Monthly Archives: December 2012

Nickels for Wishes, Sweat for Goals


(Photo credit: BLundin)

Before anyone gets a chance to think it, I want to let everyone know that I do not have an obsession with Scott Myers at Go Into The Story. I wanted to write my writing goals for 2013 long before I saw his ten part series on the subject and decided to model this post on it. Plus, his wife made it very clear that I was not too come by their house again. However, she was nice enough to throw away the diaper I wore during the cross-country drive.

Looking Back

As I look back on my writing in 2012 I’m happy. I continued to grow as a screenwriter. I learned things that make my life easier as a screenwriter and things that will make my life harder, but my writing better.

Going to the Austin Film Festival for the first time in my life was a great experience. Hard as all hell on my body, but great for my mind and spirit. Being surrounded by others that struggle and hope, love and achieve, in screenwriting 24 hours a day is a surreal world I want to visit again.

I began to use and have fun with twitter as a networking tool. Besides finding new friends, it’s given me lots of laughter and awesome conversations. It also gives me a lot to ponder. Just like when I lived in Los Angeles full-time, there are people who I find I don’t like but they have a lot of power and can help me reach my goals. A big part of why I left LA is because I found myself kissing those people on both cheeks and smiling. Every time I don’t follow those people on twitter I congratulate myself. It slowly gets easier to do because, every day, I become surer of who I am and who I want to be.

Starting a blog was another thing that I did this year. Being old enough that I grew up in a time where my exposure to computers was confined to the school lab a couple of times a week, it was something I never thought I’d do. Being open and honest to the world about things so personal was a doggone miracle.

Finally, the best part of screenwriting this year has been that even the first drafts of what I’ve written this year has gotten consider ratings from people I trust. Yippee.

Assessing Where You Are

Where I am now is not where I want to stay as a writer, but it is where I am and I’m proud to have gotten this far.

I like the things I’m writing. This year alone I’ve tackled issues like racism, elder care, and women taught that their only power is sexuality. The best part about writing about these things is that I can do it in an entertaining way. The preachy bone that was located in my right arm between the radius and ulna has been removed and stored in an empty coffee can for use responding to non-fiction issues. However, if I could write comedies that are actually funny I would dance a jig. Hell yes, I’d settle for a dramedy. I would still write about serious issues that effect my life but to be able to make people laugh while I do it would make me do a happy dance that would last for days. (I miss Perfect Strangers.)

I’m scared. I don’t know what 2013 holds for me. Being one year closer to my death is not what scares me. The possibility of having another year go by without anyone saying they want to invest in me or my scripts. To have the art gone. That’s what scares me.

Where Do You Want To Go As a Writer

I want to rewrite the scripts I already have so that they get at least strong considers. This will get me a manager and perhaps an agent. I would also like to sell one of my scripts by August so that I can afford to go to the 20th anniversary of the Austin Film Festival.

Unless, Homeland or Game of Thrones or another earth shattering television show calls me up to say, “Hey, you’re disabled and black so the WGA will pay for you to be on our staff. When can you get here?” I’d like to write movies. I enjoy it. It’s challenging and they were my rebellion as I grew up.

I will still write specs but what I want to write adaptations. I love to read and if I could turn a book I love into something that will bring it to more people to enjoy that would make my heart grow three sizes that day. There are two adaptations I have in mind right now. From the moment I finished Feed: The First Book of the Newsflesh Series by Mira Grant I’ve wanted it. I’ve seen how to write the visually stagnant blocks of typing, emails, and internet blogs. I’d down play the zombies using them as a weapon and focus on it as the political thriller it is. The zombie moan I would let out if I got that adaptation would have the neighbors two doors down grabbing their machetes, or wondering just what position I was trying out from 50 Shades of Grey. For years, I’ve wanted to write the screenplay for The Face by Dean Koontz. I know he hates his books being turned into movies because of his experience with the Hollywood culture. But maybe, just maybe, I could get him to realize that giving the rights to a black woman who has never had anything produced in Hollywood would be the biggest “screw you” to the establishment he can send. No, I ain’t above it. If my mom, had sex with him I’d use that instead.

Practical Matters

Having come so far in the last year I don’t want to spend money on the credit card for screenwriting classes or events I can not afford. Since there is little I can afford, I will only accept and take on debt for things that will unquestionably help my career. Things like posting my scripts on The Black List, professional consultation with No Bullscript, and creative juju/kicks in the butt from Screenwriting Master Class.

Because of my disability I will have to find a manager and agent willing to  work with me around or through my limitations. I will try to limit my pity party when rejected because of this to no longer than a day. I will not fail to recognize that because of this I will have more confidence in the partnership between my representatives and myself. There will be communication and belief between us that few others will have so quickly.

Lastly, I will have to decide what I will need to be offered so that I can move back to LA full-time without feeling guilt for leaving my mom alone to care for my 97-year-old grandma.

Going Public

This is pretty damn public don’t you think?

I’m glad I got this out there. I will embrace and work toward these goals. I will pray (carefully) on them too. ‘Cause if prayer works for bacteria why not me?

Get Down. Get Downer.

Frank Darabont

Frank Darabont

On twitter we have been discussing downer endings. I mentioned to @unkscreenwriter, who started the conversation, that the initial idea for my thrillers never have what anyone would call a happy ending. So far I’ve been talked into the usual hero triumphs ending because I feel it would help the reader/watcher be more emotionally connected to the overall story. I don’t know if this will always be the case but so far it has been.


After discussing downer films such as Arlington Road, Far From Heaven, Se7en, The Road, A Clockwork Orange, and Gone Baby Gone. We came upon The Mist. Definitely a downer film, however, I don’t believe it earns my emotional breakdown like the rest of them do. My fellow tweeters disagreed, so here is my defense of why I don’t appreciate the end of The Mist.

I love Frank Darabont’s work, the writer/director of this film, so much that I have previously referred to him as screenwriting Jesus but in this case I believe he made a mistake.  I have no problem with the ending being a downer but I do have a problem that the audience was so removed from the climax of the movie, that we didn’t experience it.  By the climax I mean the main character shooting the other four people in the car, including his son, so they would not have to experience the horror of being eaten alive. (I warned you there were spoilers!) I felt that the characters took the easy way out. They run out of gas so they make a homicide pact.  They  didn’t wait until they felt the car was under attack, or they got hungry, or they had to go to the bathroom. I found it hard to believe that these people who had the courage to fight to escape and survive this long would take such an easy way out. I am aware that what he did was not easy, especially regarding his son, but the filming of it made it feel like it was. The camera pulls back to hover above the car so only gun flashes can be seen through the windows. I’m not naïve enough to think that anyone would have or should have let us see his son being shot in the head. But I would have liked the camera to be on the main character.  His face as he fired. The pain, determination, and horror of it as blood speckles his face with each life of a loved one lost. Scrambling out of the car trying to run from what he’s done desperate to die the gruesome death he believes he now deserves. Then rumble, rumble. The military rescue. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Hee hee. That “no” was just for giggles but, to see him fall in on himself after what he just did after being through it would have been more powerful. He can’t call out for help. There’s nothing he can do to reverse it. Then he sees the woman and her daughters. The proof of what would have been if he had just had a little more faith, a bit more hope. We all, as an audience, would have been messed up for days. Instead, we used our logic to reflect on how horrible that was for him. To this day, I remember feeling more emotion for the woman standing with her daughters than the man who felt he had to murder his loved ones.

If a movie has to bring us down I want to experience it. The terror and pain in film that I hope to never feel in life. Film should always be an experience whether it’s the satisfaction of kicking a bad guy in the face, the triumph of a successful heist, or the joy of love reciprocated. Hell, if I can experience peeing standing up through film, (thanks Micheal Fassbender!) I can experience anything.

I Love it When an Outline Comes Together


Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...

So in this, the winter season of my eighth year of writing screenplays, I will relate the heroic story of one Scott Myers and how he made my life as a writer easier.

…OK, that’s about as much of that kind of talk as I can take. Go read A Christmas Carol if you need to feel in the holiday spirit. (Me, I prefer the holiday movies on Hallmark and Lifetime. Even when I have my period, I am not as girlie as when I plop down in front of the TV with a tub of Häagen-Daz ice cream to watch anything with Mistletoe in the title.) But I digress.

Anyway, the hardest part of making the change from writing prose to writing screenplays was the need for structure. When I wrote prose all I needed was a couple of characters in my head who had a relationship in a world of my making. That was it. I’d listen to them tell me their adventures and their problems. Subtext was easy. They’d tell me what they were thinking and I’d write it down. In the language of screenwriting, the characters still talk to me about what’s in their head but I have to show what they’re thinking by describing their actions while still moving the narrative forward.

I tried a lot of different methods, note cards, colored pens, numbered blank pages, filling out forms, to hammer out that structure.  Every class I took and every book I read taught me something. Even if that something was how others go through the process and what wouldn’t work for me. I did have a couple of large revelations that changed my process and set me on a path closer to constructing a fluid narrative. The reversal at the midpoint stuck with me after my studies of Robert McKee’s Story. All Is Lost was my big take away from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. Unfortunately, those were only parts.  Nothing allowed me to truly see what kind of movie I would end up with until I took Scott Myers’ Screenwriting Master Class Prep: From Concept to Outline class.

He doesn’t care what the form of your outline takes but gives you mile markers to guide your story and thoughts. The ten page outline I came up with reads almost like a short story. Scenes and series of scenes cascade down the page with snippets of dialogue and outbursts of subtext. All that lets me see the movie, feel the pace, and read the tone.  I know the trouble spots and can change them without the pain of slashing perfectly good pages that just don’t fit right in this movie.

As most of you know, there are days my disability keeps me from having a say on how many hours I’m able to sit up and write. The best thing about having this kind of outline is that even on days exhaustion and pain cripple me I am able to tap out a page of the script. Never having to wonder where I am in a story or what I should write next allows what little energy I have to be devoted to the actual writing of the script.

Every week I do Follow Friday on twitter I make @GoIntoTheStory my first follow. This is because Scott Myers has made the biggest impact on my screenwriting career so far. His observations and resources along with his teaching ability have made it possible for me to go on in the hard times. Maybe outlining your script isn’t were your problem lies. Maybe it’s exposition or dialogue. He has classes for that too.

Tis the season to be grateful. I am grateful for Scott Myers.