Friday, September 28, 2012

Upcoming changes

The new interface of this blog is under way.

The background – the theme – will change. The current is based on the name of my company - Mountain Wind – but since it is not a name often mentioned and is something more for my self-esteem than have much of practical function in my interface towards the world, I think there is room for something more catching.

The new background will consists of images from my stories. I’ve done several sketches of characters figuring in my portfolio. When painted, scanned and merged into a unit, I’ll think it will be more attractive and say more about my work than the current.

Then I’ll have the situation that I have more to write about than screenwriting. The title “Me, a writer of movie scripts” will be changed. The url will remain to keep things practical. I have a few ideas for new title:
“Me, writing stories”
“Me, a storyteller”
“Me, telling stories”

I think I like the middle best: “Me, a storyteller”.

It is important that there is a “Me” first, because this blog is about me. It is not a general-good-advice-site, nor a blog by someone who by her name alone can build an audience. This is me talking, telling, writing, what I like and think. I don’t think I should pretend something else.

And I am a storyteller.

Do I write stories – the first idea for a title? Most times, but not always. Do I tell stories – the third idea for a title? Yes, but the stories are not told here on the blog; here I tell you how I tell them.

If you have any suggestions I’m interested.

Then I’ve been thinking about tagging my blog entries with an image, like I do with “A word”. A “post-it” in the corner with an image quickly telling what kind of project the blog entry is about. After all there will be movie scripts, a novel and a graphic novel to begin with. I will probably need some kind of flag to differ the posts visually. As far as I know, Blogger does not support the entries to have different templates for different blog entries, but I’ll check into that.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Life of Pi - the trailer sparkles the imagination

When I watched this trailer I could not quite decide if it was a movie I felt I likely was about to enjoy, but I knew instantly it was a movie I just had to see.

This trailer was one that simply amazed me, and that does not happen very often. This one has its own shade on the color wheel. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sly Sylvester - A short film

I just have to share this lovely and funny short film by my friend Kim Nunley.

After taken its year around the festivals (at the Sacramento International Film Festival, where it was named Outstanding Nor Cal Short) she has now made it public.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Me, a storyteller

I usually call myself screenwriter, mother and programmer. Screenwriter first, not because out priority, but because what I am in my heart no one can take away from me. My children – heaven forbid – are possible to lose. And programmer is what I am on my day job.

I’ve nailed “screenwriter” so hard to my identity that when urges to tell stories of other format emerged I became confused and even frightened; frightened because I didn’t want to lose the option to become a professional screenwriter. Doing other things would prolong or even prevent this from happening.

At the same time I got stalled over and over in the rewriting of feature script I worked on, which didn’t make me feel any better.

Turning the situation over and over in my hands I finally realized that it was not the nail in the sign that was about to come loose, it was what the sign said that was the problem: “screenwriter”. Yes I am a screenwriter, but I finally saw that screenwriting is just a tool. What I am is a storyteller.

A storyteller; a narrator.

Sometime the answer is so simple.

I’m not moving on to other things; I’m expanding my experiences within the area that I already work. I’m not about to lose the platform I worked for so hard; I don’t need to grab on for dear life. All I need to do is dare to rise and widening the views.

Will this reflect on the blog? Yes; all in due time. It is no major chance. You will still feel at home, I have no doubt. I’ll not start blogging about my kids, recipes and programming tricks. I’ll just widen the blog as I’ve widening my views about what I am.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The use of symbols in writing

I've been thinking a lot about the use of symbols lately. Though I'm somewhat skeptical to if there really are as many sexual insinuations as Prof. Eric S. Rabkin suggests in his class, I do realize that symbols can have a larger impact than I first thought.

Old paintings, especially portraits, are usually full of symbols to tell more about the person in the image. It can be in the form of poses, clothes, type of flowers and fruits and so on. Today you need to be an expert to get all this. That may not have been the case at the time they were painted, I don't know. To use symbols this way in a movie, might be to overdo it. You don't want the viewer to miss the message because he or she does not know the meaning of a pose or a particular leaf in her hand.

What I do believe would do good is deliberate choices.

My hero has a tattoo of a snake. Why? Because I think it looks scary and is a symbol of evil (in Christian countries). Was this a deliberate choice of mine? No, it wasn't.

She has a shaved head. Is this a deliberate symbol? No. I just couldn't see her with her hood off without making her look like a school teacher or a cleaning lady, if she had her hair collected at the back of her head.

It is these kinds of things I mean. I could examine the options far more and make deliberate and meaningful choices adding to the story.

Then, of course, I start to think about all discussions I have read about avoiding unnecessary details, as a screenwriter.

If I write that she sits with a rose in her hand, it is a well known symbol and probably no one will react to "rose" instead of "flower", or its presence in the first place. But if I wrote "forget-me-not" or "cornflower", will there still be understanding nods?


If I show, as a writer, that I know what kind of details that are important, any reader of the script would understand that my choice of flower was a deliberate choice adding something. If I, however, clutter my script with color of clothes and brands of cellphones, my single flower will be lost as yet another pointless detail.

The symbols should be just as well thought out and tested as all the other words in the script.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Based on a True Story

"It could happen to you" is said to be based on a true story. The other day I decided to check up what happened to Charlie and Yvonne. To my surprise I learned that the only thing true about the story is that there was a cop splitting the lottery winning with a waitress.

Their names were not Charlie and Yvonne. The cop and the waitress were long time friends. They selected half the numbers each. They were both married and remained so after the winning as well. They won the lottery, split the winning and everybody lived happily ever after.

The cop's wife did not freak out. The cop's wife did not divorce him and took it all to court to get the waitress' share as well. The cop and the waitress did not marry and they didn't get over half a million in tip from the New York people.

How can you say something is based on a true story, when what actually forms the story is pure fiction?

In "Erin Brockovich" Ms Brockovich herself says that 98% of the movie is true. In "It could happen to you" it is less than 1%. The turning point is true, that did happen; but that is true about many things in a script that what a character says or does is picked from reality, placed in another context.

Sure, we feel good knowing that this story did happen. There is a reality to it that warms our hearts and make us feel there is hope for mankind. Fine, I get that, but it is close to lying, when you create a feeling that this particular story did happen, and it didn't. It's no more real than creating a story based on a newspaper headline.

Thank you Internet Movie Database for the links.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Save the Cat! Strikes Back by Blake Snyder

It is not without certain irony I saw that the book tagged “the last book in screenwriting you’ll ever need” got two sequels. I’m of course talking about Blake Snyder’s praised book Save the Cat! which became the first in a series of three.

The content of Save the Cat! Strikes Back ought to have been a part of the first Save the Cat, but Strikes Back is written some years later, when Blake Snyder has made a few tours teaching with the first book as a base. It is unavoidable that Blake Snyder during these years gets questions and feedback on what he has written. In many ways Save the Cat! Strikes Back fills the holes in the first Save the Cat! Even though there is irony in the fact that Save the Cat! wasn’t the last book you ever needed on the subject, I’m very pleased that Blake Snyder could live with this and publish Strikes Back. Because together with the first, they do form a splendid couple of books.

First third or so of the book Blake Snyder writes about the idea and its development; the importance to talk about it and gain feedback for instance. Then comes the structure and here is the emphasis on the third act which was highly neglected in the first book. Since third acts are considered the most difficult part to write according to many writers, including myself, this chapter was most welcome.

The last third of the book is about managers, agents, reaching out with your script, which I felt could be concluded into: relax; they’ll appear when you do have something to sell. I’ll may however be unfair about this part of the book, because my focus was on writing, and getting an agent felt very far away.

If you liked Save the Cat! then you should definitely read this one too. If you haven’t read Save the Cat! you should read that one first, because Strikes Back does not stand on its own, but presumes that you are familiar with the first one.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


As I've told you before I'm taking classes at Coursera. One of them is about fantasy and science fiction literature and you are supposed to write an essay a week about that weeks reading material.

The essay is then graded by other students, as well as you get essays to grade.

This system works fine, but there is a little problem: if your writing upsets the reader or the grading upsets you, it is nothing you can do about it. Your 320 words are all you can convey and if you read in the feedback that the writer didn't understand you cannot discuss it with the reader.

Of course it is the writer's fault that the reader didn't get your text, but the grading is non-revertible, and sometimes it would have been a great idea to sort out misunderstandings before the grading is set.

Like my essay about if Frankenstein's monster had a soul. Some of my reviewers didn't understand that the concept of soul is not a matter of likability and ability to have emotions, but if there is an afterlife. At the time the book was written, only humans were considered to have a soul. You liked and cared for your dogs, but they did not have a soul.

Even if most students are likely to get an "A", and the grading in reality does not mean much, and I do this for fun of learning things, I don't like getting a low grade. At least not because I've taken on a sensitive subject not conveyable on 320 words unless both reader and writer agree about the basic standpoint.

It is the sensitive subjects I find interesting, but since there is so little space to write about it, there is an obvious risk in that kind of essays.

The last two weeks I have written undistinguished and featureless essays, which have been given higher grades than those with a fascinating subject. Sure, I don't get any 3s (highest mark), but I don't get any 1s either. I get 2s all over the place. Two for form and two for content, summon to a four. In the feedback I get some comments about missing commas and informal language, but that's all.

For my essay about the soul - which I found far more interesting - I got 3.5 (2 for language, 1.5 for content) and comments spanning from "I think this is definitely a good 3" to feedback like:

"However, even though you state your ideas with conviction, your argument is perverted by mistakes. For example: "In the novel about Frankenstein’s Monster" - The novel is called "Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus". This clearly shows that the novel is not about Frankenstein’s Monster, but about Frankenstein himself and his desire to create life through science. This advises your entire argument. Also your assumption that Shelley must not have empathized with the creature because if she had she would have made Walton sympathize with him is biased and unreliable." (-> likely graded 1)


"To assert that Mary Shelly didn't grapple with the question of the monster possessing human qualities is not correct. She has shown the character longing for companionship, thirsting for knowledge and being moved by many human emotions." (-> likely graded 1 as well)

I know there is not much to care about and I should not get upset and all, but to be honest, I be just that. And to keep my mood in a smooth condition, I write something plain and uninteresting. Like why three of them drank of the Fountain of Youth, but not the fourth and why sight is not considered a valuable trait in the Country of the Blind. Simple subjects, easy to convey. Undistinguished and somewhat boring, but has a content and form that leaves little to complain about.

It is funny when I work so hard to provoke and stand out in my other writings, but when I take an actual class I have to let go of all that and just smile and write cute.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Finding inspiration to rewrite

Yesterday when I had forced myself to continue the rewriting of the Power of Bitterness I suddenly again felt the fun of writing.

I don't know how much you have figured this out already, but I have had an awfully long period lately where writing has not been the pleasant activity it used to be.

Yes, I've been taking classes at Coursera and doing artwork for The Recreators, so I have been rather busy; but that hasn't stopped me before. I just didn't feel the passion for it any longer. I even started to believe that I didn't want to write any more, ever. Painting was the thing I loved now. My days as a writer was over.

But when I sat there, too late in the evening, thinking that the script after all has a great deal of potential and it is a shame to let the hard work be at waste, I continued the rewriting.

Previous sessions had been sort of stiff; like it wasn't my script, but a job I've been asked to do with somebody else's poor script. It is good to see your own script that way too, but since it was my script I felt kind of heartbroken that it didn't really mean anything to me any longer. I cut and corrected and spell checked with as much interest as I have when I slice cheese for my sandwich - it is kind of a trick to not make the cheese look like a ramp, but I think you get the picture.

But yesterday the lamp was turned on. Somebody was home. Rewriting was suddenly fun again. That corner of the brain that works with the story while I do other things had opened its door. And out flowed a rainbow that almost made me cry.

Maybe all I needed was some time off? Maybe I just accidentally closed that door and by a stroke of luck happened to open it? I don't now. And right now, I don't care. I'll deal with that later. Now I will write.

Image by Maria C. Guacuto B.
Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Image edited by the writer

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: In Time

When I saw this trailer I knew this was a movie I just had to see. And so I did. All in due time.

It was great. All the way until the third act began. I don't know if I should be relieved or terrified that even pro could do a third act that sucks.

And here I go again whining about what they did wrong. But considering how many movies I watch, few make it all they way here. Only those that were so good or had all the hopes to be perfect, but wasn't do.

Here will be spoilers.

There are three interesting characters in this movie:
  • Will Salas, the main character, born and lives in the ghetto.
  • Sylvia Weis, the love interest, the rich girl that he kidnaps.
  • Raymond Leon, the pursuer (the villain if you like), a timekeeper, a cop.

The basic idea is that time is the only currency. You have a visible clock in your arm (see trailer) and when it is down to zero, your heart stops. You pay with time and get paid with time. And since you can live forever if you get paid enough, the system also ensures that the poorest, "the slaves", living in the ghettos, always are short of time, so they die in a timely manner.

Will Salas gets a hundred years. What does he do? He wants to ruin the system, even things out. A fine and noble intention.

Then he gets Raymond Leon on his heals. A "time cop", a keeper and guardian of time.

All fine so far.

As I see it there is two problems with the movie's third act.

Will Salas is set up as an honest an generous character. When he has got these hundred years he goes to the rich area and since he is good with poker, he wins another thousand years or so, all fair and square.

Then Raymond confiscates all but a few hours, but Will runs and kidnaps Sylvia to have some more time (you could transfer time freely between two people). That is also okay.

But then Will Salas turns into a thief and later also a killer. Yes, it is bad guys he kills, but is it really a good idea to show the honest hero show that if you want to even things out, you need to steal and kill? That is a villain's behavior.

The other problem was Raymond Leon. I just loved that character. This was a guy with a heart, doing a job he knew had to be done. He had encountered Will's father and told Will early not to do the same mistake that his father did.

In my mind there were a setup for a grand final meeting between Will and Raymond. And they met. But first of all, Raymond had all the reasons needed to chaise Will now, being a murderer and a thief. And then the meeting was an absolute anticlimax. Raymond said he was once from the ghetto too. Then he realizes that he never had his daily ration of time transferred to him and dies.

We never hear more about Will's father. There is some to understand what he tried to accomplish, but Raymond should have said it face to face to Will, not only Will understanding on his own.

I had figured that Raymond would have returned the millennium he confiscated from Will. After all Raymond is honest, and those years Will had gained fair and square.

Then I'm not a great fan of revolutions. They causes chaos. Nothing can remove the clocks on their arms. Will can never do anything about that. So I thought that after Raymond returned the years to Will, he would let Will go and work his way upwards affecting the politics, even things out that way - something we would not see on the movie, but know that he would.

Now all is left in a chaos in the hands of the Robin Hood-like Will.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fun theory

This has little to do with screenwriting, but never the less I found it worthy of a blog entry.

I remember my dad who didn't let me water the flowers in the garden because I had fun with the hose and the water as I did it. If I made a game out of it I wasn't taking the watering seriously. Honestly, what was he thinking of then? Then I saw my mother watering the flowers, having fun with the water too. "Why are you allowed to water the garden and not I", I asked. "I didn't tell your dad I have fun" she said, smiling.