Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cans and carrots and the setup for the final battle

Right now it feels like my new project is a failure.

And I haven’t even started writing.

As I’m planning my scenes I feel over and over again that there are things that I haven’t given enough thought.

Well, that’s alright; I’m planning. But yesterday I ran into this major error.

There are three groupings: cans, rats and carrots. Yeah, yeah, funny names, but they are just my internal labels.

As my story was yesterday cans and rats were at war, but the final battle took place between cans and carrots…

Isn’t that odd? I’ve never thought about it that way before. The setup is made for a fight between cans and rats and then the rats are left out of the story.

Right now my confidence is leaving with an express bus.

See also: Stop whining and pull yourself together

Monday, March 30, 2009

How to start writing a movie script - part II

How to start writing a movie script

In my previous article on the subject I talked about focus and structure, two important factors to consider before starting the actual writing.

As I just started with a new project I got reminded how equally important it is to know the characters involved in the story.

Now, this may sound worn and cliché to write down a characters background, eye color and favorite food and so on, but this is not homework to show your teacher; this is something you do for your own sake, to write better.

If you just scrabble down something without paying any interest in the result, do it anyway.

Personally I scrabble until I find a question I cannot answer. That is when it becomes interesting. This is where I find my character’s hidden assets or flaws. This is where I find my answers to certain behaviors.

The better I know my characters the better I write every scene in the script.

There are different ways get to know a character and no one is more right that the other. Every writer must find his/hers own ways.

I have tried to use a paper filled with adjectives where I circled words that fitted and crossed out all that was off the map. It could be a start to find questions to answer. But it is limited to the adjectives used.

Another way is to fill out a form with basic questions, but the risk is that it stays at that.

One way I would find interesting to try, is to be interviewed like I was the character. Then the follow-up questions come more natural and I gain input from someone else.

How do you know if your character is complete?

Well, I would say that the moment you don’t know how to solve a situation, the answer is probably found within the part of the character you don’t know yet.

See also:
How to start writing a movie script
How to name the characters

Photo by Engelbert Reineke, 1969
Used under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany License
Image edited by the writer

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A word: Beatific

Beatific - Experiencing or bestowing celestial joy or resembling or befitting an angel or saint; blessed, blissful, heavenly

From Latin beatificare, make blessed.

You beatify person in Roman Catholic Church as a step to make the person a saint.

A beatific experience must be nice.

But don’t you think word ending with “-ific” sounds a little formal, a little bureaucratic? Like a label.

As if someone pops up and rips your feeling away from you, gives it a tag and catalogues it.

It starts like I was about to say “beauty”, halts abruptly at the “t” and chops it off with a “-ific”.


See also: Beatific vision

Image composed by the writer
Based on a photo by Louise Docker
Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

Friday, March 27, 2009

Planning scenes and confronting problems

I have done my beat sheet and started to plan the scenes. That’s fine. Just planning the scenes, then I can start writing.

How does he escape? Shouldn’t someone see him leaving?

Hadn't thought of that.

I panicked.

Then I smiled at myself. Why on Earth would I panic? I am planning! That’s what planning is for. To find gaps and solve problems, before I do the actual writing.

If the script was spick-‘n’-span ready in my head, all I would have to do is writing it down. The reason I plan my scenes beforehand is that I think that my script is ready in my head, but I know by experience that it isn’t.

No grounds to panic.

This is just a proof for me that I need this stage in the writing process; that I need to face all problems as soon as possible. This is the moment I want to confront them.

Well, yes, sure, I would love to not have these troubles in the first place, but compared to having them later, writing the script, this is much, much better. Now there is no harm done.

Yes, the progress bar might move a little slower, but I am writing a script not participating in a race.

See also: Invite inspiration

Keep Writing: The Great Paradox of Creativity

David Trottier at Keep Writing has written a very interesting article called The Great Paradox of Creativity. It is about beeing creative with restrictions. Like Hitchcock had when doing Psycho.

You can read it here.

Thank you Robin Kelly for the tip.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A key to the secret garden is found

That must be some form of disease, my husband said, when he saw that I watched the clip from 3:10 to Yuma, again. Why on Earth are you doing that?

Hm, pretty hard to explain, I said. But I'll try if you want to.

When I was a kid and early teenager, the imagination floated without the same limitations as I have now as a grownup. In my mind I mixed the best from movies and TV-series making my own worlds, beyond anybody's opinions and reach. It was a place completely my own.

At some rare moments I make it through to that world today.

It is when I watch a movie or a TV-series that strike a certain accord within me. And 3:10 to Yuma did exactly that.

It is so rare.

And I want to return to that world over and over again.

Some form of disease, I guess.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Project Sunlight is up and running

Sunlight is a story I began writing a long time ago, but got stuck due to lack of experience and planning.

The story continued to be present in my heart though. And now I want to finish it.

But I start from scratch. I have not even opened the file with the previous version. It is bad enough that I love some scenes already and may have trouble to remove them if needed.

I will plan my scenes to the midpoint, the false victory, half-way through.
Then I start writing.

When I’ve written my false victory, I’ll continue to plan my scenes to the final image, the end. And then write the rest.

It is a futuristic story. Not Sci-Fi, but rather a future civilization ruined by climate changes and wars, lacking electricity and shortage of food and water. Different groupings fight for what little there is left to live on.

I have moved the focus compared to my first draft. The main character is now the one changing the most, as it should be. He is an arrogant brat, looking upon himself and his group as superior to others. He changes to a reasonable, human friendly person with completely different ambitions.

Wish me luck.

Photo by Xinpson
Used under the GNU Free Documentation License
Image modified by the writer

Remarkable Communication: Obey me or fail

"Obey me or fail" is a drastic title of a very good article about listening to too many advices. Read the whole blog entry here.

"If you don’t learn how to navigate all this well-meaning advice, you risk getting too exhausted to go on before you’ve reached your goal."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Speaking of conflicts

We were looking at P.S. I love you, me and my husband.

It starts with an argument between a husband and a wife; a typical cliché man-woman disagreement. I smiled when I recognized the situation and said that sometimes it becomes very obvious why you think I speak in subtext. He nodded in agreement.

As the argument continued I sank further and further down in the sofa, wanting to hide somewhere, while my husband had a great laugh.

That day we had had an argument. Or rather I had had a furious monologue while my husband very kindly agreed to everything I said, something that made me jump up and down like a ping-pong-ball of hot lava.

A typical cliché man-woman disagreement.

Sometimes I just hate to find out that I am just like any ordinary woman.

Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Conflicts in the story

Conflict is the key.

That is pretty interesting.

In real life we strive for balance and harmony, but when it comes to a movie it is the opposite. Conflict is important for many forms of storytelling, but I think it is very prominent in movies especially.

Conflict is the key. For the story as a whole as well as for every scene.

Conflict moves the story forwards. Conflict engages us.

Without conflict, no story.

Well, you can always write a story without conflict, but to be honest I've never seen any form of movie - long or short - that lacked conflict.

What do the characters in the story want? What are their needs? And what huge and impassable obstacle is in their way to obtain what they desire?

The further away they are from their goals at the beginning, the better. The more impossible the task is, the more we engage us.

Make the conflict grand.

Add a conflict between every character in the script. No meetings without a conflict. If two always agree, remove one of them.

And conflicts are there to be solved.

Good luck.

See also: And my bad guy wants what?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A word: Ailurophile

Aliurophile – a cat lover – is one of those words that I cannot express any real positive remarks about.

It is from Greek, "ailouros" means "cat" and "philos" translates to "loving, dear".

It will come as no surprise that the word “cat” does not come from “ailouros”. It is based on the Latin “cattus”. That makes me wonder why Ailurophile survived.

To my ears Ailurophile is a word that will always need explanation when it is used. It feels very much like writer’s snob-club to use a word like this.

And while I find Niveous a beautiful word in itself, it is the opposite with Ailurophile. It is hard to spell and gives my tongue pain when I try to say it aloud.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Why correct formatting is important

For many writers who start writing movie scripts formatting is a problem.

My main problem was that I could not understand why someone wanted to read Courier by their own choice. I considered it the ugliest font that existed and it was definitely not easy to read.

I wrote in Times New Roman instead.

Hey, the tradition to write in Courier comes from the time typewriters were used. It was time for some change I thought.

Like I had any chance to accomplish that.

Soon I switched to Courier, but could not keep myself from making the scene headings in bold.

Then I learned why formatting is so important.

Sure, you make a good first impression when your script does not scream amateur already on the first page, but formatting is actually not about that at all.

Margins, fonts and all that result in a page which will become one minute of film. It makes it easy to estimate length of the actual movie. Since there is room for different amount of letters on a page with a proportional font, it is important that it is a fixed-width font.

By writing dialog on the center of the page, it is easy to target while browsing through the script. There is no doubt about who is talking. And it is dialog and not an action line.

By writing the name of the character in CAPS first time he/she appears it is easy to know that we are not supposed to know this character yet (or maybe wonder where we missed it, if it is in lower case)

This does make a script easier to read in the end.

Blake Snyder: How Much Do We Have to Know?

Blake Snyder has written a very interesting article about how much we as an audience need to be told about lingo, cultural behaviour and special items used in a movie.

You can read it here.

johnaugust.com: Growing sentences

At johnaugust.com there is a great article about structure and grammar in sentences. You can read it here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The use of secondary headings

When I got my first batch of feedback on “Kim” there where complaints that I didn’t use secondary headings.

The reviewer exampled with a scene where I had used CONTINUOUS. The character moved from one room to another. He wanted the use of a secondary heading instead. He wanted to change this:


The hero closes the door and browsers through the mail while she walks into the kitchen.


She leaves the mail on the table and…

To this:


The hero closes the door and browsers through the mail while she walks into the:


She leaves the mail on the table and…

Well, this is not what I have been taught, but gee, knowledge is perishable. Things do change over time.

I looked into this. And changed in the script.

I was so eager to please, so eager to make the right impression. The so important first impression that every unknown writer needs.

I looked through the script yesterday.

Yes, I know, I have sent it to a competition and it has left mama and all, but that is in the past now. No more worries. I actually browsed it through considering if I should send it so more than one contest.

Well, anyway, the script was crowded with those secondary headings. It felt awkward and strange. It felt like I hadn’t known what I was doing. I had no structure for where to use the secondary headlines and where not to.

So, I returned to use major headlines only.

Some may disagree, sure, but I must use what I feel comfortable with. And I don’t like to get stuck with formatting problems. That’s why I use Final Draft.

Some day I may learn where to use secondary headings properly, but not this time.

See also: Don't let anybody else do your killings

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Short scene competition IV

No, I didn’t make to the finals in Rouge Wave’s short scene competition this time either.

Please, feel free to visit and vote for the entry you like best.

I don’t think I am a sour loser. The finalists aren’t bad.

But it is not my style of writing.

Now, it is her contest and I don’t object to that. I am happy that she takes her time to do these contests. But she is the only judge and she (with all right) has a clear opinion of what she is looking for.

And that does not match the result of my writings.

I don’t see how I ever will please this sweet lady. Unless I write in another way.

All my – so far – four contributions have been more or less surreal. The finalists are not. If I feel that I either have to change the way I write or give up hope of winning, should I still enter the contest?

Now I sound like a sour loser.

It doesn't cost me more than a little of my time. It is an interesting exercise. What am I complaining about?

The keywords this time was Leprechaun, Emerald and Parade.

My entry is inspired by the Greek legend about King Midas of Phrygia who Dionysus gave a golden touch.

Here is my entry to the contest:

“The Emerald Touch”


A prominent KNOCK on the door. The MAYOR opens. Outside stands a VERY LITTLE MAN in green tunic and hoses.

The little man passes between the stunned mayor’s legs and enters the home. Confident he takes a seat on the sofa.

What do you think you are? A leprechaun?

I prefer verno, if you don’t mind. We’ve decided to step out. We want to arrange a parade.

You and who?

The other two million vernos in this city.

The mayor goes pale.

My god! Two mil... No. No parade.

The little man touches the coffee table. It turns into sparkling, green emerald. The mayor’s eyes go greedy.

This touch is now yours.

The mayor puts his finger on a vase. It becomes emerald.

Yes, yes, YES! YES!

The parade?

Go fuck yourself. Fuck everybody!

The mayor’s DAUGHTER comes running and jumps into her father’s arms. She turns into emerald. The mayor SCREAMS.

You’ll have your parade. Have it! Now bring my daughter back!

The little man sneers, rises and heads for the door.

It’s just green glass, by the way.

Feedback is wecome, as always.

You can read my other short scenes here:
Short Scene III
Short Scene II
Short Scene I

Monday, March 16, 2009

Floating above the influence of time



I am one of those blessed with the gift of being able to sit at an airport for eight hours without getting bored.

But this is not an airport. This is time difference.

I want to know if I am among the finalists of the Rouge Wave’s short scene competition.

Julie Gray is not even awake yet. It is four in the morning where she lives.

It will become at least afternoon before I know.

My idea was to write about the contest today. But as the day approached noon I realized that what I did was waiting for tomorrow.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Word: Porcelain

Porcelain – a ceramic ware made in a more or less translucent ceramic. In English also referred to as “china”. This because until the 17th century all porcelain came from China.

We have all seen items in porcelain. As plates on the table, tea cups or decorative figurines. It is an everyday word, no thrill.

What is so fascinating about this word is the etymology.

Porcelain comes from the Italian “porcellana” – a cowrie shell. It is understandable since they look like they are made of the same material.

In Latin the same shell was named “porcella”. This means “female piglet”.

But it also means the outer female sex.

Have you ever turned a cowrie shell over? It does not demand too much imagination to get the resemblance.

Now, where does that female piglet get into the picture? Was it just another word for the same thing, just like we have other words for the private parts today? Or was there simply a resemblance between the porcella shell and a little piglet?

Svenska Akademins Ordbok

Friday, March 13, 2009

I had to save my script from being ruined

"Kim" is now on its way to compete and prove it is worthy.

From the time I began to consider to enter to the moment I pushed the deliver button I had this I’m-going-insane-situation.

At that time I felt that my script was horrible, it must be crowded with spelling errors and I would make a fool of myself.

I just had to let it go.

Julie Gray’s blog entry about subtext was getting under my skin. Do I have talent? Are my action lines excellent? I started to fiddle around and make changes here and there. I just had to put my hands on my back and yell to myself to quit before I ruined it.

Sometimes I’m just too sensitive.

Now it is done. The script is sent to a competition.

I have to let go of my worries that it is not good enough and the spelling is horrible. It is of no use. No use at all.

I feel kind of empty.

A project that filled up my mind for quite some time is now on its own. It has left mama. For now.

What I should do right now is dive right into my next project and search for that divine feeling that comes when I ride on the creative flow writing the first draft of a script.

But right now I just sit here and can’t quite understand that I’ve been that impulsive again, sending a script to a competition with a second of consideration. Just to save the script from being ruined.

See also: My heart and my brain in cooperation

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Writing subtext in dialog

Subtext, subtext, subtext. How many times have I not heard that word? The little magic parole that brings power and money.

What is it?

Julie Gray says on her blog:
“In the same way that writing is rewriting, subtext is writing. That's why it's so hard to write and write well. Subtext is the feeling behind the words and the situation. And to get that out of your head and onto paper in a way that I can be entertained by - that's just magic. If you are asking what subtext is - the answer is subtext is what writing is made of.”

Subtext is your writing skill.

Well, I agree on that.

But she gives no example on how to improve the writing skill, the so much desired subtext. Either you have talent, or you don't. Either you get the picture, or you don’t.

That is – in my opinion – rubbish.

Talent is needed to be a skilled writer, yes. But skill is something that could always improve. Like all craftsmanship.

No one expects you to forge a sword worthy Ivanhoe first day in a blacksmith. So why should you be able to write an Oscar winner on your first try. Relax. What you need is practice, and it will probably pay off in the end.

So here is my subtext tip when writing dialog:
Let every character have a goal for each particular scene, contradicting the other’s goal.

See also: Three things when writing a scene

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The invisible writer

Blake Snyder has written Ten Commandments of Screenwriting Excellence on his blog. When I read “Thou Shalt Disappear From Thy Script” I couldn’t help smiling, because I remembered something I once wrote.

My main character has been attacked and received a severe hit on his genitals. He lays crumbled on the floor when his superior officer arrives. “Let go of you cock and stand up like a man” he commands.

I became embarrassed when I wrote it. I became even more embarrassed when I read the line aloud with my mentor.

This was a vocabulary that I would never dream of using! I had written words that I couldn't speak without blushing.

But it was natural for the officer. It was his words. He wouldn't dream of saying "Oh dear, does it hurt? Can I help you up?"

I think this was my first step towards making my characters independent of me.

I should know every inch of my characters, sure, but that does not mean that they should reflect my opinions, my way of speaking and my behavior. Not only would it be a very boring story with five me all being nice and friendly throughout the story, it would also be a very forced “do like this; I am right; look at me”-feeling that would hardly be appreciated.

I have a reason for writing a particular story. I have something I want to tell you. Yes, that is perfectly alright. But it should be told through my characters and their actions, not by me.

The moment the writer becomes visible in the script the illusion falls like a house of cards.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The script is a marvel. A winner of every contest. Or?

I cannot make up my mind if I should enter the Silver Screenwriting Competition or not.

I have a script. A script that I feel has every potential in the World. At least now, when my second draft is done and I’m doing some overall polishing.

Could it be better? Probably.

Will I ever feel the script is perfect? Probably not.

So when to send it to a contest?

Right now I feel the script to be a marvel. If I look at it with a month of absence I’ll probably find flaws.

If I always find flaws when reading it after a time, I’ll never find the right time to send it to a contest.

I want so send my script to a competition to get feedback. To find out where I stand.

Have I a chance of winning? I don’t have a clue. Which probably means that I don’t stand a chance, or?

But if I feel that my script isn’t a winner, should I send it?

What do I have to lose?

The people reading, will they remember my name and every time they see a script by me the next ten years they will throw it in the waste basket?

I’ll have to write extremely bad to get that effect. I mean, how many names can a person cope?

So, when it comes down to it, is it all about money? Is the entry fee all that I gamble with?

Monday, March 9, 2009

A cultural clash

I had an interesting meeting on the bus. An unknown man sat down beside me and asked me something. I couldn't figure out what he was saying and asked him to repeat. Finally I realized that he spoke English. "Don't you speak English?" he asked in Swedish. He spoke Swedish, but preferred English, so we switched a little back and forth.

Almost the first things he asked when we got the language-question settled was "Would you like to know me better and become my friend?"

This is very non-Swedish. He seemed friendly and nice, but I replied that I loved to chit-chat with him on the bus, but I wanted it to stay with that, no offense. Why? he asked. Because I don't feel comfortable with the situation, I replied, I am not familiar with making friends this way. He nodded. Many Swedes seem to feel that way, he said.

How do you make friends in this country, he asked. I admitted that it is difficult.

As we talked he understood that I was married. Well, he said, I don't feel comfortable having a married woman as a friend. Why? I asked. Your husband will be jealous, he replied. I agreed that my husband might not be completely comfortable with the situation.

So we continued to chit-chat on the bus.

When it was his stop we wished each other a nice day and he left.

And a could-have-been-a-friend walked out of my life.

See also: Walker meets pram

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Word: Niveous

Niveous – Snowy; resembling snow; snow-colored;

From Latin “niveus”, “niv” means “snow”.

Niveus is used in botanical names meaning snow-white.

Why is this word so uncommon that it can easily be used as a brand for whitening teeth, a fairytale name on a Shadowmoor card and a spell for conjure snow?

It is a beautiful word.

Too nice to be used on something as trivial white teeth.

Msn Encarta

Photo by Frode Inge Helland.
Used under the
Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

Image edited by the writer

Friday, March 6, 2009

I am not a fan of telephones

Shasha at Ako…I…Io has passed the Honest Scrap Tag to me with the request to tell ten honest things about myself:

  1. I am not a fan of telephones. I simply ain’t a phone person. Meeting face to face, or writing, that’s fine, but I simply cannot help making a fool of myself on the phone.

  2. My image of myself and the one I see in the mirror does not match. So as long as I don’t look at myself in the mirror I don’t care that my hair looks like a haystack and that I have dark spots on my front teeth (because of four cups of tea a day).

I’m breaking the rules of good etiquette here.

I sat and tried to figure out what to write. Ten honest things about me. It has to be ten things I don’t mind telling and ten things that people still find interest in reading. Ten things that fit into my blog.

I have passed tags and rewards to others before. Some have picked them up and passed them along. Some have not. Mostly not.

Perhaps I should not write this post. Simply not bring the topic up. Just let it slide.

But still, although there is chain mail behavior about these tags and rewards, I am honored to receive them. I am happy that someone thought of me.

And links back and forth aren’t exactly bad for ones blog’s strength. So far my blog can’t stand on its own in mighty glory gaining readers just by its existence.

But I simply can’t think of something to write.

Ten things were too much. And pass this to seven more… I simply cannot cope. Sorry, Shasha, it’s nothing personal.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How to name the characters

I needed to rest my eyes a little from my second draft of ”Kim” and turned my attention to my next project “Sunlight”.

This is a story I started to write some years ago but got stuck due to bad structure and completely lack of planning.

The first thing I want to do is to change the names of the characters. In an effort to make the story deep, I had fetched the names from the Bible. Without any connection what so ever to the character who named them. Extremely childish.

So before the names settle and make it impossible for me the change them, I want to rename them as fast as possible.

This time I wanted to put some effort in this and simply not throw darts on a phonebook as I usually do.

But where do I start?

I have no experience in this.

I have named my children, sure, but that is something else. Then we made a list with names we liked and then checked their meaning and history. But when it comes down to it it’s about picking a name that feels right enough.

I have no idea if they will live up to their names.

As a scriptwriter I have characters that I know everything about and should give names based on their background and also match other names in the story.

It feels like I need a tool where I can search on features and get a list of names, instead of the usual opposite behavior.

See also: What is in a name

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mind mapping a new idea for a movie script

I have made a little investment in one of those mini-laptops, a so called notebook. Now I sit on the bus with a minimal screen and a keyboard a little bigger than the palm of my hand and am as happy as a child on Christmas.

The first thing I did was sketching on my next project in a freeware, mind mapping program called FreeMind. It was the first time I used it for other than slight testing. Actually it was the first time I mind mapped an idea for script at all.

I found mind mapping - at least in FreeMind - to be an easy way to do the first sessions with an idea. I wrote down the actual outline for story in an ordinary document, but the environment, the characters, the different situations, the names were perfect for mind mapping.

A mind map on paper has its advantages: I can draw arrows as I like, I don't have to follow any rules or patterns and its chaoslike appearance is supposed to make its easier to remember its contents. But doing it in a computer gives me features I can't gain on a paper-version: I can add and remove as I please, I can go back and add another node and the mind map expands; I can also add images very easy.

I do believe in the power of pen, paper and sticky-notes, but I am also a great fan of digital media. They serve different purposes. I like the idea that it is so easy to make a copy and that my written thoughts do not vanish because a paper is lost.

Any experiences you would like to share?

Monday, March 2, 2009

How to reveal character through dialog

Perhaps I at last begin to grasp the expression that dialog should reveal character.

Every character should have its unique way of speaking. So far for me it has mostly been ways of expression, like a character using “aye” instead of “yes”.

To be honest it does not reveal much character, more than perhaps where he/she grow up.

When I rewrote some of the dialog in “Kim” a sudden insight revealed itself.

I have been working with my hero and her arc and moved the starting point, making her more invisible and dependent in the beginning of the story. This I tried to express when I worked on my second draft.

When the second draft was ready I took a look on the dialog alone and I suddenly saw what was missing: A dependent, invisible and humble character does not say “I’ll have a sandwich” but “Can I make myself a sandwich, please?”

Do you get my point?

If she moves from dependent to independent the way she speaks will start at “Can I make myself a sandwich, please” and change into “I’ll have a sandwich” before the end of the story.

See also:
An amazing moment of truth