spiders that jump on people, inject them with acid, and then explode. I feel like the injection or the explosion woul be sufficient.
Spoiler Alert: this is the penultimate scene in the film (but if you watch, please at least watch til 0:55)
2) Actor G.W. Bailey plays “Chief,” the short-tempered, uptight, by-the-rules Police Chief who constantly reminds Tom Selleck’s character what a nuisance he is.
“Just who in the hell do you think you are running an operation like this?”
“You screwed up good, Ramsay. We got two dead officers, do you understand me mister? Two. Dead. Cops! We got two wounded – one of them your own partner – and we got two dead Guinea punks, and nobody knows why or what the HELL its all about!”
If the name is familiar, that’s probably because he plays the exact same character in Police Academy (Lt. Thaddeus Harris), which also came out in 1984. Bailey was also in Short Circuit, which is funny because of this equation:
Police Academy + Short Circuit = RUNAWAY
1) This trailer. There is no way I can sum up how bad a movie is, until you see this trailer. Then you’ll get it.
Spoiler ALERT: Many of the scenes from this trailer occur during or after the film’s climax.
And if you don’t have time for the full trailer:
There’s a car by my house with a giant “$” written in soap on the windshield. I’m assuming the car is either a) for sale, b) recently purchased, or c) the owner just wants everyone to know, this car is money.
Here’s my favorite part: the “$” is on the right hand side of the windshield (when facing the windshield). This makes the car a hazard on the road, and not just because it’s a distraction to other drivers (for being so money)… It’s a distraction to the Money Car driver. His windshield is completely blocked out by the dollar sign, and unless he wants to drive with his head out the window, a la Ace Ventura, the car is probably a dangerous drive.
But I’m pretty sure the car has been driven recently, because in the past few days, it has been in two different parking spots.
Here is my theory on why the Money Car only has a dollar sign, and no monetary quality attached to it. The soap Artist, aka the gentleman or gentlewoman who turned the windshield into the canvas for their mobile Mona Lisa, got as far as drawing the “$” before he/she realized, “aw, F-word! It’s on the wrong side.”
But what if I am mistaken? Is like the upside down question mark, where you put the dollar sign at the end of a price tag?
What if this was intentional? Here are 2 justifications.
The guy is a marketing genius and designed an ad that can only be seen in rearview mirrors (like an ambulance). Or this car is so money, he who drives it will be guided by a force much greater than sight.
But he probably just mucked it up.]]>
So far, two for two.
Last month I tried the “750 words” challenge. What’s that?
750words.com is a site dedicated to being a private online journal. It’s like blogging, but secretive. It’s a great way to keep you accountable as a writer. If you want to write everyday, 750words.com is a fun way to track your progress.
Here’s why it’s fun: it’s like all those annoying facebook games or the boy scouts. You win awards the more you accomplish. By opening an account, you are awarded the egg prize (there are over 28,000 people with the egg, which means there are that number of people in the 750words.com universe). This just means you’re new to the 750words universe and are a egg of knowledge waiting to be hatched.
After 3 days of writing, you earn the turkey (there are currently over 12,000 people with this award). Like in bowling. And that’s not the only way it’s like bowling. The scoring system is also comparable. If you score two points today (1 point for writing over 100 words, and 1 more point for writing over 750 words), the points carry over to the next day. Your first day you can earn 2 points, but the next day, you can earn more. I don’t exactly get it. It involves an algorithm. I’m not smart enough.
After 5 days you get the penguin badge. 10 Days you start to fly with the Flamingo badge (although, not too well). 30 days is the albatross. 100 is a phoenix (only 434 currently with this badge).
And finally, after 200 days of writing consecutively, almost 7 months, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a 750words.com writer, the Pterodactyl. Here is what they have to say about that, “200 days in a row! Scientists say this bird is extinct, but some highly fanatical people say that they’ve seen one or two recently. Who to believe?” There are, as of today, only 102 (out of 28,000) who wear this badge. And they wear it with pride.
So instead of investing all your time into fake facebook farm animals, try improving your writing skills.
Wow. I’m only at 365 words. This is hard. Only halfway there. I quit.
And yes, I am writing this in 750words.com… a universe in which I keep falling back to the egg. This commitment business is hard.
What excuse could I possibly give you guys for my absence? It’s been 2 months and 6 days since my last post.
Okay, I’m too stunted to be creative. I’m on set. This is how I earn my check. By not getting in the way.
This is what I propose for April.
1) To stop being so boring.
2) To blog everyday
3) To tell you about the book I just read (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime)
4) To tell you about 750 words… and what that means
5) To come up with more lists
I am too lazy to continue this list. Or use proper grammar. But I want you guys to hold me accountable for blogging every day. “How?” You might ask. By doing what I do to earn my paycheck.
Stay out of my way. Exclamation Point.
Don’t distract me from keyboarding everyday (I don’t like to say “write,” because that implies I’m using a pen and paper, “typing” makes me think I’m on a typewriter, so I use the verb “to keyboard” as the choice verb).
Okay. Here’s to a successful April, fools.]]>
Admittingly so, I know little of creating websites, but I recently applied for a job from a production company with a sinful homepage. Upon further investigation, I had a lot of issues with it.
1) Please never ever ever make a flash site that not only takes 20 seconds to load, but also proceeds to play a 20 second video that the user cannot skip.
2) Do not have said video play everytime the user clicks on a new link within the site.
3) Do not have every link on your site open in a new window.
4) Please provide me with a way to return to the main site.
5) I would highly recommend your logo to remain the same on each page of the site.
6) If you want to be taken seriously as a production company, perhaps update your email address to one that doesn’t end with, “@earthlink.net”
Clearly this company has experience in the industry, as they’ve been around long to carry a “@earthlink.net” email address. I would reconsider the, “you wouldn’t hit an old man” image to a more trustworthy, “sure I’ve aged, that just means my taste is refined and my wine has ripened” feel.
Bottom line, I did not get the job. I guess I wasn’t VHS enough for them.]]>