May 8, 2015
I am having One Of Those Weeks. Reverse 911 calls, bank freezing the credit card, broken printer, a week of rain, not going to ride TinyHorse because I cannot face the rain, predictions of snow for the weekend, some really annoying paperwork. The couple of unexpected checks I got (the “Hey, this’ll buy a bag of groceries!” kind of checks for short stories written years ago) couldn’t even cheer me up.
But mostly I think it’s because I’m working on this screenplay and it’s kicking my ass. I have a self-imposed deadline on this one and I really want to get it finished, because I think it’s going to be pretty good. My problem: I write short. I know I write short. I zoom through plots. Not a single one of my published novels is longer than 100,000 words. I’ve never had to cut a novel down to size. Now, on a novel, short or long doesn’t really matter as long as it’s in the ballpark. Someone picking up a 70,000 word novel or an 85,000 word novel is not going to be able to tell the difference. There’s a lot of wiggle room.
A feature length film screenplay has to be at least 90 pages. You calculate about a minute of film time per page. This is strict industry standard. But I write short, and I’m coming up short.
So, what to do? Well, a B plot would help. Looking at every single scene and seeing what opportunities for character development I might be missing. Adding to the story without padding it out, making it drag.
This is really brain-cramping work. But I can tell the thing’s going to be better for it — a more developed story, richer characters, etc. I know intellectually this is really good for me as a writer — this is actually something I’ve been trying to do on the last couple of books, to go through every scene and look for missed opportunities, look to flesh it all out more than I have.
But holy crap I’m tired and cranky about it.
(I’m not going to talk about what the screenplay’s about until it’s finished, and until I feel like I won’t jinx it by talking about it. I don’t know when that’ll be. I’m sorry.)
May 6, 2015
1. Decide to do a Thing.
2. Study other examples of that Thing.
3. Read up on how other people have done that Thing.
4. Practice doing that Thing.
5. Get feedback from experienced Thing doers.
6. Do that Thing some more.
7. Put that Thing out there.
8. Repeat forever.
May 4, 2015
The Short Review: I loved it.
Longer: I expected to be entertained, I expected to have a good time and leave the theater feeling happy. Eleven movies into the series (eleven!!!), I did not expect to be surprised, and this surprised me, because I didn’t just get a competent MCU movie. I got an actual science fiction story dealing with the philosophical implications of AI technology, in which a rather large cast of characters each has some kind of satisfying story arc. This had subtext and insight, managed a cool blending of science fiction and fantasy (which for me can be the great strength of superhero stories), and it may be the best of the bunch yet.
I still really like going to these on opening weekend, so I can be part of that ecstatic group gasp of “holy shit” when that one thing happens. You know the one I’m talking about.
Note: This movie is not for people who haven’t seen all the other movies. Here’s a sort-of hilarious, sort-of annoying piece by a couple of people who saw Age of Ultron without seeing any of the preceding MCU movies. Yes, they’re right, the movie absolutely does not stand up on its own as a work of filmic storytelling. But you know what? This movie isn’t for them. They are not the target audience. And seriously, if you haven’t bothered to see any of the other MCU movies, why would you bother going to this one? It’s like giving someone one chapter of a novel and expecting them to understand the whole work.
Whedon still can’t get through a movie without impaling/shooting someone to motivate another character. At least I wasn’t bracing for it this time.
A million Clint/Natasha fanfics died the death in this one. And that’s really okay I think. Clint’s role as “the normal one” of the bunch really gets played up — and that role is established as being really important for the rest of the group. And I think it’s great that Nat is the one person Clint trusted with knowing about his family. This is only one of the many great character threads running through this movie. I love these people so much.
I had so much I was going to say, and it’s all scattered in my brain now. Like about how well put together this is. We didn’t need any “Avengers Assemble!” here because we did that in the last movie. The first scene? Pure, unbridled, beautiful action, pretty much immediately picking up after The Winter Soldier: New Hydra has all those artifacts SHIELD collected, so we’re sending the A-list after the baddest of the bunch: Loki’s staff. The movie doesn’t explain any of this, just throws you in and expects you to keep up because it knows we’re all smart cookies. I love that! (I am told the “Avengers Assemble” moment happened in the latest episode of Agents of SHIELD, which I have determinedly quit watching, and this is exactly why: the show can’t stand on its own without the movies to prop it up, and that’s bad. The movie? Turns out it does just fine on its own.)
And then there’s that climactic battle that looks like it was storyboarded by Alex Ross. My heart was full to bursting.
Examining my own responses: I think I had lowered my expectations. Unnecessarily, it turns out. But I think I really did go in thinking, “It can’t possibly be that good. It’ll be good, but not great, right? Right???” And then it was fantastic, and I hardly knew what to do with myself.
I probably ought to see it again, just to be sure, of course. Heh.
Bonus Trailer Comments:
This was my first time seeing the trailers for the new Fantastic Four movie and that Batman v. Superman thing. I think I’m going to look at the Fantastic Four as some weird surreal space opera thing. I think that’ll make it okay. And I was on board with the B v. S trailer, right up until the “Do you bleed?” dialog. And then I think I actually said out loud, Are you kidding me??? Sigh.
May 1, 2015
My iris are blooming like gangbusters, which is great because my tulips didn’t do anything this year. Bummer. But the iris are great. I tried to take a selfie of me sprawling amidst my sea of iris, but I mostly got a nice clear shot up my nose. Not very good at this selfie thing so much.
I watched Iron Man 3 in preparation for seeing the new Avengers tonight. I think it was the right choice, especially during the “House Party” scene when all the suits fill the skies over the oil rig. Yeah, that looks like foreshadowing. Also, I had forgotten the Joan Rivers cameo bit at the beginning, and that made me sad.
Work wise, after something like three weeks of feeling like I’ve been spinning my wheels, I’m back on track. At least for now. I’ve been working on this screenplay since December — I finished what I thought was a first draft, but it was only 50 pages long, which is not long enough for a feature-length film. More like a TV episode. The story needed a B plot, and my brain turned to mush and I couldn’t figure out how to do it.
I figured out how to do it this week. And I’m really, really excited.
I need to write a big post about branching out, learning to write in different formats, and trying to figure out an entire new field from square one, which I haven’t had to do since I was figuring out the whole novel thing twenty years ago. My brain is getting a workout.
But right now I need to write that B plot.
April 29, 2015
Lesson I’ve been reminded of this week: Don’t compare myself to others. Especially don’t compare my blooper reel to other people’s greatest hits.
I’m back to that thing where I’ve got a bunch of projects in progress and if I could just finish some of them, just get a couple of things out there, I would feel so much better.
But hey, I’ve got tickets to see Avengers: Age of Ultron on Friday. So there’s that. No idea what to expect with this one. I’m sure it’ll be a fine ride. It’s weird, the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels like it’s turning into this really high-end TV show that only has two episodes per year. And you know what? That’s okay.
People are passing around this link: Shit People Say to Women Directors. And it’s horrifying. It’s one thing to know that sexism is pretty darned rampant. It’s another to get individual stories and specific examples. Imagine going to work every single day and hearing this stuff. Imagine going to work at a job you’ve dreamed about doing for your entire life and hearing this stuff. Imagine the courage and will it takes to keep going. Yeah.
Heading into an election cycle with Hillary Clinton as a front runner after the kind of backlash to feminism we’ve been experiencing over the last couple of years — we’re all about to hear a lot more of this kind of shit. Brace yourselves.
It’s almost May, isn’t it? Geez.
April 26, 2015
This is an indie horror/comedy from New Zealand about the adventures of a group of vampire flatmates. If you haven’t heard about this yet, you should see the trailer. No, really, you should:
I swear I wrote “Paranormal Bromance” before I ever heard about this thing. (Actually, the two stories have little in common except being about vampire flatmates. Well, that and they both reference Twilight and The Lost Boys, and I don’t know what it means that it’s apparently impossible to write a current vampire comedy without referencing Twilight and The Lost Boys, but there you go. Anyhoo.)
My friends and I had so much fun with this. It’s funny, it’s quotable (if you see people randomly posting online “We’re werewolves not swearwolves,” which I have seen happening, it’s from this.) And it’s actually, strangely affecting. There’s a Nosferatu named Peter living in the basement and we all agreed that we liked him a lot, even though he never says a word. We worried about what was going to happen to Stu. I think I’ve actually been to that nightclub.
So yeah, if you’re like me and were never able to take the usual brand of angst-ridden metrosexual vampires seriously, you’ll probably get a kick out of this.
And I need to do some digging, but is New Zealand becoming the world capital of horror comedy? I mean, you all have seen Black Sheep, haven’t you? Haven’t you???
April 24, 2015
I think it may be Spring. I mean, really spring, and not just the date on the calendar. I mean, we had snow last week. I was back in boots and my parka. But this week? Well, I turned on the sprinkler system. I’m planning my first trip to the local farmer’s market tomorrow. I cleared out all the dead stuff from my container garden. I now have a bunch of pots full of freshly turned dirt waiting for new plants. I was doing all this work in capri pants and flip flops. That sure feels like spring.
I’m ready for spring, finally. Even if we get another snow, new plants should be okay. Maybe I really can start wearing shorts and tank tops. I had just about forgotten what it feels like to be warm outside. This happens every year — I feel like some tired mollusk creeping out of its shell. A little bit relieved, a little bit shy, because this is Colorado and we could get one more big snow.
But right now, I think it might really, actually be spring, at last.