Saturday, March 25, 2006

Writing Is Rewriting

1st Draft

It was a dark and stormy night.

3rd Draft

By all accounts, it was dark and stormy. A night.

5th Draft

Lois wondered fretfully, would she ever again see the sun?

19th Draft

Verily, how the wind doth blow.

27th Draft

The weather here sucks.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006


In aviation terms, attitude is the orientation of the airplane with regard to the horizon. Pitch relates to where the nose is pointed -- up, level or down.

Nose up too far counteracts wing function and the plane stalls precipitating a sudden onset of ground.

Nose down results in the same outcome, but at least you can see where you're going.

So, there I was minding my own business. Got the little iPod hanging 'round my neck. I'm listening to the soundtrack of the movie that is my life as I collect the mail from the post office. Someone has a package, so I have to negotiate those key entry boxes while holding all the rest of the mail.

A frazzy-looking old woman starts talking to me.

For one surreal moment I watch her mouth move while all I hear is Jimmy Buffet. I put Jimmy on pause and say, "Pardon me?"

Turns out, she wants to mock me for singing along to music no one else can hear.

I unpause Jimmy and go on my way.

Now, since I am a former good Catholic girl, by the time I get to the car, I'm thinking, that was rude. I say to myself, "Self, you were rude to that woman."

Self says back, "Who invited her into our movie?"

Since I am just a cat hair away from being a frazzy woman myself, I thought, shouldn't I be polite to the others of my kind?

Self says, "Extras may not talk to the star."

Since I am only a former good Catholic girl, by the time I reach the corner, I agree with Self. Nose Up.

I couldn't wait to try out the iPod's ignore function at my next stop.

So, there I was trying to read the small print on a bottle at the health food store while continuously bopping along to Johnny Cash, when a clerk asks if she can help. Since I had neither seen nor heard her approach, I jump like someone just stepped on my lips.

I pause Johnny. Unplug. Give up. Nose Down.

Standing in line at the checkout, I'm thinking, put the world on ignore and the world calls back every five minutes..

The guy behind me asks, "Does that work?"

I a l m o s t say, "no, people keep trying to talk to me," but as I turn towards him, I see he's looking at the glucosamine I'm about to buy.

"Works on sciatica," I say.

"That's what I think too," says he. "And I rub Castor Oil right here where it hurts."

Self says, "Quick, close your eyes."

Driving home where I am, at last, safely alone in my movie with the soundtrack, I wonder, what it is about the dangling iPod that attracts conversation?

Someone sound the Epiphany Bells. I get it.

I've been all over town, bopping, tapping and singing to music no one else hears. I didn't attract conversation. I caught the attention of the other crazies who were just going out of their way to be nice to one of their own.

I may need to rewrite my movie. Someone clear me for level flight.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

More Cat Saving

Well, I was too late to save the cat from being dressed up like a princess, but I’ve been working on my Save The Cat script prep work.

I decided to do some math. Which is like Prince William taking one look at the princess here and falling flat in love.

We are much surprised.

Before I begin, let me say, although I’m a fan of Blake Snyder, I am not the man’s best student. Any errors here are mine, not his.

I know this because I’ve had well-meaning teachers tell me the right way to do things before and I immediately did it my way instead.

And I tell my daughter she gets her stubbornness from her father. Go figure.

I counted up the steps in Save The Cat that the writer should do before commencing to write a script.

Here they are:
  • A logline with a killer title. We'll make that 2.
  • 15 beats
  • 40 Scene Cards
  • Save the Cat moment for the hero
58 things to do before the writing commences.

I’ve added a few of my own, every script needs this, from a list I created after reading about a jillion screenwriting resources.
  • 5 Set Pieces
  • An Oscar Moment for the hero
  • Tagline
  • A reoccurring image
Which gives us a Grand Total of 66 items, upon completion of which, the screenwriting will be much easier.

Now, to accurately reflect progress in the sidebar over there, math is required.

I’ve always taken snuggly comfort in being within that generation of women who suffer math anxiety. I cling to it like a hyena on the last bleeding leg bone of a dead antelope.

When our college girl was in seventh grade, she needed help with math. Being dutiful parents, her father and I set out to help her. Her math grade went down. We had to have a meeting at the school. We made the seventh grade teacher frown.

Seriously, I mean it. Keep those numbers away from me.

Which just goes to show, how dedicated I am to screenwriting. Really. I had to wipe away a tear just now.

Okay, in my speed demon approach to prepping the next script, I have exactly 3 items on the list completed.

What percent of 66 is 3?


Scientists say mathematics is the universal language. Might as well be Greek.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Have It Your Way

We had lunch at a fast food chain today.

My husband ordered twisty fries.

The counter kid asked, "Would you like a side of cheese with your fries?"

Side of cheese?

Why didn't he just say, "Would you like a heart attack with your stroke?"

My husband passed on the SIDE OF CHEESE, not for health reasons, but because he figured it was a chemical approximation of cheese and not the real thing.

I had fried potato cakes and dipped them in ketchup which is mostly sugar, but we're not talking about me.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Flash Fiction Entry #1

The Lights Are On

Tuesday afternoon I became invisible.

The bag boy asked, "Lady, can I get that for you?" When I looked up, he was following some big-haired woman with a baby.

A pinstriped worker bee nearly decapitated me with the coffee shop door. "Hey! I'm standing here,” I hollered.

The postman made no reply to my cheery, "Good morning."

A teenage boy jostled me unmercifully on the bus.

A traffic cop waved cars through the intersection while I waited to cross at the corner. Eventually, I abandoned police protection and walked to the beach the long way round.

For my afternoon repose, I chose a log after weighing advantages both philosophic and maritime. I was about to apply a smoked oyster to a saltine when a group of college students plopped themselves down in front of my log, showering sand on me in the process.

Oysters affect some people that way.

"Excuse me," I said. "I was here first."

The students paid no attention to my protest. They built a fire and put marshmallows on to roast while they distracted themselves with an off-key rendition of The Cat Came Back.

I'm not fussy about music, but I feared they would break into Kumbaya with very little provocation.

"Excuse me. -- Excuse me. -- Excuse me!"

They didn't even turn around.

"You there, boy. Boy? Young lady, excuse me. Now, listen here. Boy. You with the brown hair. Answer me!"

The brown-haired one turned at my final cry, but his gaze swept blankly past me. And then I realized. I was invisible.

How did this happen? Did I fade out slowly like the end of a movie, or pop off suddenly like a soap bubble too long in the sun.

Was it that first gray hair, or those last ten pounds?

I stumbled away from my carefully chosen log to another farther down the beach out of sight of the sea.

Over a dune, the ocean continued its relentless pounding of the shore. Out of sight, the ocean still teemed with life and power.

Power. Maybe being invisible wouldn't be all bad. After all, there always seemed to be opportunities for super heroes. I could become Invisible Woman and do general goodness for no particular reason.

As I predicted, the log-thieving kids broke into Kumbaya, in rounds, no less. Maybe I should wander back and poke sand down their throats. Not something a super hero would do, but villainy might be nice for a change.

I could become INVISO-BITCH and sort out all those who need to be sorted out.

The world's in a general state of disrepair.
The population's hopeless and in despair.
Who's never seen, but always there?
INVISO-BITCH, that's who.

Why hadn't I thought of this sooner?

First on my agenda would be to reach through car windows to snatch cell phones from unsuspecting yuppies. Who the hell are they talking to and why can't they wait until they get home to phone?

What on earth did we do before we could be instantly and constantly connected to every other living being? Was being out of reach all that bad? Plugged in, turned on, wired for sound, video, and instant messages. Here's an instant message. Shut-up already.

After yuppies, isn't it about time someone did something about those men?

Men who stare and whistle. Men who say yes and mean no. Men who think a penis gives them above average abilities. Gynecologists in general.

Men maybe a bigger problem than I first thought.

The thieving kids' bonfire looked cozy. I shivered on my log. I caressed my favorite blue sweater and wondered why was it invisible? Maybe under my clothes, I still had substance. Perhaps, if I threw off my sweater, someone would see me.

INVISO-BITCH may be transparent, but she's not stupid.

Walking back up the beach, no one called out or waved. No one asked if I needed a ride or a light. Even my shadow looked thin.

At my front door, I heard Henry making impatient mewling sounds on the other side. My hand stopped short of the lock when it occurred to me, do invisible people pay rent?

Will the landlord give my little beach house to someone else? Would I be forced to co-exist with brain-dead tourists, or dusty out-of-staters?

I doubt the landlord ever noticed me before, so how could he notice me now? Or not notice me. Would he hear me if I screamed? Would anyone? Should I put smiting landlords on the list?

Invisibility would be trickier than I first assumed.

I opened the door, and Henry bumped my legs and whipped his tail. He wanted his dinner. "Be patient, buster. I've had a hard day."

I fed Henry, all the while daydreaming about whether my super hero costume should be velvet or velour. The insignia was easy to draft. A single up-turned digit with the knuckles outlined in soft blue.

I sat on the couch. Henry hopped up on the coffee table. He stared at me with that laser-like feline concentration that has no equal.

"Henry," I said. "You can see me."

"Meow," he answered.

It occurred to me then, that I had never noticed Henry's fangs.

Was mutual oblivion contagious? Did it blow about on the wind like a virus? Had I brushed too close to a carrier and even now sat seething with indifference? Was there a cure?

I leaned back on the couch. INVISO-BITCH didn't have the answers.

"Oh Henry, " I said. "What are we going to do?"

"Meow," he replied.

I wrote this story one summer in Oregon at a prose workshop led by Ursula LeGuin. I've been searching for an ending ever since. Not sure I've found it yet.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Cats and Kittens

This is a picture of kittens my husband saved from a forest fire. They have nothing to do with the following essay except I was thinking about cats and who doesn’t love a kitten picture? I especially like the WTF look on the kitten on the right.

I recently finished the first script I’ve written following the advice in Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT. The STC method is to get all the beats and scenes down before beginning to write, thus saving yourself the agony of staring into a blank screen wondering, what’s happens now.

It usually takes me six weeks to write a script. Six weeks of butt in the chair, fingers to the keyboard, writing. I may think about the script forever, research for a year, goof off for months, but in six weeks, I can write a screenplay. Every one I’ve written has taken six weeks.

I wrote this script in 25 days. Boy, was I surprised.

I had been thinking about the story for a while, so I didn’t keep track of how long it took to do the prep work. And, of course, I don’t know how it will fare once I send it out into the world. The point is the prep work dramatically decreased the endgame workload.

Put me down as amazed. I am such a dork. I have a learning curve that looks like this.

My next project is a Romantic Comedy even though I wonder if I’m romantic or funny enough to accomplish either. This time I’m keeping track of the prep work too – which you can follow along with in the sidebar because:
  1. HTML is so much fun.
  2. Procrastination makes us all look busy.
This next one is also the project I learned Gaelic for, God help me, so if you come back next year and the status bar still looks like this –

You’ll know it’s because I’ve taken up deep sea diving to learn why the ocean is wet.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar Night

Way to go, Larry McMurtry.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

If I Directed the Oscars

I'd skip the big production numbers. Who cares? We're waiting to see who wins.

Can the fake comedy chatter between presenters. It's not funny, plus we're waiting to see who wins.

Let the winners give their thank-you speeches without rushing. I would not drown out the slow talkers with the orchestra.

That's right. This is (for most) a once in a lifetime career highlight, so let them thank their Moms and 5th grade teachers if they want.

Besides I'll have all that extra time usually spent on pointless big production numbers.

Finally, I'd let the screenwriters sit in the front row. When else will we ever get to see them?