Wednesday, November 2, 2016

November is National Novel Writing Month

I'm still working on the outline as I write the opening chapter of my novel. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it's commonly abbreviated, is the ultimate push for those who procrastinate writing the novel they know they must write.

I'm switching between writing and outlining right now. When I get the outline finishes, I'll have to fine-tune it before I accept it as complete. Then the actual writing will pick up. I expect to reach the 50,000 word goal by November 30, if not a few days sooner.

When I look at a chapter outline, it's clear what needs to be written, so it is far better for me to use an outline than not. I'm chomping at the bit to get the outline done.

Right now I'm writing in OpenOffice's word processing text program, but am considering using writing software. The current options I'm considering are “The Novel Factory,” which is still in beta testing but sounds like a very exciting, dynamic program, or the well-known and respected “Scrivener.” I will try to decide over the next two days between these programs.

I really wanted to use the Novel Factory software, but I won't be allowed to blog about the experience while I write, which I would very much like to do. I intend to use the blog to record my goal for the day or the next day to help keep me on course. With Scrivener, no such prohibition is in force, which increases the likelihood that I will use Scrivener for this novel.

Well, back to the novel outline now. There are characters waiting to find out if they will live or die, and a writer waiting to find out, too.

To “Win” this challenge, you must write 50,000 words of your novel and have it validated. There are some nice sponsor offerings that are available to winners only. To see the list of offerings, go to:

http://nanowrimo.org/sponsor-offers

Monday, October 19, 2015

Jack the Ripper's Knife & other tales fit and unfit for Halloween

There have been many theories regarding the true identity of the infamous serial killer known as "Jack the Ripper," but the relative of a renowned surgeon who has come forth claiming that his ancestor was the serial killer of Whitechapel claims to have found the very tool of Jack's trade: his knife.

Jack the Ripper's knife is also the star of "Bloody Olde Knife," one of the twelve short stories in my anthology, "No Place For Mercy," which is available on Amazon.com

In "Bloody Olde Knife," a petty thief digs up the knife in an unexpected place: the old Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit that is home to some of the Motor City's most famous figures. Alongside Civil War veterans lies the earthly remains of Solomon Sibley, Detroit's first mayor, and Coleman Young, perhaps its most controversial.

At first considering the knife only for its value in a blackmail scheme, this small-time criminal slowly learns that the knife is taking control of him. Jack the Ripper's knife is more than just an inanimate object, it is the repository of an elemental force that lusts for blood.

Some investigators have theorized that Jack the Ripper was an American who was visiting London at the time of the murders, but though convincing arguments have been put forth, there is still no "smoking gun" or rather, "bloody olde knife" that has been proven to be the implement of Jack's dirty work.

One of the more recent suspects to enter the picture is Welsh surgeon Sir John Williams, whose great-great-great-great nephew has published a book which features the startling image of the knife, to expose his relative's guilt. The knife allegedly used by Jack the Ripper is displayed in this post on The Telegraph's website. The Telegraph is a UK news site.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8866083/Jack-the-Ripper-Is-this-six-inch-knife-used-by-Victorian-serial-killer.html

It's doubtful we'll ever know for certain the true identity of Jack the Ripper, but the story of this murderer has fascinated generations of investigators and researchers, and continues to haunt us to this day.

As mentioned in this press release published on a CBS news affiliate, "No Place For Mercy" is a short story anthology of character-driven tales of murder, revenge, and irony which makes a great gift for Halloween

http://www.newschannel10.com/story/30247471/dark-fantasy-thriller-anthology-book-for-halloween-2015-published-on-amazon

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

No Place For Mercy press release on NBC, CBS & ABC affiliates!

Great news! – A press release talking about my anthology has just been picked up and published on affiliates of NBC, CBS & ABC:

NBC:

http://www.nbc12.com/story/30247471/dark-fantasy-thriller-anthology-book-for-halloween-2015-published-on-amazon

CBS:

http://www.cbs8.com/story/30247471/dark-fantasy-thriller-anthology-book-for-halloween-2015-published-on-amazon

ABC:

http://www.abcnews4.com/story/30247471/dark-fantasy-thriller-anthology-book-for-halloween-2015-published-on-amazon

The book is available at

http://www.amazon.com/No-Place-Mercy-Eclectic-Anthology-ebook/dp/B00MT4CEZY/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

12 intense stories with dynamic characters placed in impossible situations that reveal the true nature of human beings – and non-human beings. Stories that will alternately frighten and surprise you, shock and disturb you and even bring a tear to your eye.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Protagonist vs. Antagonist & The Final Showdown!

A basic tenet of screenwriting is that the protagonist must face down the antagonist near the end of your screenplay.

Though this seems obvious, your script should not make it obvious that your protagonist is going to catch up to the antagonist to “sort him/her out.” The antagonist should be seen as a powerful opposing force to your protagonist's plans. The antagonist should also be perhaps just a little more powerful or have better resources at his/her disposal, making the protagonist's job that much more difficult. We can see that the odds are stacked against the hero, and we're wondering how he/she will overcome them. Whatever seems the most obvious way to overcome them should be tried, but the protagonist should fail here. This sets up the moment when he/she believes all is lost and there is no way to defeat the antagonist.

The showdown that comes must evolve naturally from the story, and should not feel contrived. When you have decided how you want your story to end, you can place clues and foreshadowing earlier in the script in order to make the final showdown scene a natural evolution of the story. No “deus ex machina” that drops in to explain and save the day is permissible. The resolution of the conflict must come as a result of the protagonist's own actions.

The approach is fairly straightforward. When the protagonist realizes what must be done in order to defeat the antagonist, a realization that often includes the likelihood of his/her own death, the protagonist knocks off the antagonist's henchmen, one-by-one, from the weakest to the strongest until there is only the antagonist remaining. The understanding that his/her life is on the line is able to free the protagonist to do what must be done. He/she is no longer holding back in fear of death, he/she is pushing forward contemptuous of death.

It's a time-honored approach, and when executed properly feels organic and inevitable, which is exactly what you should be striving for.

Brian G. Walsh teaches screenwriting and provides script coverage for You Go Far Productions, Ltd., a film production company located in London, England. Brian is a two-time Screenwriting Fellowship Finalist, and his supernatural-thriller was a Finalist in the 2014 Creative Worlds Awards international screenplay competition. Brian has been a judge for three international screenwriting competitions, and is the author "No Place For Mercy," a short story Kindle book anthology available on Amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/No-Place-Mercy-Eclectic-Anthology-ebook/dp/B00MT4CEZY/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

One small step for Jackson screenwriters...

Yesterday's class was small but I got to meet some really good people. We're working on starting our own Jackson, Michigan Screenwriting Group so we can “workshop” each other's scripts to help them improve. I really enjoyed meeting these great people and hope to build this into a thriving community of screenwriters.

The blueprint I'm teaching will help put you ahead of 90% of the crowd of people who send screenplays to producers because you will learn the current industry standard and pro tips and tricks to help make your script stand out from the crowd.

The same Professional-Level Screenwriting Class will be held again on Tuesday, April 21, from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM in the Community Room at the Meijer Branch of the Jackson District Library. The Meijer Branch is located at 2699 Airport Road, Jackson, MI 49202. Phone (517) 788-4480.

Monday, March 30, 2015

First and 10: How to open your screenplay like a pro

How do you begin a screenplay that will make Hollywood sit up and take notice?

The first consideration is what will be your opening image. The very first thing the audience sees is important in helping to set the tone and in setting expectations. If possible, the first image should be the opposite of the final image. These don't have to be literally opposite images, but if it can be delivered literally, all the better.

Quick example: If your opening image is of an abandoned run-down, old estate, your closing image, after your story develops to deliver the necessary changes, might be of a fixed-up estate which looks brand new, with the protagonist and his/her family bringing life to the old place. Alternately, you may just open with a dark tone and dark imagery and end with an optimistic tone and lively imagery.

If possible, you should have your protagonist appear on page one. There are some instances when you wouldn't want this, such as when you depict a murder or some catastrophe that the protagonist is going to respond to in the script, but if you can open with your protagonist front and center, that is the best way to instantly convey some very important things to the reader/audience.

First, you can use you opening to introduce the protagonist to the reader/audience. This is the character whose viewpoint they will be experiencing most of this story through, so it helps to get to know this person right away. Second, you can show his/her skill and possibly the threat he/she will be tasked with stopping, or crime to solve. You can also show us their cleverness and humanity. You can give us a reason to like or sympathize with the protagonist. A reason to root for him/her to succeed.

There is a method to achieving this. The best formula includes opening by thrusting the protagonist immediately into a crisis. This provides the opportunity to put your hero in danger and illustrate his/her intelligence and skill in getting out of it. You can also throw the reader/audience a curveball. Just when we think we know what's going to happen, you throw us a twist that grabs our attention.

The first ten pages should tell us:

Who is the main character? Where is the story set? What kind of movie is this -- Is it a blockbuster or a small indie? Whose story is it? Do we like the protagonist or hero of this story?

Who is the main character? If you can't have your protagonist appear on page one, then you must have him/her appear shortly after this opening scene. If your story opens with a murder, for example, you might cut to the protagonist police detective at the crime scene immediately following.

Where is the story set? The opening scene might not tell us the physical location where the movie will take place, but it usually sets up the time period and the tone. For instance, the opening scene might be the discovery of man murdered in his own home, but the majority of the script might take place in the Florida Everglades.

What kind of movie is this? Pretty self-explanatory. If we see a starship warp into hyper-space to escape from a fleet of attacking spaceships, we know this is some kind of sci-fi movie, and almost certainly an action-oriented one complete with battles in space. We would also know this is a big-budget, studio film, not a low-budget indie film and that it takes place in the future.

Whose story is it? It's the protagonist's story, of course, but who is the protagonist? Is it the detective who appears at the crime scene immediately following the opening murder? Or is it the wife of the murder victim? Perhaps the wife comes home to find the police flooding her yard and must fight to overcome an indifferent detective who decides the murder is a simple robbery gone bad, when the widow knows there is more to it.

Do we like the protagonist/hero of this story? This is vital. Your protagonist doesn't have to be a wonderful human being, altruistic and selfless, but there must be a reason for the audience/reader to identify with or sympathize with him/her. Do we empathize with the widow's fight against a system that has rendered our lives merely something to be categorized as quickly and neatly as possible? Perhaps she is pushy and vulgar, but we sympathize with her because she demands justice and respect for her murdered husband. We know what it's like to be made to feel unimportant, as if every interaction with the “system” is taxing for the powers-that-be, who wish we would just accept their decrees like good little automatons and mind our place.

The first ten pages or ten minutes of your script are critical, because most Hollywood readers won't go beyond those ten if you don't hook them. You must make the person reading your script eager to turn the pages. Immerse them in your story world with a tantalizing opening scene, a quick surprise that turns expectations upside-down, a worthy protagonist and a compelling story.

Think of your favorite films and how they handled the opening ten minutes. See if you can track down these elements in those films. Remember, not all films follow these rules, but it's usually only those who are already inside the system who can get away with breaking these rules. Before you can break them, you must first break in.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

When a screenplay is not a movie

Is it a movie?

That is the question writers need to ask before they begin writing a script. Boring the reader or viewer is the cardinal sin. People yawning in a movie theater is a sure sign of a movie that never should have been made.

Some people think they have a great idea for a movie, but they don't develop it beyond the idea. I've read several scripts over the years that were about as exciting and entertaining as watching a tree grow. Watching a tree grow in the forest, where no one can see it, and where scripts like that are buried, hopefully forever.

Many of the scripts I've read fall far short of an affirmative answer to this question. It is in the comedy genre that this occurs most often. Someone wants to write a comedy or romantic comedy screenplay, but the result is a series of comedy skits strung together to fill up the script. This is not a movie, it's a variety show.

A movie requires an actual story with a beginning, middle and end. And the progression of the story must be apparent, as well as some change in the protagonist's character. The protagonist should learn something on his/her journey through the "story world" of the movie. Even in a comedy, the protagonist must change or grow in some way, usually emotionally.

Comedies seem to have sunk the lowest over the years. Most depend on a series of marginally amusing sex jokes, and most carry on the jokes beyond the point where they are amusing. And most contrive preposterous situations that, even for a comedy, are too absurd to accept. Even if you are playing for laughs, don't insult my intelligence by doing something I know is wrong. Don't violate the rules of logic unless that is a part of your plot. But don't do it because you as a writer are too lazy to concoct a superior script.

An idea isn't a movie. A few exciting or funny scenes isn't a movie. A movie is a fully realized story.

I've provided coverage for S3 Entertainment, the Just Effing Entertain Me Screenwriting Competition twice, the Nevada Film Commission, and am currently providing coverage for You Go Far Productions, Ltd., a film production company in London, England. I also moderate the Ann Arbor Screenwriting Group in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I'll be teaching Professional-Level Screenwriting at the Meijer Branch of the Jackson District Library Tuesday, April 7 & Tuesday, April 21, from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM in Jackson, Michigan.

http://myjdl.com/event/screenwriting-class/2015-04-07/