Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blake Snyder: Resistance Is Fertile

I have found an interesting blog entry at Blake Snyder’s webpage. It is about the criticism he gives and why. Although most writers want to hear him say that their script or pitch is perfect, he points out that questions and criticism is fertile and leads to development.

You can read the article here: Resistance Is Fertile

I agree with Blake Snyder. Criticism can be fuel to very creative work. It will probably take a while to learn to handle criticism, but it is a skill worth learning. Nowadays I find criticism honestly inspiring (once I have past the first chock that my script was not perfect, which takes me by surprise every time).

You may not agree with the criticism but the least you could do is to ask yourself why the reader pointed out those particular things. If the reader misunderstood the story completely, maybe you are the one that have not been clear enough in your writing.

If you don’t listen to what your readers say then your script will probably never become a movie. The only way to know if your vision is there on paper is to listen to the criticism.

I don’t say that you should do every change every reader suggests. Then you will end up with a script that is probably worse than the one you started with and it will no longer feel like your story. You must listen to your own heart too.

Once upon a time I got criticism from a guy who succeeded to get my story out of track completely. He probably saw another story than I indented, but I didn’t realize that so I made the changes he suggested. The result was a lost of focus on the main character. It had moved to my supporting character, which he liked better.

What I should have done is asking myself why he liked my supporting character and not my main character. This might have resulted in something useful. Maybe I had added features to my main character, maybe removed others from my supporting character, who knows.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thank you

I wish to say thank you to the helpful Sgt. J at King County Sheriff's Office in Seattle, Washington, USA for with great patience answering all my questions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Review: Making a Good Writer Great by Linda Seger

Linda Seger is also the writer of "Making a Good Script Great" and "Creating Unforgettable Characters". In my opinion "Making a Good Writer Great" is the best. This simply because it addresses the main issue.

"Making a Good Script Great" and "Creating Unforgettable Characters" are good and they contain basic knowledge needed to write a script. But if I manage to write a great script, I want to repeat that success and in that case I have to work with myself as a writer.

There are screenwriters who say that you are no real screenwriter unless you write every day, like a Buddhist monk is no longer a monk if he lies. That is of course bullshit. But if you want to become a better writer you have to work, and that means write, often and a lot.

"Making a Good Writer Great" contains several different exercises. No, this is not a book you just read and you are a great writer, this is an exercise book as the subtitle "A creativity workbook" says. As I mentioned before in a previous post, Linda Seger talks about finding your “when” to write. There are also chapters about pushing your mind to new creative levels, how to explore themes and ideas and even explore your dreams at night.

"Making a Good Writer Great" can probably help every writer at most levels to reach a little higher.

Earlier posts of interest:
To Start the Creative Flow
Creative flow among nappies

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fun and games and pink weddings

Now when I started to write on the second act of my current project and am almost done with the first half I reflect on some earlier posts on the subject.

I have almost reached the mid-point and the end of “Fun and games”-section (according to Blake Snyder). I remember thinking of that part as difficult. I wrote “It is obvious that the storm is coming, and then I should slow down, ease up and have fun?” But I realized that we know that the storm is coming but the character does not, and that is the key.

What really helped me through this section was the fact that my main character has had a problem being liked by the readers in earlier drafts. Sure, this is a new story but I realized that I never gave my character a chance to show her best moods. I think I have succeeded this time.

I also skipped a scene. At this time I felt that I know too little to write it. It involves the Congress and I have no clue at all. That scene might not be needed either, so I just wait and see.

Now there is a big wedding floating on pink clouds ahead.

Then the storm is coming.

Here are some earlier entries on the subject:
The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet - Fun and games
Dark Night of the Soul
My heart and my brain in cooperation

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Four images turned into a poem

I got four new images from my mother for my thinking-out-of-the-box exercise. But instead of writing words that come to my head, as I used to, these four images turned into a poem. I usually don't write poems, so I was a little surprised. Here it is:

Somewhere is my life. The life I liked. The life where I was happy. But the window is closed. I cannot reach, cannot touch.

It is chaos in my head and chaos in my life. That makes me stumble and tumble down the slope.

When chaos is within I need the opposite outside. I need the balance to make a day and night.

I started to restrain the chaos within. The outside at this time was not mine to control.

A kind of balance appeared.

But my head was an empty space.

Like a breathing doll that tried to find a single thought of value inside.

Life turned and became in order, more or less. Like a desk with neatly piles and pencils in a cup.

I was once again in charge of my life.

I thought I found the path again. The path where I don’t stumble.

I let the chaos in my head loose. Let it fill the empty space. Regain the precious balance.

I felt great. I felt happy. I simply loved life and enjoyed myself.

But life is not predicable. Chaos still lured by the corner. But I didn’t see. I ran too fast.

And I stumbled.

No one saw me falling.

Photos: Ronny Ilvemo

For those of you interested in my previous thinking-out-of-the-box-exercises you can find the blog posts here:
Ice in the middle of the summer
My big, fabulous, fantastic brain

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why didn't Ridley Scott do the Arn-books?

According to Swedish Metro directory Ridley Scott liked the books about the Knight Templar Arn by the Swedish writer Jan Guillou and wanted to make them into a movie. But he could not find a way to contact the writer so he made Kingdom of Heaven instead.

Jan Guillou himself replies that it is just to call the publishing company. But adds that “Kingom of Heaven” contains too many stupid errors and that such complicated subject can’t be put into the hands of an American director. Too many changes would have been demanded on his story and he says that he is happy he didn’t have to make a decision if it would have been worth it.

I find this story interesting.

First of all, did Ridley Scott really want to make a movie based on the books? Why could he not find the writer? Ridley Scott is as far as I know not a stupid man and he probably has a staff around him that could get hold of God himself if needed. How else could he organize a movie production?

Did Ridley Scott, or somebody in his staff, simply stop their attempts to find the writer because Jan Guillou is not allowed to enter the US?

Secondly, the books have been filmed by a Swedish company to a – by Swedish standards – huge budget. But there have been very disappointed voices about the result. Jan Guillou has probably right when he says that many changes would have been demanded to suit the needs of an American movie. Now he got the movie he wanted. But is it the movie that the audience wanted? Maybe not. We probably expect a movie like that to be in the American style.

If the books had been filmed by Ridley Scott instead, we Swedes would have left the cinema complaining about the changes made and the Americanization, but the audience probably got what they expected to get. I am not sure that they do now, because those kinds of movies are not made on regular basis in Sweden. So there are no references about what to expect. So we expect something in “Kingdom of Heaven”-style.

Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Review: Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger

Linda Seger’s book Creating Unforgettable Characters was published 1990 but is still valid. How can it be anything else?

Creating Unforgettable Characters contains the basic knowledge about the art to create characters for a movie script. This is the book for the beginner that has not yet learned all the basic skills of screenwriting. Creating Unforgettable Characters gives you a lot of valuable information that will come in handy when you work on your script.

It starts with a chapter about researching and continues through backstory, psychology, relationships and dialog to end at a chapter that will help you to go beyond stereotyping, all vital stuff.

Creating Unforgettable Characters is not a bible that will give you all the answers and characters served on a plate, but it will give you insight and knowledge that you need when you use your own talent and head when you start working on that great idea of yours.

Creating Unforgettable Characters is useful even if you are not working on an American mainstream movie script.

As a writer Linda Seger is easy to read. She knows how to handle her language and the text.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Our hero would walk out and win the gold

The Swedish swimmer Therese Alshammar didn’t make it to the finals in these Olympic Games. The reason was a broken swimsuit. The zipper in the back broke when she rouse to exit to the start. She got help to barely fix it and she made it to the start just in time. Unfortunately she had spent too much energy having panic.

The situation is great if it had been in a movie. Our hero gets a final, big drawback just before the finals. Like Karate Kid gets a damaged knee just before the finals. And as his master Kesuke Miyagi with a little super power fixes his injury, someone would pop up and fix the broken zipper in the swimsuit and our hero would walk out and win the gold.

The interesting thing is that nobody that had had panic like that could win the gold. Therese Alshammar’s experiences as a swimmer could not help her. The error was to panic in the first place.

Panic is a reaction based on the need to escape, to run, fast and immediately. In seconds and your body is ready for a hasty departure. It is not strange at all that Therese Alshammar just felt tired when she came to start.

Naturally a hero in a movie would win the gold even after a rush like that, but it is easy to forget that it would more or less demand a super human to make it.

Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Three things when writing a scene

There are three things I think about when writing a scene.

The first and for me the most important is each character’s goal with this particular scene, and my goal as a writer. This I always write down on paper before writing anything on the actual script. In most cases a scene has two characters in focus and their goals must be in conflict with each other. Like husband wants to have sex and the wife wants to eat the dinner she has prepared for hours (a stereotype scene though).

Secondly I decide whose scene it is. Who owns the scene? Most likely that character gets his or hers goal fulfilled. This can reveal quite a lot for every character in that scene, so it is not just anybody on a whim. I don’t generally write this down. It’s more something that is part of the inspiration when I sit down to write.

And the third thing is contrasts. Contrasts can enhance the two previous points. It should however be used with some caution. A husband in just briefs and a wife dressed in something extremely un-sexy and buttoned up to the chin may look a bit odd. Never the less a contrast between the characters is useful to enhance the conflict. Sweaty husband in dirty easy style shorts and T-shirt and wife in an extremely clean house setting the table perhaps. I keep contrasts in mind while writing but use this third point mostly when I have written the scene and read it afterwards making corrections.

At the very center of the city
Photo by: Yury Kiselev

Monday, August 18, 2008

Usain Bolt dances

Added Feb 19, 2009:
Have you reached this blog entry because your searched for the script for Bolt, the movie? Likely. That movie made this page my blog's most popular page. This is not about that Bolt. But please, stay and have a look at the rest of the blog.

Sometimes I get a little amazed by how exciting I can find a situation in real life that I would not find exciting at all in a movie.

One of these situations is Usain Bolt in 100m finals in the ongoing Olympic Games.

His victory was awesome, stunning, every fantastic word I can think of almost.

But think of this situation in the terms of a movie. We follow a young athlete. He struggles hard to keep up, fails, nobody believes he is a winner etcetera etcetera. In the final race he cannot win like Usain Bolt dancing the last meters, way ahead of the others.

In a movie we will follow this race for more than 9.96 seconds. We will see it in slow motion, see every competer’s feet hit the ground, every muscle work, every pumping elbow. We want it to be uncertain if our hero will win until the last centimeter. Best of all is if the film of the finish line is needed. That adds extra tension.

What kind of end would it be if our hero runs off way ahead from the beginning of the race and secure the victory within a blink of an eye like Usain Bolt did?

And still in a race in real life that is just what we want. We want an Usain Bolt bouncing along the track like he had no problems in the world at all.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Little bits and pieces wake them up

When I was a teen and completely convinced that I would become a famous writer I worked on a huge novel that took place year 800 in the middle of Europe somewhere.

The text is not that bad, I think, considering my age, but it is very naive.

There where not a thing I knew anything about, really. I had made research in the form of reading, but I had never been in a castle like the one a described, never seen the furniture, never been riding on a horse, never had sex, never had babies and had no practical experience of grown-ups social life in a small society.

And I was writing this in first person.

Those who say that you should write about the things you know have a point.

That novel lacks life.

I might not know about everything I write about today, but little bits and pieces from my own life here and there add to the whole picture and its realism.

I have unpacked a computer together with screen, keyboard, mouse and all of it several times. I know about the packing material, all the boxes, plastic bags and pieces of foam that that activity leave behind. This is something usable when the couple in love moves together and one of them is pedantic.

And hopefully adds some life.

Read more about that novel here: Natural Born Writer

Saturday, August 16, 2008

An amazing moment of truth

I was so amazed the other day I was writing. My main character told me something I hadn’t been able to find out.

I have done my homework and written about her. Background, hopes in life, best memory, worst memory, favorite food and all kinds of hates and likes.

But I could not found out what had happened to her parents. I scrabbled down “mother dead, father in prison.” I thought that it didn’t matter much. They were not part of her life any longer.

When I wrote a dialog between her and her lover the truth revealed itself. The lover is annoyed about her opinions about how he treats his father. He asks her how she turned so wise on the subject. She replies (without me pausing at the keyboard) “when my mother shot dad during a fight and then shot herself. I was twelve.”

Aren’t these kinds of moments amazing?

First I thought that her parents' story didn’t matter much in the first place. And then my own character tells me what happened and proved how wrong I was. Her parents' fates were most vital.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

All that is needed is the right word

Photo by: Luca Galuzzi
used under the
Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.

I watched BBC’s documentary The Unwinking Gaze: The Inside Story of the Dalai Lama's Struggle for Tibet the other day.

My father says that China invaded Tibet because Tibet constituted a moral threat to Communism. Here they had a nearby civilization were a quarter of its population where deeply engaged in religion as monks and nuns. And yet their society bloomed. Then it was hard to claim that the communistic ideas were the only true ideals.

I am not a Buddhist. Never the less I admire the Dalai Lama as a human being.

Few people would have more to be angry and sad about. Yet he is not angry but succeeds to find positive things and an inspiring optimism. He seems happy in a way that sometimes feels too good to be real.

When creating characters for a movie there should always be conflicts and these conflicts should be solved and the character must change for the better. All that is needed is the right word at the right time and the character returns as new.

A character similar to the Dalai Lama would not work in a movie because in general the guy is flawless. He has already found it, done it, been there if you understand what I mean. A main character in a movie cannot be content and peaceful.

There are on the other hand characters in real life that seem perfect for a movie. I talk about persons that hasn’t found it, never done it, never been there and are dark and depressed in their minds. Everything that the Dalai Lama is not.

In real life, though, there is no right word at the right time. The magic that makes a guy like this happy and content only exists in the movies.

The characters in a movie can never be more than fragments of real life. They are created to suit a pattern, nothing more. If we start to believe that the world is like it is in the movies, then we will loose the ability to understand and trust each other.

What I’m trying to say is that there are persons out there in the real world who are genuinely depressed or genuinely happy and they exist even if you never see a person like this in the movies.

I do believe that the Dalai Lama is genuine and honest.

And if anyone finds the magic to cure a constantly depressed mind close to me, please let me know.

Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Rouge Wave: Bad Action Line, Bad!

Julie L Gray is the writer of one of my favorite blogs "The Rouge Wave". Her post from 10th of August is realy great. There is such a good example of how not to write. Rather then me quoting her, you can read the article for yourself here:
The Rouge Wave: Bad Action Line, Bad!

I have read many movie scripts. Most of them from amateurs. And all too many from bad amateurs. I have read lines like "He has stayed in the house for all his life, living with his mother." How do we see that? That is a line suitable for a novel. In a movie we must be shown or told through dialog.

I thought that I had overcome these novice misstakes when I got the feedback "How do we know the water is cold?" It is sometimes difficult to avoid, but he was right. I shouldn't write about cold water, I should describe the reaction to the coldness or if no one swims the general appearence of the lake. If it is important that is.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My heart and my brain in cooperation

I’ve never tried any drug. But the feeling while writing when everything floats and you ride on the creative flow like a safe sailor in a boat can not possibly be better.

While riding on the creative flow I’ll be the next Oscar winner. I am the best writer ever been. I am God.

That feeling can’t be beaten by any artificial intake.

The structure of act two was ready. All scenes planned and goals for every character in every scene were there. Finally I allowed myself to write.

The third act got its structure ready but the goals are not done yet. But I felt that I have at least planned ahead and know where the story is going. That has rarely been the case before.

I know, I told my self to not write until I had the whole script planned, but I got more and more… I don’t know… Not stuck, but like walking in mud up to the knees. That didn’t feel right.

My heart and my brain had a meeting and agreed that writing on the script was allowed. But act two only.

The Realm of Rane
Painting by Jeroen van Valkenburg
Image used with permission by the artist

Friday, August 8, 2008

A doll growing up

I remember a girl at school when I was about eight or nine. She was a year or two younger than me. She was not allowed to come home with dirty clothes.

When we other kids climbed, crawled and explored our world she just stood there. She could not play anything unless it was in a standing position.

The issue was that she was not allowed to get her clothes dirty, but what her parents really did was forbidding her to play.

But she herself was dirty. It was like nobody ever told her to wash behind her ears and obviously nobody at home checked either.

What kind of person did she become when she grew up? What kind of mother will she be?

And her parents, who were they? Did they just want a doll?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ice in the middle of the summer

Photos: Ronny Ilvemo

I got four new images from my mother for my thinking-out-of-the-box exercise. I glued them into my notebook as usual and wrote down words and thoughts that appeared in my head when I looked at them.

It is a fun exercise. Read earlier entries here:
Thinking out of the box
My big fabulous fantastic brain

As a writing exercise is it odd because there is very little writing in it. Its main goal is to get the brain to go beyond its borders and think in new patterns. Time will tell if I succeed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My Beat Sheet

I have mentioned my beat sheet several times now. I guess that it is not obvious what that is to everyone.

A beat sheet helps you with the structure of the movie script.

Mine is a landscape A3 with four rows and thirty columns. Each box represents a page in the future script. On the top row I have deleted the five leftmost boxes and on the bottom row I have deleted the five rightmost boxes.

This gives me 25 “pages” on the top row, representing act one, 30 “pages” on the second row representing the first half of act two and 30 “pages” on the third row representing the second half of act two, and finally 25 “pages” on the fourth and last row representing act three.

I use the structure taught by Blake Snyder. According to him the break into act two should be on page 25, which is my rightmost box on the top row. The midpoint should be on page 55 which is my rightmost box on the second row and the break into act three is the rightmost box on the third row which will become page 85.

I have also marked out sections and key pages, like “Fun and Games” from page 30 to page 54 and “All is lost” on page 75 followed by “Dark Night of the Soul” on pages 76 to 84.

This might sound stiff and uninspiring.

But structure is important. Stiff and uninspiring as it may be it is still vital to keep an established structure unless your script is a bohemian experimental film.

It does not need to be Blake Snyder’s ideas of course but I felt that they suited me.

Illustration used under the GNU Free Documentation License

Sunday, August 3, 2008

When the urge to write was too strong

Symbol for an extratropical storm in the Northern Hemisphere;
with strength equivalent to a severe tropical storm (50-63 knots)

I was about to start writing on the actual script after all.

Although I had decided to not do that until the beat sheet was complete.

Come on, I was done with act two. I had all scenes planned, all goals done. Well, most of the goals anyway.

Now I must allow myself to start writing.

Simply must.

The urge was simply too strong.

I - must - write!

I sat down and started Final Draft. … Just to find that I had not activated the version yet (a new laptop) and that the demo time had expired. And then the program does not start.

Alright, no problem, I'll activate.


Final Draft allows you to install on two computers. These two were used. One is on a now crashed computer and my intention was to use the new laptop instead. But I had not yet contacted Final Draft to free an activation.

No Final Draft. Not just right now.

And somehow the urge to write went down the drain.

Maybe just as well. I was probably about to make a mistake to start writing yet.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Walker meets pram

I met a guy on the bus. I had my youngest with me in the pram and he had his walker so we shared the space in the bus for prams and wheel chairs.

He was the kind of disheveled man that gives me suspicions that he has had a life with too much alcohol.

He was nice and friendly and we talked about nappies when he had little babies (he had three children and four grandchildren) and nappies of today and other baby stuff. And such a happy and carefree life my little fellow still had.

He said that his neighbor next door was a sweet lady that lent him cigarettes in the middle of the night if needed. The man was not even sixty, lived in an elderly home and looked like seventy. I wondered about the “sweet lady”. Who was she? I couldn't imagine my mother (a little older than this man) appreciating a next door neighbor asking for cigarettes in the middle of the night.

When he showed me all the cigarettes he had bought to make it until the next day I said that if he smoked that much he should consider to smoke less. He gave me a look that might have meant that smoking was the smallest of his problems or that I should mind my own business.

He brought out a can of beer from his pocket and gave it a longing look. He put it back, sighed and said that there was still some time left on the bus before his stop.

I wonder about his life and his family. Even if he claimed to have had a good life after all, I don’t believe that all had been roses. What stories were hidden in him?