Monday, November 30, 2009

I’m working on a big painting, sort of

I haven’t named my characters yet.

So my mindmaps and my outlines are filled with different codes for the characters. Main character quickly became MC; “boyfriend” was too long to write every time and turned into “BF”.

The funniest of all these is EX which was MC’s Ex-girlfriend, but as the story developed she no longer is an ex, but still EX for clarity in all notes.

It is quite relaxed and joyful to not have names on the characters quite yet.

They are still more like objects. Like there is nothing to fall in love with and need to kill later.

It’s like I’m working on a big painting and make sure the rough sketch is in place and fills the frame nicely before I start with the next level of details.

There is a lot of work behind a feature script and honestly I just hate to start over because I began with the details in the bottom-right corner before I had the whole basic drawing in place. To me it’s like a great, needless waste of time and kills my passion.

So, it is not a matter of distancing myself from the characters I create. It is more like working in layers, taking one layer at the time for the whole story before starting with the next.

A name is a detail. An important detail. A detail I want to fit the whole picture.

Then I got to know the whole picture first.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Find a way to outline the story

I can’t say that the story in “The Beautymaker” has made a revolutionary jump or that I fully know what message I want to bring to the world with “ERG”, but I’ve decided to continue with both stories.

First of all, I read all the notes and mindmaps for “The Beautymaker” and it’s not that bad. The story is not absent. It’s not stunning, but it’s not horrible either. It needs development, but it’s not a hopeless case.

I also feel I truly want to try to work with two parallel projects. I want to see if it helps me. I feel confident enough with both stories to not favor one and leave the other behind.

Now I will take them both to the next stage and start to write an outline.

Outline them my way, without limitations. Find a form that suits me.

Last time I wrote purpose and goals for each scene in this stage, but I don’t think I will do that this time. I’m not sure.

Now I feel I want to write the story in some short form, to get some feeling for what works and what doesn’t. In the end I want more or less a list of scenes needed and their content in raw material.

It’s not only about developing the stories. It is just as much about developing the way I work.

I love to write. I feel a great urge to write. And I want to find a way to do this as much and as splendid as possible.

Screenshot from the game "Uru: Ages Beyond Myst"
showing part of the Eder Kemo Age
Copyright: Ubisoft
Released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I have a story, but no good reason to tell it

I was hoping that I should feel just as much for both my projects. And that I would be able to keep them both in the same stage.

Now my confidence on that point questions me.

“ERG” feels great. My “dude with a problem”-story develops nicely. Characters, story, yes I have every assurance I need there.

But my “Beautymaker”… I’m not that sure. It’s a “rites of passage”-story. I think. “I think”. I can’t say that I know. It still feels like I’m missing something.

In the first case I have a story, but no real reason to tell it.

In the second case I have my reason, but no story.

I think that concludes it pretty well.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You perceived it wrong!

I can’t help to compare two different reactions I’ve received when I gave negative critique to two persons’ books.

The first was from Robert Hartwell Fiske when I had written some less flattering words about his book “The Dictionary of Disagreeable English”. The second was my review of “Writing Drama” of Yves Lavandier, neither this one positive.

I have no idea how Robert Hartwell Fiske found my blog, but he sent me an e-mail asking if I was interested in becoming his friend on Facebook and then receive some free classes.

Considering my negative critique, I e-mailed back, referred to what I had written and asked something like if he had given this offer to the right person.

His answer was that he had read it and I was free to feel anyway I liked about his books, but that I obviously was interested in improving my English and that was what he was offering to help me with.

Opposed to my contact at the publishing company of “Writing Drama” who told me she was disappointed with me, that I had a unique negative opinion, and even tried to prove some of my statements wrong.

Now, of course, in this last case I had been given the book for free to review it, but there had been no obligations to give a positive review.

I don’t know how Robert Hartwell Fiske felt about my plump “like it was written by a grumpy and bitter old man”-statement, but he let me have the rights to my own views; he didn’t try to tell me that I thought wrong.

And that I think is vital. For both parts.

If I tell someone that he or she perceived the wrong things, I deny that person the rights to his/hers whole personality. Because the reason that he/she perceived it the way he/she did is based on this unique persons whole life.

I also deny myself the opportunity to get some valuable feedback. Because, in the end, if someone is to blame for the “wrong” view, it is me, the writer, never the reader.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Before I start writing

How do I know how much of a mindmap and a beat-sheet that is fulfilled?

I’m thinking of my progress bars to the left where I say that a certain amount of mindmapping and beatsheeting is done.

Well, I don’t.

It is an estimation. A very personal estimation. A reminder for me to hold my horses and not start writing just yet.

Probably I am closer to writing than what the progress bar says, but I want to hold back as long as possible.

I don’t want to get stuck on the third act again.

Writers work differently. I function best if I have things properly planned before I write. I need to have the time to bring up different aspects and questions, to find the glitches. And the opportunities.

I want to get to the final “the end” and have a readable script. Not perfect, but readable.

If I don’t plan, I’m likely to get stuck and don’t get to “the end” at all, like with “Sunlight”. It worked fine, until the third act, which I had not planned fully (or likely missed things throughout the story).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Grown-ups need a special magic word

I was five or six years old and walked together with my mother a warm summer’s day.

We got to a lake where kids were swimming and playing. I didn’t have a swimsuit with me but my mother agreed that dipping my feet was no problem.

I kicked off my shoes and socks and walked out on a wooden pier and sat down, by myself, dangling with my feet in the cool water, while my mother sat down on a bench nearby.

It didn’t take long before a worried grown-up appeared beside me, asking if I could swim. “No,” I replied. “Well” the troubled grown-up said “the water is deep here.” And then he left.

I looked down into the black water.

Deep for me was deeeep. Not just deeper than I was tall. It was Ocean-deep.

And since I had no intention of getting into the water, and still this grown-up was so worried, then the deep water in itself must be dangerous. Like it could jump up and engulf me.

Suddenly I felt uncomfortable and walked back to my mother, telling her I wanted to continue.

Completely unaware of my fright for this lake, my parents put me in a swimming class practicing here. I was a terrible and difficult pupil who refused to be in deeper water than to my waste.

Once after class my parents tempted me with a little extra money, if I walked along the pier, in the water, until I got my shoulders wet. This, of course, with the intention that I would see that there were nothing to be afraid of after all.

I was terrified, walked a small step of the time, into deeper and deeper water, completely prepared that the bottom of the lake would suddenly disappear below my feet. At the end of the pier, my shoulders were still above the water. I bent my knees, dipped my shoulders and rushed back up.

Nothing learned. Deep water was still dangerous.

I did not learn to swim that summer.

I don’t blame my parents for any of this. I could not put words on my fright and discomfort with this lake until I was grown-up. How should they have known then?

The fright for deep waters followed me. Every year I was one of the few who didn’t pass the obligatory swimming test in school. Not because I couldn’t swim – because I finally learned that by my mother, in a shallow swimming pool – but because I refused to swim when the water got deep.

When I finally learned to handle 1.8 meter deep water, the deepest area in the pool, the tests moved to another place. A pool with jumping tower and 5 meter deep water. The one time I knew I was going to pass the test I had to do it in a deeeep pool.

When I swam my meters on my back looking up into the ceiling high above me (due to the jumping tower) and could not get out of my mind that I had just as much under me I simply freaked out.

I’ve returned to the scary, black lake to swim as a grown-up, to get rid of some ghosts.

It wasn’t Ocean-deep where I sat that time as a kid. It was probably less than the 1.8 meters I finally managed to handle.

Now, as a parent myself, I think of that kind grown-up who showed such care for me, but succeeded to make me terrified for deep water. How little I as a grown-up really can understand of what is going on in the heads of my kids. And how unlikely it is that I will ever find the magic words to cure what ever frights they will get.

But if they ever get fright for deep waters, I might have a clue.

Fashion model underwater in dolphin tank, Marineland, Florida
Toni Frissell Collection
Similar image published in Vogue, October 1939
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Friday, November 20, 2009

Are rules in script writing for good or for evil?

What types of stories am I working on now?

The late Blake Snyder claimed that there are only ten types of stories. Which of these fit my two stories?

Now, one must halt and consider: Am I writing a template script when I need to ask this question? I would say no, and yet… yes.

To say that it becomes a template script because it follows given rules is harsh. There are plenty of excellent movies out there who all fit into any of the ten types, and also match Syd Field’s ideas about structure.

But of course it is healthy to once in awhile inspect if I feel I’m limiting myself and my stories by the rules.

I do however feel that I am doing the right thing.

Let’s say I write a story about a monster eating humans. I’ve figured this story out all by myself and write it down as my new masterpiece, thinking that reading anything about this type of story would ruin my intentions.

I would not be the first writing a story about a monster eating humans. And with the attitude about not examine earlier work in the genre, I would likely miss that this type of story only works if the humans cannot leave the area. Maybe I would even miss that it is quite vital that this monster must be caused by humans, one way or another.

These rules are built from simple analysis which movies worked and which didn’t.

As long as I feel that the stories I write fit into any of the ten types Blake Snyder listed, then I will use the experiences of previous works to explore and enhance my own fabulous work.

So, where was I? Oh, yes: what types of stories am I working on now?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

So, is it a man or a woman, this fellow?

One thing I just love to do when I'm working with an idea is to switch the character’s sexes.

If my first impulse is to make a character a man I halt and consider “why a man?” I do the same with female characters.

If my first impulse to make “the director” a man is because male directors are more common, he turns into a she.

It is soooo easy to assume male and female parts. Men do this and women that. Why enhance this by writing scripts that embrace this illusion? See this blog entry.

Alright, I might get a woman behaving like a bulldozer – which is far less accepted than a male bulldozer – but I prefer that before having all women behaving as expected (which almost always have something to do with looks and beauty).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Directing my own stories?

Why am I not interested in directing?

Comfort, laziness and fright I guess.

If I was about to direct a short movie of my own, in what situation do I put myself? I need to find money, actors, props, locations, equipment and crew.

If I had started doing my own movies with dad’s Super8-camera when I was a kid, I would probably love the idea of organizing all this by now. But in my dreams I was to become a writer, of books, novels. So it never crossed my mind to do any filming.

Besides, I’ve never been a person with a wide network of people. I enjoy my solitude. To constantly be on the run, organizing and networking is simply not me.

Animations, yes, that I would like to do. If I felt I had the time. If I have fifteen minutes here and there, I can write, just like that, but when it comes to animation it takes fifteen minutes to get it all started and recognize where I left off last time. I need hours at a time to work on an animation. And those hours simply does not exist in my life right now.

My dad filmed a lot and I was always around when he was cutting it together. Then the VHS had its big breakthrough with its accessibility, but also worse quality and close to no options of cutting and editing. That killed my father’s interest before mine had the time to get a proper start.

Now it is a completely different story. Now it is editable in a computer. And I just love working with our home videos. But it will stay with that.

I love to write. That is what I want to do.

If nobody was interested in my scripts, I had more likely changed media, than start filming on my own.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I just met eleven potential directors

Last Friday night I attended a speed-dating-mingle-party for moviemakers.

The speed-dating was a way to introduce directors with other professionals within the industry. Four minutes, then I moved to the next table.

After eleven tables (eleven directors) it was time for mingle.

As this was the first try of this kind of arrangement, it quickly turned out that when it came to the “mingle” part they had something to change to the next time. Because close to everybody kept their seats. Which left me and a few others standing somewhat confused. Mingle simply does not work if not everybody are standing.

Never the less I enjoyed the evening.

Not that I dislike my ordinary colleagues, but it was great to meet people of another kind. Everybody around me plays computer games, have kids, play golf or jog. Though everybody is unique, it is a surprisingly homogenous group of people.

That Friday I meat people outside that group. People who didn’t care for computer games, didn’t talk about their kids and kept their sporting habits to themselves. I met women who wore legwarmers and colorful hairdos. There were soft guys!

As I introduced myself over and over I met different kind of reactions. Mostly I felt their amazement about the fact that I spent the last eight years writing in English. Of course I got questions about how I succeeded in finding an American producer without living there, but when I said that he found me, through my blog, it was not the expected answer.

As I’ve noted before there are not many pure scriptwriters in Sweden. As it was eight years ago when I started to write in English, it still is today: directors write their own scripts.

One director seemed to ponder what use she would have of a scriptwriter – photographer, yes; make-up, yes – but a scriptwriter?

Another one could not understand why I didn’t have the ambition to direct my own stories. She wouldn’t dream of just leaving her stories to somebody else. And, well, from a Swedish point of view at least, that is a justified question.

I can't say that I felt that this meeting will lead to any work on my home area. It was a very interesting and joyful evening anyway. And gave me few more Facebook friends.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The impassable obstacle in the third act

What is it with me and third acts?

I know where the story starts. I know how it ends. I’ve figured out the Point of No Return (or as I like to think about it – the ultimate happiness moment). And the All Is Lost is there as well.

How can it them be so problematic to get something happening in the third act?

In my resting project Sunlight I also had problems with the third act. The main character had already changed. He had already proved his worthy. Not much left to tell then, is it?

Script gurus like Syd Field and the late Blake Snyder tell about the importance to have a close to impassable obstacle in the way of the character to achieve his/hers goal.

I like to think about the finale as the time the main character passes all the tests and proves his/her worthy.

Both approaches point in the same direction: If I had had a clear goal for the main character, I would not have a problem with the third act.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mind mapping a movie script

As I’ve mentioned I’m working with mind mapping on my two parallel projects.

The great advantages compared to my beat sheet on paper is that one, it is on a computer (which is neater than a large paper) and two, the discussions, the questions and such are kept together with the structure.

I’ve got one branch called structure where I’ve added the Blake Snyder beat sheet as a mind map tree. Then there is one branch for the characters and several branches discussing different parts of the story.

I’ve not found the ultimate form for this yet – it’s too much to ask for – but it’s likely to become a tool I will use more often.

My problem right now is that my mind maps are becoming really large.

I think it would be a good idea to split them up to several. At least when I’ve been working on an idea long enough and I’m getting down to something more than a rough sketch.

What I like with the beat sheet on physical paper is the feeling for the length of the story and also the ability to easily draw arrows and others less letterized notes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It is just too much right now

Right now there is a situation at work that affects me in a very negative way. It’s not about the mood I get into, but the annoying idea my brain has about making up quarrels.

It’s like it prepares arguments with people. Arguments that will likely not take place, since we all try to behave like decent people.

And my brain has a terrible problem with letting the current fight go.

There are so many things I would like to say to some people right now. But there are several valid reasons why I shouldn’t.

But my brain keeps processing anyway. It makes me sick-n-tired of listen to this endless, pointless rabble.

Some people probably say I should settle this conflict by taking it on. Yes, in most cases I would agree.

This is however not one of those cases. It is complicated and nothing to ventilate on this blog.

I can only do my best to move the focus of this very creative mind of mine from destructive made-up quarrels to writing before it starts eating itself.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The screenwriter's final drafts

The two short scripts have been accepted.

Something I have written will be produced.


It is an extraordinary feeling in many ways. Right now I’m amazed at the fact that my job is done.

The rest is not up to me.

I can’t say that I want to direct and produce myself, but it is definitely an odd feeling to leave the work before it’s done.

But it is done. My part of it.

This is where I let go.

I know my scripts are in good hands. It’s just that I wasn’t fully prepared for the loss. The scripts were ready, but I wasn’t.

All I can do now is watch. And enjoy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's.... ALIVE!!!

I just love to feel my brain alive.

This may sound silly, but I’ve had a period where I’ve felt it’s been like calling into an empty cave.

Now, suddenly if I spend a thought at one of the new projects and the next second I have solved a problem or shaped a character or something else.

I remember a reflection I did as a child that it felt like my mind had layers, different levels of thinking.

I remember this very clearly because some of the layers were talking – or rather having an argument – and I (what ever I is in this case) dived into the debate from the top and the bottom layers.

Make any sense?

Not likely.

Never mind.

Anyway, I’m up and running with two new ideas and that feels great.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two parallel projects - do they solve the problem?

I’ve been brainstorming around my two new projects with the help of a program called FreeMind.

I’m amazed at how much help a good functional program gives; when it’s just to enter your ideas (in this case) without fuss. A rare experience.

Another pleasant amazement is the feeling of a brain in coma starting up and get to work and simply scream to me “oh, don’t stop now! I want more to process!”

My sweet little Swedish angel in my old version of “the Beautymaker” turns into a seductive, bitter bitch. My villain in “ERG” is suddenly an interesting surprise.

As it is now at this early stage “ERG” has more attention. I will however work with both at the same time. I want to see if it helps periods of stuckness in one project to have another project at the same stage.

You see, when I’m in my writing phase in a script, I want to write. But now when I got stuck, I had nothing else to write. And the need to write was so strong, that the pure thought to take a break and start working with another idea was repulsive.

If I have two parallel projects, maybe I won’t have that problem.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I've had some dark hours

Finally I have to admit that I am stuck with my “Sunlight” script.

I’ve read it through and it is absolutely stunningly great.

But stuck in mud. Deep, heavy and sticky mud.

I’ve decided to put it in resting mode and dive into two other ideas. One new and one old.

“ERG” (the real title tells too much) and “The Beautymaker” (my third feature script – horrible).

I have to keep moving.

I know that one day “Sunlight” will lift itself out of the mud and I’ll fly on its wings, but it's not today.

Today I'll enjoy the green spring in my mind, following new, less muddy roads.