Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy characters in movies

My previous blog entry got some interesting comments on Facebook. My intention was to call for more interesting characters than having everybody with dark secrets and depressing childhoods. It doesn’t necessary meant that they have to be jolly-jolly-happy, but I throw out a question if happy characters were possible.

The comments I got concluded that it isn’t.

Janne Ahnberg writes:
“I ask myself what would have made the happy person complex. He or she might of course be genetically inclined. But my gut feeling is that a person genetically disposed for complication, is generally not a happy person. My wife has a thesis ...stating that if you want to meet an interesting or breathtaking person, it will be a hell of a ride because of the fact that interesting people have so many facets contrasting each other, that they can't form a harmonious over all picture. I tend to believe her, especially as it excuses my own way of being.”

I’ve been thinking about this. What is a happy person? I refuse to see things and individuals as digital objects. The world is not black or white. And to be even more metaphoric, both white and black include every color there is. I believe that an optimistic person could be as complex as pessimistic.

I feel that happy is more a matter of attitude, than an overall state every day of the year. You take on life with a positive attitude, you expect people to be nice and you don’t ruin your life about worrying about made up problems that likely will never exist. You can’t be harmonious all other the picture, sure, I agree on that, but some parts could, and if you consider yourself happy or not, I think, depend on if you see what is harmonious or if you see what is not.

And then I bring this thesis to a movie character. Will a “happy” person add to the story, still cause conflicts and be absorbed as a fascinating person? Will he or she be boring?

My first thought goes to “No Reservations” with the cheery and sunny chef Nick entering the Kate’s restaurant kitchen, a place marked by her perfection and cooking ideals. Nick is however not the main character; that is Kate, who have had a less fancy childhood and is very locked up. Nick works well as contrast to Kate, but would a character like Nick work as a main character?

You expect a character to change during the story. If a happy person changes to a depressed person I can’t say it worked out very well. Then I’ve rather proven that people can’t be genuinely happy. So in what direction should a happy person change? There could of course be other things than the character’s mood that needs changing, but will it be any challenge for a merry-day-guy?

If I continue with the example of Nick and Kate, Nick could very well prove that his attitude works, as a main character. Let’s say Kate enters his kitchen instead and tries to prove to him that life is dark and pessimistic. Nick will of course be affected by Kate, but could walk out as a winner, bringing Kate upwards instead following Kate down. The conflicts will still be there and our main character will pass the tests and be proven worthy. I think it may work. Do you?

When I met this man I understood the true meaning of the happiness. . .
Photo by: Vincepal from Atessa (Ch), Italy
Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Image edited by the writer

Character description daily

Character descriptions
He sits up in the tree, bare feet dangling, skin tanned by the sun. The boy on the ground watches the old man high above him. He turns to his mother: “Mom, are you sure he is my grandpa?”

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Realistic characters in movies

A character description is more than just a first impression of a person in the story. It is a compressed version of the whole individual. When I read a script and someone is described as handsome or beautiful complemented with the perfect body I’m ready to ditch the script.

In my world a boring and stereotype description reflects a boring and stereotype character. If the writer couldn’t muster up a more thrilling description than that, it’s not likely there is more to find later on.

Fifteen-twenty years ago a character in a movie in general was a shallow minded creature. Bond never showed any emotions; Rambo just walked into warzones without showing fear. Then there was an urge for more emotional characters. More realistic, we like to call them. We see glimpses of Bond’s childhood and he suddenly doesn’t kill without deepening the darkness inside him; villains are not displayed as single minded devils.

Over all I think that is a good thing. An individual is a complex “construction” in real life and should also be just so on the screen.

But today a stereotype character is tough on the outside with a deep and mostly dark inside. There are unhappy childhoods of all sorts and there are emotional killers. All of course possible characters, but when we could expect all of them to be just that, it has become over the top. Everybody in the world does not have dark secrets, unhappy childhoods and great grieves.

Couldn’t a happy person be just as complex? Wouldn’t happiness do some good on the screen?

I feel it is time for a change of characters on the screen. I want to be surprised again. I want to feel the realism that disappears when all characters are the same. Com'on fellow writers, lets get to work.

Character description daily

Character descriptions
With a grin on his face he places the flute at his lips and plays. The shabby jeans and leather jacket with a motorcycle-club emblem on its back contradict the sweetness of the classical piece floating away from the flute.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description.

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

Sun bakes the brick wall
There’s a nut in the asphalt
My mind floats, relaxed

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A word: Zeal

"Walt Disney, the man, had a restless zeal for storytelling and a gift for harnessing the latest technology to the storytelling craft."
The Pixar Touch by David A. Price

Zeal is according to WordWeb Pro “a feeling of strong eagerness (usually in favour of a person or cause). Excessive fervour to do something or accomplish some end.”

“Eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something” says Merriam Webster.

Wiktionary tells me it appeared in English for the first time 1382, coming from Old French “zel” which in turn is from Latin’s “zēlus” who got it from the Ancient Greek “ζήλος” which means “jealousy”.

Suitable synonyms are ardor, eagerness, enthusiasm, intensity, passion, elan and forwardness

The Free Dictionary has much more fascinating suggestions what “zeal” refers to: a minesweeper, a kingdom in a video game and an internet directory.

When I find an English word I don’t know I generally get the meaning from the surrounding text. So was the case for this word as well. Yet, I don’t take in the word in my active vocabulary if I don’t really check it up and try to put it to some use.

But then comes the other interesting part: I have a hard time to figure out if the word is generally understood or not. I’m not that surprised that I find words I don’t understand since English is not my native language, but what about those who have heard English since the cradle? If I write “he has a zeal for eating” will this be considered an easy read?

A rich vocabulary is something to thrive for, especially for a writer, but part of the knowledge should also be what is considered over the top and trashes a text into an unreadable mess.

I think this word is not commonly used, because I think I should have came across it a lot more then, but I don’t think it is so uncommon that people wonder why an directory on internet got this name. Maybe it is one of those writer’s words that is rarely spoken, but passionately written?

WordWeb Pro
Merriam Webster
The Free Directory :

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Writing dialog with a voice

I had written this dialog between my main character and her future mother-in-law – a proud drunkard.

I read what I had written over and over. There was something wrong, though there was not really any particular misstakes done with the dialog. The error was much more elusive: The mother-in-law’s voice was not there. She has an acrimonious attitude towards other people, and although they have a heart-to-heart, she can’t suddenly stop being herself.

Where to find inspiration?

I have a friend who is a frequent writer on Facebook. He has, in my opinion, a very harsh look upon life and its inhabitants. It’s like he is watching the world without participating. I read what he had written the last days. There were some of the emotions I was looking for.

But I need to understand her. I like the way she chosen her path herself and how she takes responsibility, not blaming Fate or God or DNA. But I find it hard to accept that this turned her into a sarcastic rummy. She is like my hero backfired.

I erased what I had first written and tried again and again, rewriting the dialog over and over, making it better every time; but I had a hard time finishing the scene. I had to keep in mind that my main character is the one in focus. What the mother-in-law says must affect her and change her, and the mother-in-law can very well remain a drunkard.

It was so easy to make the main character saving her mother-in-law instead of the other way around. Alcoholism is something not socially acceptable and somewhere inside myself I wanted to tell her that her life is bullshit. But that would ruin the scene. The whole point with the scene was to make the socially misfit mother-in-law save a priggish daughter-in-law she doesn’t like.

Because the mother-in-law knows about choices in life; she knows you always have a choice and she often picked the most unlikely and unacceptable options herself. She may be a wreck but she has the knowledge that the main character needs in this very moment.

Character description daily

Character descriptions
He has somehow succeeded in having the appearance of an abandoned potplant; his whole body hangs like dry out leaves, eyes reflecting a juiceless life.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Character description daily

Character descriptions
He is a man with good looking legs and red pumps on each foot complemented with a too short skirt and a bomber jacket. With a small pair of scissors and a mirror he trims the hair in his nostrils.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reading movie scripts

“I wish you learned to read movie scripts” I told my husband.
“I know, but they are so boring” he replied “I don’t see any movie in my head. It’s just text stripped of anything interesting.”
“Hmm. . . I wonder if there is any way I could help you . . .”
“When you read a novel, do you see a movie then as well?” he asked me.
“Sure. Just slower paced.”
“I don’t.”

I realized that my beloved husband will never, ever read my script with any delight or have any feedback to give me afterwards.

He may love to read long, thick novels, but he misses the lengthy descriptions and the amount of characters and their thinking too much to like a movie script. He himself claims it is lack of imagination on his part. I don’t know. I guess we are just different.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Character description daily

Character descriptions
A young man in shabby coverall stands on her doorstep. His hair is all over the place and in too many colors. He pulls out his earphones and smiles at her; a genuine, wide, disarming smile.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

This is a new version of a description published the 17th of April

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

Blue sky is above
I view it in a puddle
Heaven is on Earth

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Less is more - or nothing

I should have guessed that I passed the limit of “less is more” when I simply wrote “the concrete fort”.

The concrete fort.

Never, ever introduce something like it was obvious of what you are talking about; especially not in a fantasy world.

If I at least had written “a concrete fort”, not indicating that we should all knew about this particular fort.

Unfortunately, “the concrete fort” was my whole description. I had turned blind, becoming too used to my own created world to realize that I had missed the whole first impression.

I did consider having one or two scenes before the starting scene showing the everyday life, but I skipped these because they didn’t belong to the story.

What I should have had – and will add when I start rewriting – is a scene showing the environment, displaying the isolated place of the fort and give an overview of the world were this story takes place. That is part of the story.

Character description daily

Character descriptions
He is tall and thin, folding himself into the chair like a marionette.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

This is a new version of the description published the 15th of April

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

The thimbleweed bloom
Before spring turns to summer
Slopes burst into white

Monday, April 18, 2011

An American in Sweden

Some things are just too good to be true. Today I observed one of those real life characters that I will never forget.

How could I possibly not notice him? He passed me yelling “where in Hell is my fucking lobster?” to someone on the other end of the phone. In English, in Sweden, at a trolley stop.

The left-alone pram with a possibly three-year-old girl sitting inside was his and he walked back and forth, circling it, giving it an occasional push, but not once sharing a word with the child.

They entered the same trolley as I and he left the pram at the area suited for it and walked further back with the girl, sitting down next to me. He gave her his purse-looking-box to hold and guard and then fliped open a laptop with a 3G-usb-modem sticking out and started away, while he asked the girl what she wanted for lunch. The choice was between hamburger and pancakes. I hoped she would answer “hamburger” because obviously her guardian (probably also father) had no idea that he wouldn’t find any place serving pancakes (unless it’s a Thursday).

She said she wanted hamburger and suddenly the man realized that they should get off. Holding the still open laptop in one hand and the taken-back-purse in the other, he had no hand left for the girl as he hurried to the pram.

The girl got behind, but I though that of course the man stops with the pram in the door preventing them from closing, letting the girl off. But no, he exited the trolley before the girl was by the doors. I was half out of my seat ready to take care of a crying, left behind girl, when I saw her getting off in time.

What a character!

Now, I don’t want to insinuate that mothers are better than fathers. I’ve seen some “bad” moms too. And terrific fathers. I also want to point out that I’ve just seen a small snapshot and that is rarely the whole story.

But what I saw was a fantastic character I need to remember.

Character description daily

Character descriptions
Dressed in a slim, black suit, same-colored shirt and tie, complemented by hiking boots, he paces in cricles around a pram, giving it an ocational push while he yells in his smartphone: "Where in Hell is my fucking lobster?"

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mental progress?

The good thing is that I nowadays recognize the signs of a mental down-slope. The bad thing is that I panic. So now it's not only psychical painful, now it's physically exhausting as well. Am I making progress?

Character description daily

Character descriptions
A young man in shabby coverall stands on her doorstep. His hair is all over the place and in too many colors. He pulls out his earphones and smiles at her, and oboy, he does know how to smile. A genuine, wide smile fills his face.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Character description daily

Character descriptions
She comes down the stairs like a primadonna making entrée on a stage, skirts floating behind her, arms posed in a wide, graceful gesture. Yet the fabric in her elegant dress is faded and worn, and her face looks dreadful and careworn.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

Friday, April 15, 2011

Back to my characters

Yesterday I finished my writing assignment. At least the first batch. Then it is up to the commissioner if he is satisfied or not. He may or may not like my changes. He may like them, but want more. I just have to wait and see.

It was a fascinating script. Not what I would have written myself, but never the less interesting to work with. But it was three scripts in one, so it took its time to read through and work with. Maybe I’ll be a part of a produced feature movie in the near future. That would be thrilling.

Now I’m going back to doing some work on my own project “To Be”. I was into working with the characters. I was done with the two main characters and three of the supporting, but the supporting characters do not yet have names.

I think the first thing I need to do is read it all through.

Character description daily

Character descriptions
He is tall and thin, folding himself easily into any chair like a ragdoll.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

Empty windows stare
A bird nests in the hallway
A once lovely house

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Index cards in Celtx: Tips & Trix

Celtx index cards tips and trix

As I’ve written earlier I’m trying out the index card function in Celtx. I think it is time to share some of my experiences.

The index cards have two sides: one with the script on (in case you have written something on the script-tab) and one with your notes on. In my case, I have not written anything on my script and only work with the notes-side.

Added cards appear as empty scenes in the scene-list in the lower-left corner. If you click on the two black rectangulars above the list, you can see the headlines of the indexcard’s notes-side instead.

The actual script och the script-tab turns into a zebra with a gray line for each scene heading. Click in the scene-list to the left to get to a particular scene and start writing. It felt strange to me at least to not have a white page before me, but it was just to overcome that inconvenience.

I wanted to use the option of cards in different colors depending on plot. (I’m not sure if this is an add-on or not.) Click on the “Plot A”-tag in the lower-right corner of the index-card to get a dialog box with options.

Keep the notes within the memo-area. You loose the quick overview if lengthy and the printout still consists of index-sized boxes.

What I missed was the option to add more than one plot to a card. I know that a scene is usually focused on one of the plots, but I used the “plots” to show which character’s arc it was about and sometimes a scene concerned two characters.

It would also have been nice if the color had been just a dot in the corner. Now the main plot was white and the side-plots stood out like balls in a Christmas tree.

When I did a printout I did it on a landscape page with six cards in two columns on each page. That gave room for notes. Duplex, of course, to save the environment. One could question the use of a printout, but I still feel very comfortable with a printout for notes and lines of thought.

Logo belongs to Celtx

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

A pup in her arms
It sniffs at me, curious
I pat the puppet

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Show, don't tell

In this writing assignment I got where I’m doing rewriting of a first draft of a script I had this scene that didn’t make any sense to me.

The leading lady meets three guys that it looks like she knows, considering how they act and talk, and the minute they are out of sight she starts running for the elevator, banging on the button to get the doors to open.

The description text said the three men were her uncles, but that is information that was not passed on to the viewers.

I couldn’t figure out what was in this scene. For me it was taken out of the blue, telling me nothing that belonged in the story.

Then I got the story behind this scene from the writer and it all made sense. A sense that I now have to pass on to the viewers so they also understand the horrible background lingering in the corners at this meeting.

I’m not sure we need to know they are her uncles – I’m not sure how to pass this information without writing it on the nose, so I hope I don’t need to try. But by the trio’s behaviour and the leading lady’s reaction to it I can do much.

Many years ago I started to write a script about my grandfather’s childhood. There are some indications saying my great-granddad had a sexual relationship with one of his daughters, one of my grandfather’s sisters. My mentor gave me some tip on how to show this, without really saying anything.

He is going on a journey and takes goodbye of his big family. He is not a man of hugging and kissing, especially not in public, so he shakes hands with his wife, says a word of goodbye to each child, but lingers a little longer by one of the daughters, stroking her cheek, patting her hair. And she responds by pulling up her shoulders, looking down on the ground, like she wanted to become invisible.

Any healthy relationship between parents and children contact and response is one of comfort and happiness, not one of fright. It is not strange that a father strokes the cheek of his daughter and pats her hair, but in the context by showing him taking special care of that one child, and she responds with fear, it is obvious that there is something not right.

I think I can do something really interesting with the scene with the leading lady and her three uncles.

And the old rule still stands strong: “Show, don’t tell.”

Character description daily

Character descriptions
She sits straight as a doll by her desk, offering her hand to shake with no enthusiasm. The minute she is out of the visitor's focus she wipes her hands with antiseptic napkins.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

It's not fog, it's rain
Sweeping down like a wet carpet
My son asks: where's sun?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Character description daily

Character descriptions
The bling-bling and his cap speak of a youth that he no longer possesses. The well-polished Weymouth on his feet does not only tell something about his true age, but also about his income.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

The rhubarbs say hello
Along the house’s south side
Winter is good bye

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The daily haiku process

Screenwriter writing haiku on daily basis

The haikus are something I try to write on an everyday basis. I try to find a few moments to write about something, anything, but usually something in my surroundings or something I’ve been thinking about.

Sometimes the day has passes without me remembering writing a haiku.

I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is. Sometimes the mind is preoccupied. But I need to take that break and do my haiku. That is very relaxing. I shouldn’t be sloppy about it just because I’ve started to get a hang of it.

Character description daily

Character descriptions

She gestures firmly with the pen as she talks, putting emphasis to every word, compensating her weak voice.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Character description daily

Character descriptions

He is stiff like a stick, as if he would break if he sat. Shirt and trousers are pressed to perfection.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

Friday, April 8, 2011

Character description daily

Character descriptions

He is a sturdy man, slow in movements, leaning on a walkingstick.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

The wind janks the flag
It wants to take it along
Our flag's grip is strong

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Saving children

Ewout van Alphen runs a orphanage in Tanzania. I've a friend who has been there as a volunteer and confirmed that the project is real and honest.

Some time ago the main building burned down. The children were rescued but they lost their home and all their possesions.

Can you please consider to give some money to the project?

I've no international account information, but I'm sure you can get that at where you also can get all your questions about the project answered.

Character description daily

Character descriptions

She is a woman with a rough face, hardened by years of unwanted experiences.

Can you see the character before you after reading this? Please comment your thoughts and ideas about this description

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

Waiting. Room is full.
People chatter endlessly.
Conference should start.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Character description daily

Character description daily is something new I'm gonna try. I will try to describe a first impression of a character, like it could be presented in a movie script. One description per day, most of the days.

They will likely be of various quality, just like the haikus, but I'm asking you to give me feedback on the descriptions of the characters, both positive and negative.

I don't necessarily want this to be a library of good descriptions, but rather a collection of different ways to present a character with their goods and their bads, and best of all: different reader's point of views.

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

Fresh air floods the room
Heavy raindrops fall outside
Hot blueberry soup

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

An android has entered our home

An Android landed very unexpectedly on my desk last Friday. My employer thought that my situation caused the need of a cell phone.

A surprisingly great deal of the weekend was spent to this new little device.

Some needs you simply don’t know you have until you have the access. It’s not that my life has radically changed; it’s just the fact that it is nice to check the bus schedules on the fly and tilt the thing back and forth to keep the ball out of the holes.

Of course you can take photos with it. I don’t pay this feature much attention since I don’t mind bringing a system camera around, but I tried it out and my kids went bazooka with excitement. I watched with great astonishment how my four-year-old with ease browsed through the gallery of freshly taken photos, like he had always moved his finger across the screen.

When I watched the kids I thought that maybe these things – these electronic devices - are the future. If they with such ease get the concept of moving the finger across the screen, maybe we have passed the barrier of access when using technology.

Now, I didn’t want to bring back a broken Android to work, so I gave my five-and-a-half-year-old-suddenly-wannabe-photographer my compact camera to try his photo skills instead and he took photos until it ran out of batteries (lots of flashes since we were indoors). An "old" camera where you had to press a real button to take a photo.

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

In case of fire
Move the palm tree in the pot
To open the door

Monday, April 4, 2011

Disobedient mind

I have a writing assignment that is quite interesting. My task is to work with the dialog and the female characters. It is a great opportunity to get some practice in working with other writers' scripts.

Then why does this have to mentally clash with me having inspiration for not less than two of my own scripts in the same time?

The assignment has a deadline and I am bone hard on deadlines. I keep them. Always. Unless a meteor attack or something else completely out of my control.

My own projects do not have a deadline, so I’ve put them on ice while I work on the assignment. That is easy to think and say, less easy to practice when my brain strongly objects. I’ve not touched the files, no, but my mind keeps swirling around their contents never the less.

Mind, stop it! There will be time for those scripts as well. Just be patient.

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

Frustration, anger
It's nothing but energy
with the wrong target

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

Slender legs, high heals
A face stiffened with makeup
This is called good looks

Friday, April 1, 2011

Daily Haiku

Haiku Daily

As the years pass by
Birthdays are less higlighted
But not on Facebook