World Building, Character Creation, and Knowing When to Start Writing Part I.

OriginI have started drafting (actually that’s too precise a word…more like mapping) my sci-fi pilot, and as much as I love research mode (that’s not sarcasm, I really do!) at what point do you know enough to start writing?

As a screenwriter, there is often much that is left in the hands of others.  Our screenplays are blueprints from which all other departments create our vision – this new world.  Obviously in the case of historical time periods there is plenty of opportunity to do research and find the “right” look or aesthetic, but in the case of science fiction and fantasy, where much of the idea is in the writer’s head, how much information are you supposed to give in order to allow the reader to see the story as you do?

I’ve been doing research on show bibles and how to create one (Bang2Write has a great article), and much of that information can be included in that, but as a screenwriter, you need the script to engage your reader with all those details, but be easy to understand so that they can visualize the story, and yet not get burdened down by too much description.  And therein lies the fine line.

Tentatively titled, The Demeter, my story is about two sisters who are picked up by the cliché version of aliens (you know the ones), experimented on, and then readied for sale within the galactic slave trade.  The younger is sold and the elder escapes to try to get her back, but upon nearly getting recaptured, the elder sister finds herself aboard a ship with a crew of interesting characters that will teach her a variety of things and help her try to get her sister back.  Of course there will be romance, because that was one of the first scenes I had in my mind when I decided to write this story.

Not a convoluted tale, a sort of fish out of water-search & rescue kind of thing, but here is where it starts to get tricky.  In my head I have all these great scenes and moments, and I thought writing a pilot wouldn’t be too difficult, until I sat down to start plotting the story.  I thought it would be, not to sound ignorant, but easier because it’s just a snippet of the overall story.  A teaser.  I’ve written five full-length features, so writing a beginning to a greater story arc seemed like a simpler endeavor.  Not quite.

First off, there are a ton of questions I can’t answer yet, such as why these girls?  Why are these different characters on this ship?  Secondly, I have no idea what I want the aliens to look like, Pinterest has been my friend – see here – or even what they should be called.  Like this little guy.  How cute is he?!  Whoever created him…well done!Adorable Alien*

There are a number of space themed films, TV shows, and video games, and anything I come up with that even remotely sounds like something I’ve heard elsewhere goes right into the bin.  There’s that phrase of, “there are no original stories”, so I’m trying to stay clear of any similarities, even if it’s something I like the sound of.

There have been a number of influences for this particular idea, some may even seem odd.  I don’t want all my aliens to be a variant on human physiology – two arms, two legs, etc.  Obviously there’s Star Wars, but shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed us a number of characters that didn’t all walk on two legs.  Men in Black and Galaxy Quest were great for that too.  I liked a lot of the ideas within the show Farscape, and they made great use of puppets from the Jim Henson Company.  I liked that.  There’s the video game Mass Effect 2 which is so much fun and has some great stories.  And then there is Doctor Who.  No explanation necessary.

There are many things to consider, and this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  I will continue more specifically with some of the information I’ve found in another post soon.  These are just a few things to consider, if you’re like me, in the beginning stages of writing a pilot as TV has reached a new golden age and you’d like to be a part of it.

I’m off to discover all the whos, whats, and whys.

Best of luck to you in your writing endeavors!

*If you have info on sites to visit, boards on Pinterest, etc. where I can find ideas for races, worlds, ships, and what have you, please share!

Dealing with Rejection, Badly.

EverythingIsGoingToBeAlrightI have been rather busy the last couple of weeks, and many things have been pushed to the back burner, causing a bit of stress.

In an effort to pay it forward, The Sis and I agreed to allow a friend from out of town stay with us for a bit while he got back on his feet (my best friend and like-a-sister let us stay with her when we first returned to town). In a matter of weeks it has quickly become a source of contention, especially where the furkids are concerned. My girl doesn’t really seem to like him and hasn’t warmed up to him at all, so there’s a lot of noise, at all hours.

There’s more to be said on the subject, but we’ll leave it at that.

We had family in town, and amidst all that, I have been on the job hunt.  Regardless of the fact that I was applying to a lot of jobs that were actually looking for people, I never received a response from any of them.  Not one.  And I’m quite qualified for what I was applying for.  I applied for positions online that had questionnaires and psych evals upward of 120+ questions.  Ridiculous.  It’s a bartending job, not working for the government.  In a last ditch effort I walked into a local bar with my resume and they gave me a call the next day.  So yay.  I got a new job, but this is where it all starts to go wrong, so to speak.

The same day I got the job as a server by the way, not a bartender (because beggars can’t be choosers), I got my rejection letter from the Nicholl Fellowship.  My script was not advancing to the quarterfinals.  Although one of my scores was high, it wasn’t high enough to push it forward for a third read which would have given me a chance to proceed within the competition.

I took it hard.  I still sort of am.  Yes, I know about accepting rejection and moving on – I’m sure I’ve even discussed it here.  All writers face rejection, often many, many times.  It is the perseverance to continue that provides us the success we desire.  I know that.  Doesn’t make the rejection any easier to bear initially.Fall Seven, Stand Eight

I didn’t necessarily need to win one of the top five spots offered, but I wanted to advance enough to use that as leverage as I send out my script to agents, etc., and yes, the money would’ve been nice.  I try to be positive in this space, but sometimes I just need to vent and hope it helps alleviate the stress because my life is so far from where I want it to be. The combination of becoming a server again (at my age) and not feeling like my screenwriting career is going anywhere is really affecting me in general at the moment.

I just don’t ever feel like I’m getting ahead.

Now, I realize I haven’t hit the market with all the fervor I should have by now (I only just recently got my first script to a point I was happy with), so my feelings of inadequacies are completely unfounded, but they are there nonetheless.  I don’t want to think that I should perhaps choose a different life, become a “responsible adult” and take care of all those things I want to by settling – leave the creative life behind…

I want to be a writer.  Dammit, I am a writer.

The last two mornings I’ve had to stare at myself in the mirror and remind myself that rejection is a part of the so-called “game”, that this is just a bump in the road, a lesson to be learned, blah blah blah.  Even in the letter I received from The Academy, they tried to reassure the rejected by saying the following:

A lack of success here may not have any bearing on your reception in the marketplace where a sale is the ultimate measure of success. I’ll even venture a prediction: several non-advancing writers will become professional screenwriters in the near future.

That only mildly soothed the pang of rejection.

I have two more opportunities I’m waiting to hear back on, Final Draft’s Big Break and the NYWIFT Writer’s Lab, so here’s hoping for something positive.  Not to sound dramatic, but I almost need a little something, an external force to remind me I’m on the right path.

When I read the rejection letter, The Sis immediately responded with, “Your writing is really good.” and “Are there any words of encouragement I can offer?” Oddly, that almost made me feel as bad as the rejection itself.  She has been so supportive of my career choice, and we take care of each other.  This has been one of my driving desires to succeed, so I can help her achieve her own goals.

Ugh.  I’m not sure I feel any better yet, and she’ll read this in her inbox later this evening and offer me some more encouraging words, and I’ll probably feel a bit worse again, but thanks, Sis, in advance.  I know you’re trying to help. ;)  I know I’ll be determined to “show ’em” in a few days, but for now it is what it is.

How have you handled rejection, my fellow creatives?

Writing Prompt Challenge Accepted #12

Finally…I did some writing!  Yay me. :/

The following are my flash fiction pieces for the Writing Prompt Challenge I offer each week.  As with most things lately, I’m a bit behind.  I try to write these in under 30 minutes and with less than 200 words.   I do very little editing, just whatever my mind decides upon.  Don’t forget, if you’ve been inspired by any of the Writing Prompts, please do share!

LostTempleThe Temple

They thought she was crazy. They said it could never be found, but as she felt the cool draft rush past her as she took each step further down into the darkness, her torch casting deep shadows, she knew they had been fools to doubt her. Even her own family had thought her mad, and she had been forced to make this journey alone, but now none of that mattered. Streaks of light tried their best to break through layers of dirt and ages of disuse. It was a wonder no one had been able to find this place from above; the mountains had shielded it well.

A series of whooshing sounds filled the void and bright orange light burned brighter with each flourish. She took sure steps into the light, avoiding toppled and loose stones. Great arched walkways all converged around a center object. She moved closer to the edge, her torch held high in one hand, a grappling hook in the other, and peered down upon the head of a statue several stories tall. As she did, the ceremonial plate it held roared to life, as did the smaller ones placed around its feet. She felt special, chosen, and held her breath in delight.

TheLIbraryThe Library

She was now The Keeper of The Library; the magical place of knowledge that people traipsed across the wasteland to visit. It was a legacy she was proud to be a part of, even if no one in her family knew how it had actually come into being. They only knew that one of their ancestors had designed the building to house all the great volumes of the world in one place to ensure that no story was ever lost. The books would just appear and the library would grow each passing year to accommodate the progress. Magic had long been absent from the land, but as she stood in the center of the tower, feeling alone, the pages of a fallen volume stirred at her feet and it somehow brought her comfort. She wasn’t truly alone; some of her favorite people lived within the pages here, and she was now their Keeper.

LockBridgeLovers Bridge

He walked slowly along the bridge, counting the light posts as he went. One, two, three, four – fourth on the right from the Louvre. When they had first added their lock, it had been only one of a handful along the whole length of the bridge. Now the fencing bowed under their weight. He smiled fondly in recollection and at the show of love present before him, but at the same time, felt that now familiar pang of sadness at the thought of her. He had to wonder how many of the other lovers that had once professed their devotion now found themselves in a similar situation. Lost love. He knelt down before the array of metal clasps and nudged a few aside to find his own promise amidst the others. He touched it gently, remembering the glow of her skin in the lamplight, the tug of her lips as she breathlessly laughed at the idea of it all, and the way she smiled after he kissed her. Standing once again to look into the Seine, he wasn’t sure if he should take the next step and join her in peace. Lovers entwined just as these locks…bound together forever?

Wishing you all the best!

Writing Prompt #53

Apologies, once again, the day disappeared before I had a chance to post.  Here is this week’s Writing Prompt, an interesting image just waiting for a story!

WaterWorld

I took the Writing Prompt Challenge this week and will post a few flash fic pieces I wrote tomorrow.  Ready to join me?

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt #52

Good afternoon, and welcome to Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Now, I understand that I am not one to talk about accepting writing prompt challenges when I have written so few of them myself – so far only 21/51…eek!  But, the reason I continue to post them is in the hopes that you will find a little inspiration for your own creations.

If you’re interested in seeking out other images, I am a pin-happy fool over on Pinterest – feel free to browse my boards. :)

I found the following image intriguing, as it combined history, lost worlds, adventure, and mystery…what do you think?  What does it say to you?

LostTemple

If you’re inspired, don’t forget to share!  I look forward to seeing your creations!

Happy Writing!

*I believe this image was created by Theresa Thraen

Quote of the Week

Patience - PassionTamedHello, fellow creatives!

I’ve enjoyed my time off, but now it’s time to get back on track. Yesterday sort of passed me by before I even knew it, so Quote Monday has been bumped.

I’m pining away for news about the screenwriting contest, fellowship, and lab I entered and it’s at least another month before I hear anything, and the internal struggle is real.  I cannot help but check my email, Facebook, and Twitter fairly often for a status update or hint of any kind.

The Nicholl Fellowship posts top scoring script comments from readers nearly every day on Facebook, and I read each one hoping it might sound like mine, or I try to twist and turn the vague positive comment into some form that could resemble a review of my own script.  This is what too much time on one’s hands will do. Patience-Achievement

I decided to look up quotes on patience, and for the most part, they’re kind of lame.  That “patience is a virtue” or “patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting” stuff is not what I want to hear.  And you’ve probably heard it a thousand times too at this point.  It’s hard to wait for action on the part of others, but having a little understanding of how things work in Hollywood, having patience, or practicing having patience, is a good thing, because it’s something that will have to be mastered.

It may seem as if things move quickly in Tinsel Town, but in reality, it takes sometimes years to make something happen.  There’s a phrase, “the 10 year overnight success” which is used in regards to screenwriters who seem to find success out of nowhere.  They’ve been working, for a long, long time.  Everything takes time, and waiting for news about the advancement of my career is just one such test of my endurance.

If you’re in a similar boat, I suppose there is some comfort in the knowledge that there are others who are feeling the same.  My advice, which I am taking to heart, work on something new.  Pour yourself into a new project.  As an aspiring screenwriter, we can absolutely not have only one story in our arsenal, because of the question we are all supposed to be prepared for…”What else have you got?”

That story you’ve always got at the back of your mind, that one where you randomly see or hear something and tuck it away as part of that world, start to develop it.  We only become better writers the more we write – we are better able to develop our style and voice.

I’m working on my space odyssey pilot and rewriting my second script.  I love the development aspect of a story, thinking about characters and scenes.  I had an idea this morning, a fun scene between two characters that I haven’t even created yet, and it’s created an eagerness to get them into action to start exploring this relationship.  Squee!  (Yep, I’m giddy.)

I wish you all the best of luck as you continue forward!  And if you need a chuckle, there’s always this:

Too Many Witnesses

How do you handle the waiting game?  Advice and tips welcome!

I’m on Holiday….sort of.

beachHello, my friends!

I am currently enjoying the freedom I have attained by quitting my suck-y (on so many levels) job.  I’ve been “spring cleaning” the house, reorganizing every facet of my life – from my cabinets to my computer and everything in between – rewatching Game of Thrones (like I need the pain), and getting caught up on so many things that I may be a little absent over the next week or so.

Hopefully, when I return, I’ll have lots to share as I look through the files I’ve kept in regards to writing notes, tips, etc.

I hope you are continuing to work towards you goals!  I wish you all the best!

*I really wish I was sitting on that beach right now, instead of the 110+ degree heat of the Vegas desert…ugh.  I did not miss this.

Discrepant Writer Reviews – Into the Woods

ITWposter*Some spoilers – will try to keep to a minimum ;)

Sigh…oh, Into the Woods, I had high hopes for you.

First off, I had no idea this was based on a play from the 80s, I just knew it was a musical fairytale, and I was in, but after the first scene, I quickly realized this was not going to be what I was hoping it would be.

Quick synopsis –

James Corden and Emily Blunt, both of whom I adore, are a childless couple living in a small village as the local baker and his wife.  They have no names, unless Mr. “Baker” counts?  A musical opening number offers us the information that they would like a child, but have yet to be successful in conceiving.

In flies the witch – the always fantastic Meryl Streep, who is the witch from the original story of Rapunzel, in which she offers a trade to the man stealing from her garden – specific greens for his pregnant wife – the veggies for the baby.*  Fair deal.  The witch gives over a whole lot of information to this childless couple about how their house is cursed and if they complete a ritual in a given time, she will lift it.

For writers, this scene will drive you crazy.  It offers all the information about the movie in one scene and without any real provocation.  It’s not as if the couple sought out her help or advice.  She just comes in one day and says, “Let me help you.  Here’s everything you need to do, no strings attached.”  Really?!

*The baker’s father was the thief, and hence Rapunzel is the baker’s sister, whom he doesn’t give a fig about finding, just FYI.

So off the couple go in search of four items that when combined by the witch will lift the curse and give them the family they desire.  They need a cow the color of milk, a cloak the color of blood, hair the color of corn, and a slipper made of gold.  Enter Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk with his white cow, Little Red Riding Hood (who The Sis groaned each time she opened her mouth – she was annoying), Rapunzel, and Cinderella.

As the title suggests, nearly the entire story takes place “in the woods” and they sing about it, often.  Sadly, none of the songs are catchy or even memorable except for one, which I will mention shortly.  The story does stay more true to the original tales in which the darker side of the storytelling is preserved, like killing the wolf to free Red and her grandmother who have been eaten whole, Rapunzel’s prince being blinded by thorns grown by the witch after being caught leaving the tower, and even Cinderella’s stepsisters cutting off parts of their feet to fit the slipper.  Yep and eww.

But the overall story is weak and drags, and this is coming from Disney…Disney! Who is the reason I have a princess complex!  And Rob Marshall, who directed Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago.  Chicago is great and so catchy!

Maybe because they were trying to stay true to the original, they didn’t realize that it didn’t translate.  A play is limited in its location changes, hence all the woodsiness (I like that word and I’m keeping it) while the action seemed stifled and the dialogue was often too on the nose. Ugh.

The two saving graces of this film – when the witch is transformed and looks like this:

ITWwitchAfter

Love it!

And when the two princes, one of whom is Chris Pine in a hilarious role as Cinderella’s prince, sing this song:

That’s it.

The story takes a weird turn about three-quarters of the way through, when the happily ever after seems too soon, but what follows is completely out of left field.  There is a moment of weakness that results in a really bad consequence and the remainder of the story threw me for an unexpected, and what felt like a forced, loop.

Given the cast, the people behind it, and the basis for the story, Into the Woods was not the fairytale I was hoping for.

2stars

What are your thoughts on Into the Woods?

*Video courtesy of Youtuber John Oncer.

Writing Prompt #51

Good afternoon, my fellow creatives!

As we have reached the halfway point in our week, I have decided to take advantage of the new found freedom that awaits me come Friday by outlining a few fan fiction pieces (while at work because why not?!) that have been stirring for some time, in addition to the sci-fi/space odyssey pilot I have bouncing around as well.  In that vein, I offer you the following Writing Prompt as inspiration…I suppose, a little for myself. ;)OriginHappy Writing!  And don’t forget to share your creations for the weekly Writing Prompt Challenge!

*Image by sinakasra