Monthly Archives: April 2012

Imagination Infestation


I have a problem that I believe is one of the reasons I have no choice but to write.  I have an extremely active imagination. The other night, I was laying in bed reading when I heard a baby crying.  I put down the book to listen to the anguished wails.  Was it coming from outside my open window? It stopped for a few seconds then started again. I became worried. Jumping from the bed I ran to our front door.  Opening it, my eyes were glued to the doorstep. Nothing was there.  I stuck my head out and  concentrated on the sounds of the night.  No baby.  I closed the door. Did the mother change her mind and retrieve the baby before I untangled myself from the sheets?  Had I heard the baby on the neighbor’s door step?  I headed down the hallway back to my room.  Suddenly, it hits me.  The TV is on in the other room.  “Was there a baby crying on your TV?” I ask.  Now I ask you, what kind of person would literally check their doorstep for an abandoned baby before considering the noise came from a TV in an adjacent room?  A person with an imagination problem that’s who.

People wonder how I can write the borderline horror thrillers I write and not be able to watch a horror movie without loosing a nights sleep to increasingly disturbing nightmares.  Right now, as I sit here at my Panera office I want to scream, “Help! The man next to me is clipping his nails.”  All I can think of is a nail popping up to stab me in the eye.  I can just see it.  Half of it lodged in my eye and the other half sticking out like an arrow in a target.  Curved and hard like an eyelash white coral reef in a sea of black reeds.  I’d be driven to the hospital, trying not to squeeze or rub my eye as I yell for my mommy.  Stop it!  This is not darts, man!  You will NOT get a bullseye score if you hit my pupil. I swear if you even scrape me I’m suing like a gold digging mama looking for child support from a famous athlete.

All this I thought of before he even finished his first finger.  I’m telling you I got problems.

That real time look at my wacky stream of conscienceness was such a better example of my issues then the one I was going to tell you about my cat yelping.  ‘Cause even though I know it’s much more probable that she got her tail caught on something or saw a bug she didn’t like, I refused to acknowledge the cry in any way because she could have been fighting to the death with a rodent of heretofore unknown size and species.  Also an option, a serial killer who silenced her by crushing her skull beneath his boot.

I said I got issues.

Anyway,  to all of you who have a similar problem to me, I sympathize.  We never learned to fully quell the infinite possibilities with the science of probability.  Go forth my brethren and channel all that crazy into an art of your choice.  The art consumers of the world love you for it.

Power Don’t Come from a Penis


Deutsch: Symbol der Frauenpower (Geballte Faus...

This isn’t my regular post for the week but I wanted to post the comment that I made on Go Into the Story’s Blog on Part Two of Heroine’s in film.  Heck, I took so much time on it I gotta post it here.  It makes me feel like I was working that way. (Part One and Part Three are also attached.)

jwindh- I’d have to disagree with your comment: “[I’d] say that Alien’s Ripley and SOTL’s Clarice are very much “male” hero stories where the protagonist is female. I would say mostly the same with Katniss, too – although the maternal feelings she has for her sister are very “feminine” (but still not really any different from any tough male hero who still has a soft spot for protecting “women and children”).”

I don’t believe that being an action hero as opposed to a social hero makes a woman’s journey a male one. One of the things I loved about Katniss in the books is she had absolutely no desire to have a child.  That did not make her a male personality but someone who recognizes the limitations of the world around them.  She loves kids so much she would not bring one into that world.  Everything she does is either based in caring or on surviving.  She’s spent her life doing both so she has an extremely clear perspective of what those things mean and how best to do them.

Noting Clarice’s journey as an example of a male hero’s story is a shock to me.  Picture a man relating the major thematic monologue explaining what happened to the lambs on the farm.  In our culture, a man imparting a tear filled childhood memory like that would be thought of differently.  Would Hannibal even be interested in that story from a man?  Wouldn’t it make him dismiss the man as weak instead of as an intimate exchange that makes him feel closer to Clarice?

As to Ripley, I spent my senior paper in college analyzing the first three Alien movies as different stages of womanhood.  I have 15 pages to argue that Ripley is a woman and those movies can be seen as a vehicle for a woman. It bothers me when people say that when someone out of the mainstream vision of that thing (i.e. a white male) is taking over a positive characteristic they are emulating the representation of that characteristic, instead of that characteristic. Even if I speak the King’s English and listen to Tyler Swift I am still going to be black.  In no way, shape, or form, does that change my skin color or the experiences I have had as a black person.  If I beat up a bunch of guys and jump off a building that does not make me a man.  All the things and experiences that make me a woman will still be there.

Think of Trinity in The Matrix. She’s been through just as much as Neo has.  She’s even kicked more butt than Neo.  With the exception of the last minutes she is the major bad ass.  Yet we do not say she has a male story because in the end she is deferential to and in love with a man.  Is that what it takes for a bad ass woman to keep people seeing her story as female one?  I hope not.

I’m Gonna Knock the Listening Into Ya


Hello, fellow aspiring screenwriters!  I want to save you.  You may say, “Save me? I’m not stuck in a well. Lassie is sitting right next to me happily licking his balls.” (I know Lassie’s a girl, work with me.)  I’m going to save your writing from yourself.  Too many of us don’t listen.  We’re too busy defending our feelings, or vision, or self-esteem about our very existence as a creative being.  Stop it!  This is not your baby.  It did not come out of your cooch or the cooch you stuck yourself in for a minute.  You don’t sell your baby to have other people put their DNA in it, raise it, then decide when and if it gets to live a full and complete life.  If you do, you should be reported to social services immediately.

First things first.  You are a screenwriter.  The very definition says your script ain’t yours.  If you sell it, you no longer own it.  The decisions about it won’t be yours anymore.  They could pay you for it, then sit on it so it never sees the light of day.  Or rush it through production in a half ass way to make sure they don’t miss out on what’s hot now.  If you are lucky enough to get your script produced through a major studio it’s going to go through so many hands you might not recognize it when it finally shows up at your local multiplex.  So relax!  Enjoy the freedom of this time of infinite possibilities.

Now you may be asking why you should listen to me because I’ve never sold a script either.  You forget.  Your colleagues down here in the trenches read the worst scripts in the world.  That’s right, those poor readers who have to read crappy scripts until their eyes bleed still get to read a (presumably) better draft than the one you give your friends and colleagues.   We take time out of our lives and writing to help you.  Be grateful and listen to what we have to say.  I’m not saying you have to use the notes we give, but you do need to listen to them.

I suggest to all screenwriter’s do not defend your script as a response to notes.  Ask questions.  That’s right, make that generous person do more work.  If the person says I hated this line or loved that one ask them why.  If they say they saw something there that wasn’t, ask them why they said that.  Maybe they just wrote the notes in an abbreviated form and they can point you to the exact part of the script that gave them that impression.  If you get the impression that they missed a major plot point in the script ask them if they saw that part in the script.  If they say no, ask them why.  I wrote a short that takes place in a grocery store and it’s parking lot.  Inside the store, the protagonist picks up an item that is the center of the twist and brings the entire script together.  One out of every five people who read it said they didn’t understand where that item came from.  I found out by asking questions that it was buried in the description of the other things in the grocery store and they glazed over it.  I had been worried that if I highlighted this item the surprise of the twist would be ruined, but by not calling attention to it, I lost that moment all together with a great percentage of my readers.  I would have never known that I needed to bring this out if I didn’t ask why they didn’t see it instead of just saying it was in the script and they were stupid to miss it.

People who are reading your scripts may be happy, sad, frustrated, excited, confused, or just plain bored.  They are also generous and want to help you.  If you ask questions, not only will you know why they gave the notes they did, but you will also know how much stock you should put in their notes by their answers.  Above all, even if you don’t use a syllable of their notes, that person will feel like they have been heard and their time was not wasted.  This will lead to them giving you the greatest gift a rising writer can get.  They will be willing to read for you again.

I’d love it for you to tell me your stories about your adventures giving notes and any suggestions you have for the writers getting them.

More Stories than the Empire State Building


A date once asked me what my favorite thing in life was.  My standard survival tactic for all small talk is to answer and then repeat the question back to the person asking.  As I was hoping he didn’t notice my parrot like tactics, he said his favorite thing was stories.  My world lit up like tin foil in a conventional microwave.  Of course!  I don’t remember what my answer was but it was lame compared to this and I immediately wanted to take it back.  Stories are the only thing that I can remember on a regular basis.  If you asked me to write a history book from memory it would be light on all the names and dates we were supposed to memorize in school but you’d have enough stories to wallow around in ’til the pigs came home.  (Yes, I did say pigs.  As far as I know cows don’t wallow, and since I eat beef, but not pork, the cows might never come home.) I’m not sure I like stories as much as Kristen Bell likes sloths but then again, I’m not sure I like anything as much as that.

Stories have taken a prominent position in my mind this week because I’m taking Scott Myers’ (@GoIntotheStory on Twitter) Prep: From Concept to Outline class.  As I wrestle near infinite possibilities down to a single narrative, I’ve been thinking about how the telling of a story with the same basic facts can change the meaning and message.  I was listening to NPR’s Talk of the Nation interview with Rez Life author, David Treuer, and he said something extraordinary.  What if we don’t talk about Indian reservations in a negative light all the time?  What if instead we talk about reservations as having a surplus of everything?  A surplus of everything from community to poverty.  (See an excerpt from the book and listen to the interview in a tiny link next to his picture here.)  Another book, How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston poses the hypothesis that if blacks in the US had a program, like Greek and Jewish kids have Greek School and Jewish School, where we can celebrate our history we might feel new pride and possibilities in being black.  With my current crusade to give the black kids in my former junior high some hope, (see last weeks post) I realize how I frame the story of African-American history could be the difference between a life of opportunity and one of hopelessness for some of these kids.

As a writer, I am a storyteller.  A storyteller has the power of shaping history, reporting the present, and dreaming the future.  Choose the stories you tell with care fellow storytellers, the telling of them is what makes them real.