Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ay, Mami!

The New York Post has a great article online about catcalls to women from construction workers and the like.

As someone who has been honked at, woo-hooed, and even followed when I run around my neighborhood, I find real joy in the stories where the woman turns around and calls the dude (or dudes) on their silly behavior. Truth is, most of the time this stuff is harmless. But in a world where women must constantly be on the lookout against assault, it's also kind of insensitive. So what else is new? At least we can laugh at it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Screenwriting vs. Novel Writing

So now that I'm scribbling away at my novel, I realize just how different it is from screenwriting. I knew intellectually how different the two endeavors were, but am now getting it at a visceral level.

There are, of course, similarities. The three-act structure works well, generally, in both. But it's not required in a novel. Good dialogue is a must in both, etc.

But thereafter - geez. Things diverge. Screenplays are essentially a blueprint. After it's written, other folks come along and interpret it - the director, actors, producers, editors, etc. Movies and TV are the product of many different people. Because of this, the screenwriter must trust that people read a bit between the lines. You write prose to describe the actions taking place on screen, and then dialogue. That's it! There's very little description. You can nudge the dialogue into an emotional direction with an occasional parenthetical, but after that, it's all up to how the director and editor deal with the actor's performance. The only way to really get into a character's head is with a telling close up or voiceover, which I often find annoying.

In a novel, if you just leave the bare dialogue hanging out there with the equivelent of an occasional parenthetical, readers get confused. There's no actor interpreting things for them. They can't see facial expressions. They get no reaction shots. So you have to give the reader more. A lot more. I'm writing in the first person, and at first I resisted giving too many of my character's thought to the reader. Having been trained in screenwriting, I figure folks will read into the dialogue and get the subtext.

But it doesn't work that way in a novel. As I've added more inner thoughts from my protagonist and shown his inner turmoil, the meaning behind the dialogue becomes clearer for my readers. They like the hero more. They hate the antogonist more. They are far more invested.

There are more ways the types of writing differ, but I need to go off and do some more of that writing. So perhaps more later.

Writing is a constant learning experience. That's one more reason why I like it!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Top Ten Horror Films

I wrote a post for Wyrdstuff about my top ten horror films, which you can read here.

It's gotten a bit of response, I think, because everyone has an opinion about the top ten of anything. Horror fans tend to like the gore, which is not my thing. I like films that are, well, good, first and foremost.

One dude posted, "This is the weakest top ten horror film list I've ever seen." So I checked out his posts. Heavily featured on his blog was a drinking game he'd invented to play while watching Revenge of the Nerds III. I didn't respond, but was tempted to comment: "Dude, does your Mom let you play that in her basement?"


That's a combo of Critique and picnic - which I just attended last weekend thanks to the SCBWI, which is the international Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Dozens of writers and illustrators met at Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills to hang out in big patches of shade, dodging balls thrown by families, watching handsome, sweaty young men on the basketball court -- and to critique and encourage each other in our writing.

And... there were cupcakes!
They divided us up according to type of book we are writing, set each group up with a moderator who had been published, and then off we went, reading and commenting on each other's work. A fellow redhead named Meena and I bonded a bit over working in film and TV, and we launched with Meena's piece, which was hilarious and delightfully written. Then came my piece. It's amazing what you can learn about your writing by having someone else (not just yourself) read it out loud. Places that trip them up as they read are an indication of hotspots to consider revising. It takes you outside the version you have in your head and makes it REAL. All good.
Lots of helpful and encouraging comments followed. As writers, we slave away alone for days and weeks, so it's great to see other people laugh and respond to your work. Everyone wanted to know what happened after my first five pages, which is a good sign. When nearly everyone else agreed that I need to add more of something, I realized they were right.
(As someone who's written tv and movie scripts, I find I tend to write other things a bit too sparingly. In script writing, you keep the prose to a minimum and try to convey as much as you can through action and dialogue, relying on your director and actors to fill in subtext and emotion. Novels are a whole other thingummy. You want to respect your reader and not spell out everything, but you've got to be clear, for crying out loud. And sometimes what's in you head doesn't quite make it to the page.)
It was great to hear other people's work as well as get comments on my own. You can learn a lot from the questions that form over their pages.
Joining the SCBWI has so far been well worth the small dues. In August comes the big ol' conference - four days of networking, seminars, and support. In the meantime, I've started up a second class to get me going on a full outline of my book, fashion query letters, set up a writing routine, and so on. In the midst of it I'll be going to Hawaii to see my parents (hurray!) so I may even have to bring my laptop with me.
Just like a real writer. That's what I am. Finally really starting to believe it!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

On a Roll...

Yes, I'm on a roll, writing my little brains out. I'm on a self-imposed deadling to get 15 decent pages of my latest project in a good enough state to mail out for a critique session I'm paying for in August. I'm attending a major writers conference here in LA, and one thing they offer is a professional in the field giving you a critique. I've been told it's a great experience. So here I go!

Thing is - critiques help. You've got to be open minded. You've got take it with a grain of salt. You've got to still the fast-beating of your heart, breathe, and let go of your baby so that someone else can criticize it.

I know this from previous experience and because I've joined a critique group (just this week!) of writers with similar ambitions. I was a tad nervous. Fortunately, everyone said something complimentary as well as something, er, constructive. The critique group at least is free. Well, except that we meet at a Border's bookstore that requires a $5 purchase to validate parking if you stay more than an hour. But $5 is more than worth it to get five pairs of eyes assessing your work and give you a reality check. Sometimes people give contradictory advice. Sometimes it clashes with your own instincts. But sometimes they give a note that makes your baby even better than it was before.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I just posted over at Wyrdstuff about how horror movies degrade women in their marketing.

Yes, more feminist, inflammatory stuff that the hordes of young men who go see these movies won't give a hoot about. Ah well. Gotta rant sometimes, ey?