Wednesday, July 29, 2009

And so this day is ruined...

"With a record number of entries and a readily apparent increase in quality, this year’s Nicholl Fellowships was more competitive than in any previous year."

Somehow I knew already before actually told, that I did not move on to the quarterfinals.

"Kim" was not one of the 321 (out of 6,380 entries) that was considered good enough.

Right now I feel... Well, lets put it this way: I'm not entirely happy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A brain on standby

When I’m at vacation with my family I try to turn off my writing mode.

There is simply no time write. And if I use brain capacity to think about writing and then not be able to write it, I just get into a bad (read horrible) mood. So I turn it off.

It is just my brain’s simple survival instinct.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my vacation, but it feels like my brain is in some sort of standby-mode. I think, so therefore I exist, but I don’t really feel that I’m thinking. Yes, sure, on short term obstacles – like when I was left in the backseat of the car with childproof doors and a four-year-old with a need to go to the bathroom (no harm intended from my husband).

But the creative thoughts, the floating-aways, they are vacant.

Is this what a “normal” brain is like? A random brain from that anonymous mass of people who don’t paint, write, construct, act, compose or express themselves in some other way?

I read an article some time ago about a director/actress who was diagnosed with ADHD as a grown-up and got medications. She quit using them. Life simply became too boring. She said in the interview that it was interesting to experience how other people function, but she liked life better as it was.

As far as I know I don’t have any letter-malady, but I’ve understood that I have a creativity that is not “normal”, whatever that means.

When I’m not allowed to be creative my brain feels like it is in stand-by, not really on, not fully functional. And in the long run, it makes me feel vacant too.

Have you ever experienced the same?

Man sitting under beach umbrella.
Photo by Johntex, 2006.
This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License
Image edited by the writer

Monday, July 13, 2009


It's summer and I'm off on vacation with my family. If not before, I'm back the 10th of August.

I wish you and your family and friends a happy summer.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A beat for adding drama to the dialog

You want a dramatic pause in your dialog?

It is very popular to add “beat”. Like:

I love you.


You know I do.

This is a matter of taste, and I am not making any rules, but personally I think “beat” is not a good idea.


Two reasons.
One: I think it is up to the actors and directors to add the pauses.
Two: It does not read well.

When it comes to reason one, as a writer I, of course, hear the dialog in my head and I know there must be a beat, a pause, a catch of breath, to get it right. That is at least what I think. Only the way I hear the dialog could possibly work. But that is not very likely the truth.

I try to avoid any “yelling” and “whisper” as well, unless I am certain that it is needed. Like a situation where two people talk and a third does not hear what they say, a “whisper” might be in order.

My intention is to make the story come alive with as small means as possible, no dictations how to do things. I believe that a script is a blueprint that should sparkle the reader’s imagination, not limit it.

The second reason, that it does not read well, is a result of an advice from Julie Gray. Every script that caught interests is sooner or later apt to be read aloud at a table reading. A “beat” will then feel very awkward.

I love you.


You know I do.

How about writing the line:

I love you… You know I do.

You may also like my article about Punctuation in dialog – a way to put emphasis How long does it take to sell a script?

A not very inspiring, but maybe healthy look upon the situation you find at

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The missing testicles

I've painted myself into a corner.

And it is all because a pair of testicles.

I have this supporting character with a handicap, which is not to his favor in the world where he lives.

He gets gravely beaten up, but by a writer's whim he gets castrated as well. Much great symbolism is found in this act that fitted my story perfectly. And I have read what I have written and it does work incredibly well.

Later in the story this supporting character will make an attempt to rape.

Problem one: I must make sure that the audience gets how much of his parts that were taken; as my research taught me, removing the testicles does not result into a big and grave wound, physically, but I have written it otherwise, like everything where cut off.

Problem two: will that part that is left work? I researched and found that it was likely that the interest of using it would be much less.

What a rapist my guy turned out to be.

But then there is my biggest problem: he was supposed to become a father! This is an important image. It is an acceptance of his handicap.

On the other hand, by castrating him in the beginning of the story, I show who little it would be accepted that he - with a handicap - becomes a father.

As I've said: I’ve painted myself into a corner.

There is hope though. I’ve written this. By specifying the problem “on paper” my brain starts to work with the problem (for some reason) instead of whining about it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sofluid: Screenwriting - career or hobby

Michelle at Sofluid has written a great blog entry about the way you look upon and handle your screenwriting career. You should read it here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Inspiration is always mysteriously beautiful

A new idea for a script came to me yesterday.

Today I put up an empty beat sheet on the refrigerator door, adding my key points so far.

I still find it pretty amazing the way an idea becomes something ready to be written. I mean, what comes to be is an image, a situation. I don’t have a clue about theme, what I want to tell with it, nothing. It is just a few scattered scenes.

With the help of a beat sheet and mindmapping I fill the many gaps (grand canyons really). And suddenly the scenes are in a context and I’ve got a story.

I’m not there yet, but I will.

Tabbleau de Licorne - Style onyrique - Acrylique sur toile 550x460
Paiting by Galetoiles
Used under the Attribution 3.0 Unported License
Edited by the writer

Friday, July 3, 2009

To cope with the need for narration

I’ve always felt that narration shouldn't be needed in a movie.

Sometimes it is justified to have a quick narrated intro but I rarely see the point in narrate the whole story.

I’ve seen movies with this kind of voice over and couldn’t been able to understand why they didn’t shoot it differently instead.

Well, I just got an explanation to that:

"I still don’t know if it was because of undetected glitches in Glazer’s script or because of Cuarón’s ceaseless reworking of the script, but the connective tissue that linked the story was sorely lost. It became apparent that we would have to supply narration […] to the final cut."

Art Linson
"What just happend? Bitter Hollywood tales from the front line"

Isn’t this kind of a tragedy?

You film and cut it together, only to realize that no one’s dream is fulfilled, but rather the opposite: it doesn’t work at all.

You have a great script written by a great writer and an equally great director that loves the project. But the outcome isn’t.

The director has dreams that the money gained for the project does not pay, feeling his movie is destroyed. The writer sees his script ruined by endless rewrites during filming. The producer sees a situation that does not work, but it is too late to start over.

It makes me wonder how many dreams that are fulfilled versus how many that are ruined. If I get my great masterpiece sold, am I likely to face tragedy rather than joy when production is finished?

How will I cope to get my story narrated?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How not to start a screenplay: Blake Snyder's Worst 250 Word Contest

This is my 250-word contribution to Blake Snyder's the Worst 250 word contest. Winners are announced the 9th of July.

It is followed by my analysis why it is a horrible start for a script.


Outside two elephants walk by as our main character Tonja Safari Svensson drinks her coffee with two lumps of sugar that she first tosses in the air before catching them in her cup. Opposite her sits her former boyfriend and also ex-coach Rick “Phone” Davis who desperately tries to figure out a way to leave this conversation.

I’m not interested in becoming maid for your girlfriend at your wedding.

ZOOM IN ON RICK’S HANDS (that moves very nervously on the table).

I understand if you have problem with that but I ask you to do it for me.


I don’t want to do it for you. You can’t force me. And if you do, I’ll come in jeans.

What do you want me to do then? She does not have any friends. She needs a maid of honor at least.

The waitress at the café comes up to the table. She is a tall woman in her twenties with glasses on her nose.

You seem to have love problems. How about some more coffee?


He is having problems. He is getting married to my cousin whom I known all my life and not to me as I thought he would a year ago.

Tonja suddenly realizes what a bastard Rick is and rises suddenly and leaves without a word.

So, why is this a bad start?

First the headline: “AT A CAFÉ IN A SMALL VILLAGE IN UTAH”.
Always start with INT or EXT telling the reader if this is inside (interior) or outside (external). If the scene is in e g a car where you are inside, but the outside is relevant, INT/EXT is proper.

It is the first scene and the only thing we see is that it is a café. We can’t tell that it is in a small village and even less that it is in Utah.

Then it is a good thing to add DAY or NIGHT at the end. If it is important and result in something visible, MORNING and EVENING could be relevant.

So INT. CAFÉ – DAY it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

“Outside two elephants walk by as…”
No, no, no. This is nothing but a desperate way to get attention.

“…our main character Tonja Safari Svensson…”
Our? Don’t address the reader directly.

You don’t tell who is the main character; that is something the reader has to figure out for him/herself. If you write well, it won’t be a problem.

Always capitalize the name of the character first time mentioned.

Also consider the name "Tonja". Why not the more common "Tonya"?

“…drinks her coffee with two lumps of sugar that she first tosses in the air before catching them in her cup.”
Is this something we see? Or has she already tossed the lumps? If we see her toss the lumps then it should be in a reversed order, like “tosses [..] catching [..] drinks…” If we don’t see it, remove it completely.

“Opposite her sits her former boyfriend and also ex-coach…”
We can’t see that he is her former boyfriend and ex-coach. He will only be any guy to the viewer at this point.

“…Rick 'Phone' Davis…”
Should be capitalized since it is first mentioning, and the nickname “Phone” is not a good idea. Don’t make it difficult for the reader who might confuse the guy with someone on the phone, or an actual phone.

“…who desperately tries to figure out a way to leave this conversation.”
We can’t see what people thinks or wants. And so far we don’t even know they are having a conversation.

If we correct all mistakes we got:

TONJA SAFARI SVENSSON and RICK DAVIS sit opposite each other. Tonja drinks coffee.

Not very thrilling. It is dull and no brilliant writing.

Adding a bit about their looks and appearance there is at least a result that will make the reader get passed the first page.

TONJA, a worn blond and blue-eyed twenty-year-old, sips her coffee, stone-faced. RICK DAVIS, a beaming charmer in her own age, leans across the table, touching her hand…

“I’m not interested in becoming maid for your girlfriend at your wedding.”
Spot on the nose. We dive right into their discussion; they know what they are talking about. It is much more likely that she just says “I’m not interested” or “I said no” or don’t say anything at all, just moving herself away from his touch.

No camera directions at this stage of the draft.

Note that both Rick and Phone are used in the script. A character should have the same name throughout the whole script. There are exceptions, but this is not one of those.

“…(that moves very nervously on the table).”
If this is needed for the story, this should be written in the action lines. But likely that is something that should be omitted and up to the actor and director.

The dialog is overall overly informative and also lacks character.

“The waitress at the café comes up to the table. She is a tall woman in her twenties with glasses on her nose.”
Capitalize “waitress”. Unless she is an important character, don’t waste space describing her.

And if she appears only for Tonja to spill yet another on-the-nose line, skip her completely.

TONJA, a worn blond and blue-eyed twenty-year-old, sips her coffee, stone-faced. RICK DAVIS, a beaming charmer in her own age, leans across the table, touching her hand.

Tonja moves, avoiding him.

What do you want me to do then?

Why ask me?

She hasn’t got any friends.

And I certainly ain’t going to become one.

She rises and leaves the café.

What do you think?