Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What I've been up to

Well, I've been beating my head against the figurative wall for awhile now and it's hurting a lot.

I'm a great one for creating situational setups. Not characters. The problem with this is that you need a character in order to complete a story. So, I've taken a break for a little while and tried to help some local friends put together a website for our what I hope to be our local disc golf club.

While I work on this, I'm hoping that my subconscious will work on my characters and help me figure out how I can get two of my favorite ideas into a story...


Friday, August 25, 2006

There's no such thing as addiction

Okay, that may be a little too general, but it's got me wondering. I had a conversation about this with some friends recently and I don't think they bought into my thoughts. But hear me out and, whether you agree or not, you can't really argue with the logic.

Alcohol. Addictive. I'd say yes. You stop drinking (if you are a solid drinker) and you go through physical withdrawal symptoms. Unpleasant ones.

Coke/Hash/Morphene, etc. I'll go out on a limb and say addictive. You stop using and there are some really crappy side effects (I hear).

Pot. I don't know. Everybody who smokes it says not addictive. ok... so that leads to...

Smoking. Must be not, right? I mean, if pot isn't, then how can smoking/nicotine be?

I have more though.

If smoking is so 'addictive', how is it that so many people are able to just quit cold turkey. Stop one day. Done. The only side effects that I know of (and I quit after over 10 years of smoking) are cravings, some 'bad' moods and you tend to gain weight due to the hand to mouth habit.

Compared to what a junkie goes through or an alcoholic, this sounds pretty tame.

I contend that smoking is actually more of a habit. Not that habits are a piece of cake to break, but a habit isn't addictive. It's ingrained. The side-effects of smoking could be negated if we could only learn to replace the hand to mouth with something positive besides food and could get over our childish "I'm going to pout/bitch/moan because I can't have what I want".

So, now that I've pissed off a bunch of smokers, let's look at this from another angle.

People that are overweight are often looked at as weak willed or indulgent. People that can't control themselves and are even, perhaps, lazy.

If the tobacco industry was accused of putting substances in cigarettes to make them addictive, is it so beyond belief that people in the food industry would not do something similar? What if something as innocuous as chocolate has an ingredient that many, but not all, found addictive. People on diets often talk of breaking down and binging. What's the difference between that and a smoker who takes a 5 hour flight and then puffs up several cigs back to back?

The results are the same - unhealthy. Yet, fat people are looked down on and smokers are "afflicted with an addiction".

My bottom line is how much we, as humans, can do if we set our minds to the task. Should you decide to stop smoking, all you have to do is decide you want to and it's done. I mean really want to. Not the "my life would make a great screenplay that I'll write one day" type of want to, but the "if I don't take my hand out of the garbage disposal before I turn it on, I'll regret it" kind of desire. Same goes for those with weight problems. If you want to, you can learn healthier habits, train yourself to eat the better foods.

Speaking of habits. Why is it some are so easy and some are so hard? Bad habits are so easy to keep up with - smoking, not exercising, eating poorly, etc. Yet, something like brushing your teeth, damn, it's so easy to just not do it. You'd think after 30+ years of doing it, you'd just *have* to do it or you wouldn't feel right.


Could stop right now and not miss a thing.

That's messed up.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I've talked about this before, but after watching an assload of previews over at quicktime.com and reading Scott's latest blog, I'm compelled to blather about it again.

There are several movies coming out which can talk to it, but one sticks out, Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith. It's about the struggles of a single father keeping himself and his son under a roof and fed. His plights of employement and the lesson he's teaching his son, "don't let anyone ever tell you that you can't do anything - not even me." There it is.

You can do anything.

What nobody says, but it's quite evident in every film and every history of every person you hear interviewed on the Actor's Studio is that they made sacrifices to get where they are. Big sacrifices. Not the pissant ones that so many would-be writers claim to have made.

I'm talking about leaving your family to be closer to the work.

Shunning the social life to hone your skill (whatever it is).

Missing all the cool new shows or the latest movie because, you're getting it, you're working on your skill.

I'll never forget reading that Ron Bass would get up at 5am to write, then help get the kids off to school, then go to work, come home and spend time with the wife/family. The sacrifice of sleep and other "hobbies" has led to a fruitful career.

The downside of this is that the majority of folks have made these sacrifices early. Perhaps that's why so many Hollywood marriages seem to fail. They've made so many sacrifices to get where they are, they're missing the longing others have for commitment to others.

I don't want to take anything away from Scott and his great feelings over writing recently, so I'm posting here where he'll undoubtedly never read it, but that good feeling comes from hard work. He sacrificed, it appears, a couple days and evenings to do the work and was rewarded with a nice chunk of writing. He's talking about making another push with the momentum he's gathered from Nicholl's, but the real question, I believe, is what is he willing to sacrifice to make the push payoff? Obviously, trashing a marriage and family is insane, but there are plenty of things that can come before that... social events, TV, movies, perhaps the blog & the web for awhile? I wish him all the luck and determination in the world. Go knock 'em dead, Scott!

If there's something you want, just think about what you are willing to give up to get it.

Don't believe me? Just start reading some biographies of any talented folks - sports, music, arts, whatever. Everybody who is making a living doing something fantastic has put in the time. Are you willing to put in the time as well? If not, either face up to the fact you're not going to make it to the big time, or go do something else.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Emotional Timebombs

I recently watched "The Thing About My Parents". It's a new flick by Mad About You creator Paul Reiser. I like him as a stand-up comic and as a writer/actor, so it wasn't hard to plop this in the Netflix queue.

The cast is good as well, Elizabeth Perkins, Peter Falk and a small part by Olympia Dukaukis. The story is about a father and son getting to know each other (I won't go into a ton of details, rent it and see for yourself).

I didn't really read much on the flyer about it, just threw it in and watched. No expectations whatsoever.

The story had it's funny moments and some real tender moments. The tough thing for me, however, was the bonding between father and son. My dad died when I was 9. I don't remember anything about him. I have pictures and my mother's stories, but that's it. It's a peculiar thing when you become a parent - at least for me - now I see myself as a father and I'm realizing how much I've missed the relationship with my father.

What's funny - and poignant - is that if somebody brings up fathers and discovers that mine died while I was young, I don't feel anything, but there are certain situations (and films for sure) that will just well-up those deep emotions.

One such occassion, quite peculiar and unexpected, was during Armageddon. My father was in the Air Force (retired) and so at the end of the movie, when they have the 5 planes fly over and one peel off, I just burst into tears. Being the manly man I was at that age (20 something) I had to wipe back the tears and choke it up, but it was disconcerting to not be able to control my emotions.

If you're lucky, you're able to put your characters into these situations in your stories. Things that touch them in ways they are unaware of.

The Thing About My Parents is a touching film that I know got made based on Reiser's credits and not the Hollywood machine. There is no draw for this film whatsover in the logline, much like the current "sunshine", it's all in the character interactions and the bond you create with them during the 90 minutes of screen time.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

From Me To You

It's been awhile and, unfortunately, not much interesting going on. Not much to post outside of the mundane day-to-days. So, I thought I'd pass on something from me to you. These are for WCDixon, who shares so many verses of song. These are two verses that just seemed to hit me in the gut the first time I heard them, and ever since.

#1 - David Wilcox - Show the Way from Big Horizon

You say you see no hope, you say you see no reason
We should dream that the world would ever change
You're saying love is foolish to believe
'Cause there'll always be some crazy with an Army or a Knife
To wake you from your day dream, put the fear back in your life...
Look, if someone wrote a play just to glorify
What's stronger than hate, would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late he's almost in defeat
It's looking like the Evil side will win, so on the Edge
Of every seat, from the moment that the whole thing begins

This guy is an incredible songwriter. Check out his site (David Wilcox). You're in for a real treat if you like the type of music.

#2 - Matchbox Twenty - Rest Stop from Mad Season

She said - while you were sleeping
I was listening to the radio
And wondering what you're dreaming when
It came to mind that I didn't care
So I thought - hell if it's over
I had better end it quick
Or I could lose my nerve
Are you listening - can you hear me
Have you forgotten

Talk about getting to the point. It's painful just to hear. Undoubtedly, we've all heard the sentiment, although perhaps not so harshly spoken. The lead singer, Rob Thomas, is a great songwriter. Prolific as hell as well it seems.

Music speaks to so many of us. I know that many folks enjoy listening to music while they write, some can't listen to anything while they write. I've found that, peculiarly, in order to write, I have to put the headphones on so that the music is all I can hear. If I can manage to find some music that stirs a mood in me for the story I'm writing, I just loop the song(s) over and over while I write.

One of my fondest memories was reading the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist. There were only 4 books when I read it and for the majority of my reading, I listened to Enya's first couple CDs. They have an ethereal and fantastic feel and along with the fantasy setting of the novel, it was a wonderful experience. For years after finishing the book, whenever I heard particular Enya tunes, I would remember the characters in the story and feel a pang of wanting to share the adventure again.


Friday, August 04, 2006

What's Better Than Winning a Contest

The Disney Fellowship. Lots of people enter and if you're single, or married and able to relocate or be apart from your spouse for a year, so should you.

A contest win is very satisfying. You get a prize, you might get some calls to option your work, etc. However, if there are no bites, that's it.

The Disney Fellowship is a job writing for a living with other professionals for a year. What better place to learn the business, make contacts and work on polishing your writing to a professional level?

The title of this blog should link to their page. Bookmark it and check out the guidelines and mark their deadline on your calendar each year.

Sam & Jim (of Sam & Jim Go To Hollywood fame) were both Disney fellows as well as Sal over at "Let Me In". Check out their pages and see what they thought of the program. Sam & Jim are doing well currently and Sal is still in the program, so you can get a current view of what it's like.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Life Changing Events

I could put in something easy like the birth of our child, but that would be easy. Instead, it's the band Boston. When I was 17, I heard this band for the first time and they just lit me up. That music installed in me a deep desire to play the guitar. That desire is still with me today - over 20 years later.

I recently picked up the remastered versions of the first two "cds" (actually albums) and was listening to them again. What memories. Well, nothing specific, but a general feeling of "goodness" washed over me as I cranked up the volume (in the house alone) and sang along to some of my favorite music ever.

When you are writing your stories, you should be giving your main character a moment as big or bigger. Your story actually begins when that moment happens (is most often called the inciting incident). It's what makes your character want to change the way their life is going. Makes them want to do something different. It could be any change; however, the end result is that after mulling it over with themself or friends, they do take that plunge and that plunge is a moment they can't take back.

Even in "small" stories, these actions or events take place because it is an essential ingredient in the recipe of Story.