Character Sketches…

So my current assignment with ScreenCraft is essentially a character sketch. Just fleshing out some backstory in order to create characters that are multidimensional. Nobody likes a flat character. If we want a solid story, then we need solid characters.

I don’t mind doing very brief character sketches…the type that reads like an old school AOL chatroom: ASL (for you youths out there this means Age, Sex, Location). I might describe a bit of how they might look and how they dress. I’ve never really gone beyond the surface of my characters. It’s served me well in the past.

What would happen if I pushed deeper than that? I’ve never really tried. I’ve never thought about what my characters’ parents would be like, or what school was like when they were younger. I’ve never wrote out what their favorite meals would be. Or their favorite movie.

Why wouldn’t I want to do this? To really bring these characters to life I would need to know these things. Instead, I go flat and allow them to present themselves to me as I write. Again, it’s served me well in the past. Yet, I wonder how much richer their dialogue might be if I really knew them. I wonder how much deeper their reactions to things I throw at them would be if I knew how they would react if they were someone in real life.

I know why I react to things certain ways because I know my backstory. I know why my fiancee reacts to things certain ways because I know her backstory. We should love our characters as we love the people in our lives. We know everything possible about those we love and we should apply that same way of thinking to our characters.

So, here’s to creating real backgrounds for my characters. Even the small players in the story. Here’s to knowing the details about our characters from scars to first heartbreak to education to favorite scent to…everything.

 

Writer’s Block

Ahhhhh, writer’s block. We’ve all been there and experienced that dreadful stall in our minds. It’s that feeling that you want to create and write and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) but something stops you. It’s as if some invisible force, some wall, has come between you and the creative force you know you are! You stare, mindlessly, waiting for the wall to break…for those words to flow. Ten minutes passes. Nothing.

Twenty minutes passes and you find yourself surfing the internet. Hoping for some sort of piece of information to come across your e-travels to grease the wheels. Still nothing. Frustrated, you close your laptop (or cap your pen), and walk away…another wasted opportunity to knock some pages out.

It’s time we start looking at writer’s block in a different way. It’s not, at least for me, a LACK of ideas. It’s too many floating around in my mind. These ideas, these little fragments of scenes and characters and snippets of dialogue (some from the same script, others are new ideas who decided to try and rise to the top), swirl and swirl and eventually they block the pipe from my brain to the paper (or keyboard).

How can we make that work for us? How do we clear out our minds so that the flow can start back up again? If there’s a block in anything in our lives, then we usually have to find what’s blocking it and remove it. Right? Why aren’t we doing the same thing with writing?

Perhaps we start by picking out each of those ideas that are blocking our flow, one by one, and exploring them briefly. Did that first idea you filtered out start up the flow again? No? Filter out the next piece and work with that. How’s the flow now? A bit better but not a free flow yet? Keep going! Filter out every piece of information until eventually you’ve opened up that pipe again!

Eventually you’ll clean out enough of those blocks that the useful ideas will start to (hopefully) flow again from that creativity pipe in your mind.

So, find what’s blocking you and get it out. That way you can get to the good stuff that’s been pushed to the back,  just waiting to flow out and into the world you’ve created in your screenplay.

2017 Film Watch

I’ve added a new resolution for 2017. I need to start watching movies weekly. At least two a week. I may or may not post a thorough review…but I will post, in some shape and form, of the films I watch – for better or for worst.

So far I have seen:

  1. Men, Women, and Children
  2. If I Stay
  3. There Will Be Blood (I’ve seen this before, made my fiance watch it)
  4. The Fundamentals of Caring
  5. Blue is the Warmest Color

If I Stay is the only one I wish I hadn’t watched. It was too predictable and impossible to really get into. There Will Be Blood is one of my all-time favorite films so no argument from me to watch it again. Men, Women, and Children was a huge surprise for me. I was not expecting to like it as much as I did…but I loved it. The Fundamentals of Caring was probably my favorite out of these 5. Paul Rudd never disappoints me and everything about the movie was what I wished I could write. I never thought I’d cry during a pee scene but I sure as hell did!

Blue is the Warmest Color. Le sigh. It was just too long. It was unnecessarily long. The truth in this film though drove directly into me. From Adele’s conflict early on with her sexuality, to exploring it and having it not click with a male…to having it realllly click with a female – it rang so true. The actress portrayed that inner struggle so beautifully that it allowed myself to recall my moments growing up and being confused before acceptance. Even though the sex scenes were highly gratuitous…they were at least real and believable and not some pure hetero-male fantasy on film.

If you have suggestions/must sees for me…please let me know! Anything on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon and I’ll add it to my list.

ScreenCraft: Day 3

So, I signed up for ScreenCraft’s 60 Day Screenplay thing. After a bizarre snafu of not receiving emails and getting that cleared up by the wonderfully helpful staff at SC, I’m up and running and starting Day 3.

Days 1 and 2 were pretty simple as it just tasked us with coming up with films/tv shows that we love. Then we write a few short one sentence (loglines, essentially) ideas for what we might want to write.

The idea is to see what draws you to your favorite films. Is there a specific genre, style, idea that particularly speaks to you? If so, it’s probably a good idea to write stories within the parameters of those…write what you know, ya know?

I know, I know…it’s cliche! Venture out! Try something new and different. Which is all well and good BUT, sometimes it’s also good to stick to what you know and explore what you can do within that to make it new and different so that it stands out.

It’s hard for me to pick a top anything as my tastes change and expand as I get older. I did a short list anyway…I tried not to overthink it and just wrote the first 10 that came to mind and in no particular order of favorites (though I know exactly which order they would be if I really sat down and worked it out):

  1. Rebel Without a Cause
  2. Notes on a Scandal
  3. Leon: The Professional
  4. The New Girl
  5. American History X
  6. There Will Be Blood
  7. The Color Purple
  8. Just Friends
  9. Pulp Fiction
  10. Me, Myself, and Irene

A pretty all over the place type of list, right?! One TV show is tossed in there. I think I can see where my tastes are and what draws me to a story. Even in my own writing I can see where I’m influenced. I love a character driven drama. I love some action, some blood and grit. I also have an off-beat sense of humor. My heart though…belongs to strong character driven stories.

The Day 3 assignment calls for me to apply that knowledge to the 13 one sentence ideas I’ve come up with and dig a bit deeper into the premise.

Already killing off my little darlings, so-to-speak.

INT. LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

It’s probably absolutely ridiculous but I just sent a script of mine (the one that won the 2015 Virginia Screenwriting Competition) to ScreenCraft’s Screenwriting Fellowship…as well as signed up to take part in their online guidance towards writing a screenplay in 60 days. It stretches my goal of finishing the rough draft of this story by an additional 30 days BUT I feel as though it’ll help me to stay on track and focused.

New Year…New Me…Blah Blah Blah

One of my resolutions is to write and create more. Since I also want to limit my facebook activity (it’s a place where I tend to argue over public posts about what a shithead Trump is or call someone out on their bigotry and racism…it’s become less and less of a good thing), then I guess this is the place I should utilize.

My main focus is to finish my next screenplay. A romcom. I know I know… ugh. At least it’s a girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girl wins girl back kinda story!!! My goal is to get up a couple of hours before having to get ready for work, sit down in the cute little office my fiance helped me with, and pour out the words. I’d like to have a rough draft done by the end of the month. Each week I’ll try and hit a page count/ACT goal.

I’m also focusing on my weight/health. I’m getting married in April and I don’t want to be this weight. It’s not just for looks…but also health. Diabetes runs in my family. I’m turning 37. I’m tired constantly and my joints hurt practically all the time. Me and my fiance are planning on walks around the city park near us, focusing on eating better, etc.

So, here we go. I’ll blog mostly about my writing endeavors each week and I’ll pepper in little details about other resolutions as they transpire.

Here’s to a productive 2017!

 

 

 

Contests

Virginia Screenwriting Competition (2015)

http://www.film.virginia.ohttp://www.film.virginia.org/virginians/virginia-screenwriting-competition/winners/2015-winners/

Screenplay: Far From Home

Status: Winner

Blue Cat Short Screenplay Competition (2012)

http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com/short-screenplay-competition

Screenplay: Sunrise on a Cloudy Morning

Status: Quarter-Finalist

Amazon Studios Screenwriting Competition (2010)

Screenplay: Far From Home

Status: Semi-Finalist

Virginia Governor’s Screenwriting Competition (2005)

http://www.film.virginia.org/virginians/virginia-screenwriting-competition/winners/2005-virginia-screenwriting-competition-winners/

Screenplay: Force Majeure

Status: Finalist