Friday, February 26, 2010

Just Effing Entertain Me: Do You Have Talent?

I know, this blog entry on Just Effing Entertain Me is close to old (18th of Feburary), but I found that it lingered in my mind.

Julie Gray writes about Talent.

She asks:
“Can talent be taught or are you just born with it? Have you got it? How do you know?”

Then she writes a list with things that might tell that you have a natural writing talent and a list with indications that you don’t.

Now, to be frank and bold, I feel I have a writing talent, no matter what Julie Gray may think. But I must admit I got rather pleased when I her criteria for writing talent actually matched me quite well.

“You have been writing from a very early age and have always delighted parents, teachers, friends and relatives with what you wrote. You started to believe them and kept writing. It was a thrill.”

“You obsess over words – you love to define and understand them. You will stop writing something for 20 minutes until you find just the perfect word for that sentence. Then you’ll change it six more times before you’re satisfied.”

“You freak out when other people use or spell words incorrectly.”

“You are never satisfied with your writing; you’re pretty sure you suck.”

This is pretty much me. (Except that when I write I am very satisfied with the result. It is later, when it’s done and I get some distance I’m sure it sucks.)

Gee, I got a Writing Talent!

But then I looked at the list indicating that I don’t have this asset.

“You compare writing to needing to breathe. You make much of this, wear a beret and have a poster of Ernest Hemingway in your bedroom.”

Well. . . I used to. Not a beret and Ernest Hemingway of course because we have Swedish national treasures, but the same spirit.

“You ask other people if they liked your writing. This does not embarrass you.”

“You are convinced that you will rush to the top of the heap once your talent is recognized and think bitterly about the fact that it hasn’t yet happened. This fundamental unfairness bothers you a great deal.”

This was me too. When I was younger.

And it was this that made me think and finally write this blog entry.

These are not lists indicating lack or presence of Writing Talent. They are lists pinpointing the maturity in your writing process.

If Talent is something you are born with, something that Julie Gray believes, then I must have had Talent when I was bitter about that nobody had discovered me and I compared writing to breathing too. I was just in another phase than now.

I was told I had a knack for writing when I was a kid. It took me years to realize that this talent alone would not bring me fortune and glory, but hard work might do the trick. My guess is that many writers go through this process.

Considering this, I think it is most unfair of Julie Gray to claim that someone behaving immature and believing they are Gods in their writing, simply don’t have talent for writing.

The writer may not achieve anything in this state, but if he/she passes through this phase as I did, the writing will probably approve and reach heights unthought-of.

All quotations are taken from the blog entry by Julie Gray

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

About formatting rules

When I started to write movie script I thought the formatting rules ridiculous.

Pretty soon it became obvious that I looked like a major amateur when I wrote in Times Roman. So I switched to Courier and tried to apply the formatting rules in MS Word.

Then as time went by I learned to understand why things looked the way it did. Formatting is there to make it easy to read, not to become a problem for the writer.

But as long as I used MS Word they would be a problem, because I had to think about formatting for every line I wrote; hence the investment in Final Draft.

So when I get questions about formatting, or get situations myself that is not obvious how to format, I think about how it will be the easiest reading.

And in this stage it is a question about reading, not about camera positions or cutting. This is not a shooting script. This is a script for reading, to catch the reader (who hopefully is a producer ready to pay if he/she likes it).

So, I have a situation where my main character watches a movie on the TV. Certain things in this movie are of interest, yet it is he who watches the movie, not we, the audience.

How do I format this in the right way? Is there a right way?

I made it simple. I wrote it in one scene. Him watching and what he saw. I felt that this resulted in the easy reading I was looking for.

I could have cut it up in several little scenes: Him watching – Scene from movie – Him watching. But I felt that this could be a source of misunderstandings.

This is how I interpreter the rules.

The formatting rules that I once thought ridiculous has settled in my mind. They are not just rules any longer. They are tools. Understand the rules and they no longer hinder you but help.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What is imagination?

What is imagination?

It is the ability to make up situations that not are.

It could be used to consider what will happen if you balance on the back of a chair. Or the other way around: to make him happy you’ll need to give him a hug.

You don’t know if the chair will fall and you break your bones, just as little as you know that he will be happy if you give him a hug, but your imagination tells you that it is likely.

Imagination can cause different types of psychological modes like claustrophobia which people who has not experienced this can’t understand, because nothing is really happening, it’s “only” imagination.

It could also be a door to other worlds and other realities. Some people use this to write stories and paint pictures, others disappear into their mental creations.

I read somewhere about a study made on historic writers which came to the conclusion that a majority of the females were slightly crazy. Not the males. Only the females.

It is of course always dangerous to come to conclusions about a mental state for someone you have never met and been dead for hundreds years, living under different circumstances.

But yet the question is interesting. Is imagination some form of mental illness? Is imagination beyond “if I balances on the back of a chair”-problems something abnormal?

I can create stories, hear a dialog between my fictional characters, and see the hero hide the treasure somewhere. For me it is an asset that’s always been there. It’s a gift.

But for others imagination can just as much be a curse.

Am I balancing on an edge here? Could I lose this? Could it turn the other way and make me crazy?

What is imagination?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Forces of Nature

I was standing to my waist in snow.

Like a stubborn mule or a robot on autopilot I tried to cross the field with my soon three-year-old on our way to pre-school. “Everybody” crosses that field to get to the bus.

It has however fallen a huge amount of snow this winter and the plough car uses the area at the end of the bus stop as pileup for snow. Our way this morning was blocked by a wide barrier of snow, higher than I was tall.

I tried to found my way around this obstacle. And then I don’t mean I took the “long” route on the sidewalks around the block, but around the pile of snow.

It was then I found that the ditch was covered with snow.

“I can’t walk here, mommy” my son said, towering above me on more safe grounds than me.
“That makes two of us” I replied and managed to forge myself up from my ridiculous position.

Once passed, I faced the field. Not a single footprint. No path.

It was Monday morning I recalled. The snowstorm had been this weekend. Who in the heck takes the shortcut to the bus unless it is weekday and you are in a hurry, when you have to walk through close to knee-deep snow? Of course we would be one of the first to cross it.

I don’t mind snow. I love snow. I’m excited to feel the forces of nature.

Yet, I had acted like there was no snow.

A fluffy down jacket, a three year old, a half eaten banana and a bag was just too much. Or too few arms with too little muscles.

I felt stupid and inadequate when we crossed that field, him wailing and me angry.

Sweet and tender moms in aprons with flowers and hands full of freshly baked buns only exist when it’s summer.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It’s not a story about dancing elephants

”ERG” has a problem. A huuuge problem.

It is too short.

Not just a little short. But all too short. Really, it is.

I’ve written 29 pages. I should have entered act two and started the B-story and “fun-‘n’-games”.

That’s done. A long time ago.

I’m in the middle of the story! My Ultimate Happy moment, my Point of No Return, will be on the next page!

That is a huuuge problem.

I’m not writing a feature. I’m writing a short.

A damn good one hour short.

Who in the heck want to make a one hour movie?!? It’s not a story about dancing elephants suited for animation.

I’ll write it though. It’s no point in not writing it down. But it is sort of a huuuge drawback.

Image by the writer

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ordinary Family Life

I got to learn to write at home in ordinary family life.

I can’t afford to “lose” four days like this. I’ve got a deadline. Yes, a deadline! I am on a quest for a Golden Fleece and then I got a deadline.

My Golden Fleece is the Nicholl Fellowship. My gate to a year of financial independence. A gate to try what I’m dreaming of: see if I can support myself on my writings.

I got this one chance each year.

And as the deadline comes closer I feel I start to panic.

Because I don’t want to wait another year just because I didn’t finish the script in time.

Because I have a dream.

So I must learn to write at home in ordinary family life.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm always in the mood

The best part is starting the script.

Then I’m confident. The story is every writer’s dream and my writing has reached unknown heights.

After that it is a rocky path.

Now, at this moment, “ERG” will become way too short and feels very far from any Oscar while “The Beautymaker” will be perfect.

At least one will be perfect.

Not long ago I wrote that I loved writing on “ERG” and felt the opposite about “The Beautymaker”.

Yesterday I opened “ERG” in Final Draft and wrote the final lines ending the scene. Then nothing more happened.

I left the document open while I worked and discovered hours later that I hadn’t thought of anything more to write.

But, I still think it is a great idea to have two parallel projects. They are so different, and it feels like I’m always in the mood to write on any of them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

But a spaceship take you even further

Talking about imagination, as a kid I once wrote a story in school about me flying a spaceship. I stranded on a planet without fuel, but found that if I poured tea over the local rocks they turned into flames. I put the rocks into the outburst, poured a pot of tea over, jumped into my spaceship and continued on my journey.

I wonder where that imagination went away.

Not that the story ever sounded likely in my ears, but I wrote it anyway, because it was fun.

And I was a kid.

Nowadays it all has to be so very plausible.

On the verge to blocking fresh ideas.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Skill will only take you so far

I don’t mind writing assignments. It doesn’t need to be my own idea.

Sometimes this makes me feel I don’t have any ideas left. That all I can do is taking hold of other’s imagination.

And that makes me think if my grandmother.

My grandmother used to paint porcelain. She painted vases, plates, bottles and pots. And did so beautifully. She also painted in oil and had some of her work framed and hung on the wall of their home.

But not a single motif was her own.

She always saved images that could be used and copied them in detail. The closest thing I can remember her doing by herself was leaving out the rear end of a bus existing on the original that didn’t suit her image.

She had all the skill, but not the mind.

For me it’s weird kind of comfort to think of this.

All ideas start with some form incitement. It could be an image, an overheard conversation, or a dream at night. Or someone asking if I could do a story about a tram that decides to become a boat and elopes.

It is good to be reminded that even if the idea comes from someone else, like it does in a writing assignment, I don’t receive an image to copy in detail. The final motif will be my own doing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Index cards vs mind mapping

Many writers use index cards when they plan structure. Read more here and here.

I am one of those who don’t use them. It simply didn’t work for me.

One reason was I didn’t want my plot left back at home on a cork board. Another one was my need to spill too much on the poor little paper.

I tried to use post-it notes on a big paper which I could bring along everywhere. Might have worked, except for the fact that folding the big paper made the post-it notes come loose.

And yes, I knew I was supposed to write just the basics on the index card, but I needed to write the rest of the ideas concerning this particular event. And I wanted it on the same place.

I need to write things down. Not as much of not forgetting, but to be able let it go and leave room for more. Writing things down is for me a way to develop my story. It’s like a queue; I remove the first to see the next.

So what do I do?

I mind map.

And to make things readable, understandable and editable I use a computer program. The one I use is called FreeMind, a freeware program. What makes this program so great is that I can do everything with the keys. Once I learned the keys it is just to type and fill it up.

So I can make a structure branch, add nodes under it with the basic structure and continue from there to add ideas and general thinking. In the same map I can add my ideas about characters, questions, research needed and what is done, all things. Perfect for me.

When it gets to big, it is time to divide it into smaller, more specific mind maps. I have one for characters, one for structure and so on.

This is a method that works for me.

You have to find what works for you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Grammatically dumbfounded

I was once again grabbing my “Grammatically Correct” by Anne Stilman. It adds so much to my writing. Yet, it is not ideal reading on the morning bus to work. But better read a sleepy morning than not at all.

It was about subject and plural forms. Something I thought I knew pretty well by now. My, my, I had still much to learn.

Example sentences below are from “Grammatically Correct” by Anne Stilman.

“Her understanding and attention span have improved greatly.”

“Have” and not “has”. Fine, I agree. “Understanding” – one. “Attention” – two. Two subjects = plural, “have”.

“Drinking and driving is a crime.”
A compound subject. It’s not drinking or driving as separate things, but the combination = singular, “is”.

Then it started to become tricky.

“Either Zeke or his parents are going to attend.”

“Either Zeke’s parents or his sister is going to attend.”

“Parents” are plural, “sister” is singular and it is the closest that sets the form. Oh, dear. I had no idea.

And then the sentence came that really made me look like a bird house.

“Whether a relationship between these events actually exists and if so whether it is causal remain to be shown.”

Why “remain” and not “remains”? It is “a relationship” – one. It is about one relationship between two or more events. Or is it about a relationship that might exists – one, and whether or not it is causal – two?

Please help me out here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

TotalFilm: 600 Movie Blogs You Might Have Missed has a list named “600 Movie Blogs You Might Have Missed”. Guess whose blog you find there, on page seven. . . Yupp. You’ll find mine.

They comment the list with:
“If our recent Blog Awards taught us anything, it's that there are a lot of Movie Blogs out there, many of which don't get the kind of publicity and traffic their passionate and largely unpaid writers deserve.

We did a little digging, and came up with a pretty damned comprehensive list of blogs for you to browse and bookmark...”

They think my blog deserve more attention. . . Wow. I know, one of six hundred, but still, if they picked out six hundred blogs, they must have browsed through a lot more. I mean, honestly, the script I sent to a contest last year didn’t make it so far.

Although my blog is found on page seven new readers has actually found their way to my blog. I hope they like what they find and return.

More bloggers among the 600

I am also happy to announce that several of the blogs I follow are on the list as well.
Scriptwriting in the UK
Mystery Man
The Unknown Screenwriter
Screenwriting from Iowa
Go Into the Story
Writing for Performance
Eibon Films

I hope I haven't missed anyone.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The angels have stopped singing

I really try to make my characters less angels.

At least my main character used to carry a brightly shining halo, blinding everybody and making the paper of the script white as angel wings.

Not good.

There is nothing to change if the character is perfect from the start. And aren’t saints very boring in their goodness?

I think I have succeeded this time. To give them flaws, I mean.

And the dialog, yes I do feel I have made great improvements.

Usually I live in a bubble when I write. But this time I feel much less of this. Why and if this is good or bad is hard to tell for sure.

But I do know that the bubble tended to make the script shine like a halo, blinding me. I hope to see things with more realistic eyes this time.