Saturday, May 5, 2018

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Self-editing for screenwriters

Before submitting your script to a contest, a site like Inktip or an agent, producer or studio, it is a good idea to get feedback. If you have a friend who understands screenwriting, you should trade free reads to help each other. If not, perhaps there is a screenwriting group you could join.

If neither option is available to you, you'll have to put on your editor hat and do the job yourself. Follow the steps below to make sure your script stands out from the crowd.

FIRST: Do a read-through to see how the STORY flows. Don't take notes. It's important that you don't stop reading because you need to see if this is a fluid and satisfying story. If necessary, keep a pad of sticky notes close by to tag areas you want to change. When you're finished, write down your overall impression of the first draft.

How well does it flow?

Is it a fast read with good pacing?

Where does it stumble?

SECOND: Do a read-through to see how your PROTAGONIST EVOLVES. You can breeze through the script, but make sure your focus is tight on the protagonist. This is where the character subtext you've created should shine. You need to make sure that your protagonist is not one-dimensional. The protagonist must be multi-layered and the type of person we want to spend time with and get to know better. We want to sympathize with this character, get to know wants, needs and fears. We want to root for this character. Make sure that we do!

THIRD: Do another quick read-through to see how your PROTAGONIST SPEAKS. If you removed the protagonist's name while reading his/her dialogue, could you still tell that he/she was the one talking? If not, try to change this so that the protagonist has a unique or memorable way of speaking. We want this character to stand out.

FOURTH: Do a read-through to see how your ANTAGONIST DEVOLVES. Again, you are focusing on this one character's actions and dialogue. Pay attention to how your antagonist acts and speaks. It's not as important that he/she has a unique way of speaking, but it doesn't hurt. We do want our antagonist to be memorable, but hopefully not more memorable than our protagonist.

FIFTH: Analyze your Inciting Incident. Is this significant enough to grab the protagonist by the throat and entice the reader to continue to see how he/she will respond? If not, think about what you can do to make this incident something that will shake up the protagonist and hit him/her where it hurts.

SIXTH: The End of Act I. Very important. You must make it impossible for the protagonist to refuse the “call to action” invoked here. What happens that turns the story world upside down? What so ignites the protagonist that he/she must enter Act II in active pursuit of the story goal? It doesn't have to be personal, but it must be clear that the protagonist cannot refuse to respond to what's happened. This can be due to the protagonist's personal connection, their job or something they did or allowed to happen that made or allowed this event to occur.

SEVEN: Your “trailer scene” sequences in Act II. Are they exciting enough? As you move the story along to its ultimate resolution, have you had the protagonist overcome obstacles in pursuit of the story goal? Have they been satisfying or riveting enough to fulfill the promise that this story offers?

EIGHT: The big failure at the end of Act II. It's often powerful when someone helping the protagonist dies in helping him/her pursue the story goal. This adds a bittersweet feel to the film. Something important was lost. A heavy price was paid in achieving the protagonist's goal, which leaves him/her conflicted at the end, but the protagonist knows the job had to be done.

NINE: Is the resolution satisfying? It should resolve any outstanding issues and fix the problem that caused the protagonist to take up the call to action at the end of Act I. The resolution should be followed by a final scene showing the protagonist's new life after surviving this ordeal. Even if you have ideas for a sequel, avoid using the last scene to set it up. You can leave the question open without hitting us over the head with the tired, hackneyed scene of the supposedly-dead villain shown to be still alive. A little mystery is more enticing than this shopworn cliché.

Friday, April 20, 2018


When you write a screenplay, or any kind of story, do you typically begin with the plot or with a character?

Some people see a movie, read a news story or magazine or book and a light comes on for them. Others see a person, usually a public figure of some kind, whether internationally or just locally famous, and decide that that man, woman or child would make a great character to build a story around.

There is no wrong approach, of course, but how you choose will have a definite impact on the results of your script.

If you are the type of person that comes up with plots first, you probably sometimes have difficulty with the development of the protagonist because you have mainly been giving thought to how the story evolves and how it is resolved.

If you are a plot-first writer, the thing to do is to finish at least a basic outline of plot complications and resolution. Then, ask yourself what type of personality (not vocation) would this story be the most difficult for? In other words, you want to make it very difficult, almost psychological torture, for the character who must resolve this story.

Think Roy Scheider's character in “Jaws.” He was a city cop who moved to a small town to appease his wife and to get away from the violence. He is also someone who was traumatized at a young age by an incident in the water. So, naturally, he not only comes up against a more extreme violence by a perpetrator who is almost impossible to reach, but that perpetrator lives in the ocean.

Build your character like that. Don't make the character obviously incapable of facing this crisis – not on the surface, at least. It's better if the character appears to be educated and trained well enough to handle it, until we find out that there is a deep, dark secret he/she keeps hidden from most, if not all, of the characters in the script.

If you are the type that comes up with characters first, then you can simply flip the script with regard to the above. Completely flesh-out the character, and then decide, according to personality, temperament, life situation and job, what would be the most difficult crisis for this person to handle. Make sure that the characters personality flaws make it very difficult to resolve the conflict, but make sure the character is, on the surface, apparently able to deal with a problem like this.

So there really is no right or wrong approach. They are really opposite sides of the same coin. The approach will, however, directly affect the script as to what is focused on. In the plot-driven screenplay, the focus is usually on resolving the plot and character is not as well-defined as in a character-driven script. By its very definition, plot-driven is more concerned with the plot.

And character-driven is more concerned with how the character evolves and the changes the plot forces the character to make, the fears and flaws he/she must confront and how that character is either changed or unchanged at the end of the screenplay.

I've just created a closed Facebook group called Screenwriters World. If you are interested in screenwriting, or ever thought you might want to learn how to write a movie, come and join the group. We're going to learn and grow together. It should be a fun ride. Anyone who wishes to join, please point your browser to:

Monday, October 30, 2017

Fear of Darkness: Chained to a wall, a nameless prisoner is helpless to avoid a shapeless terror floating towards him...

Fear of Darkness

by Brian G. Walsh

The rain washed down his face like blood. It soothed his open wounds for a moment, but then the stinging pain returned. The prisoner could hear faint footsteps, approaching his cell in no apparent haste. There was soft, mocking laughter, like the twittering of a solitary bird of prey that knows its victim is helpless.

Through his closed eyes he could see the dark shapes beginning to form all around him. He forced his leaden eyelids upward, craning his head to assist the effort. Sleep was impossible. He would not give in to exhaustion. There was no guarantee that he would ever wake up. Still he could not help himself.

His head slumped backward and his tortured body went limp, held up only by the spikes that had been driven through his palms to pin him to the stone wall of the cell. His eyes slowly closed and stuck together fast. He felt his unwashed hair stand on end, the cold air circulating around him was charged with electricity.

At the distant end of the corridor, a ponderous groan announced the swinging open of the cell block gate. The laughing was softer now, almost suppressed, but still there. The prisoner's heavy eyelids opened a crack as he tried to focus in the ethereal darkness.

A large black silhouette – blacker than black – bobbed back and forth down the long, narrow corridor which led to his cell. It seemed to be walking on the ceiling. The prisoner blinked his eyes to clear them, but the image did not change.

The squeal of rats scampering shook him with foreboding. He felt them scurry over the numb, bloody stumps that had once served as his feet. Across from him, a large black and white vulture eyed him with an impatient leer. Perched on the bars of his cell, it seemed eager to pounce. As he watched, it opened its beak and spat small bones from its mouth.

The shape in the hallway froze in place, trying not to move. It was some kind of twisted game. So far his jailer had not confronted him directly, but always stalked him as sleep threatened to claim him. If it was afraid of him, he could not figure out why. It was familiar to him in some distant way, but he could not remember what it was or why it sought to punish him.

He flexed his wrists as he attempted to free himself from his bonds, but his own blood had made them slippery. The vulture cackled at his impotence, spitting contempt as it met his gaze with icy determination. His nose wrinkled as a foul odor passed his way. As he focused his attention, his eyes again rose to meet the silhouette walking on the ceiling. Two yellow, vertically-slit eyes peered down at him eagerly.

“It's judgment day.”

The silky collection of voices sizzled like a pat of butter sliding onto a hot frying pan. The prisoner shook with cold sweat as the vulture leaped from its perch and swooped towards his feet. The prisoner gasped and recoiled as the bird collected a large rat in its cavernous beak before dropping from sight. He struggled mightily to keep his eyes from closing again, shaking his head violently from side to side to avoid the descent into slumbering darkness. He strained to make his toes touch the ground, but there was no ground to reach.

Below him, hanging in space and turning slowly, the Earth teased full of blue promise. The sun was just beginning to rise over the North American continent. The planet looked so small, but infinitely within his reach. If only he could escape this nightmare and get back down there.

He looked down at what was left of his feet, which felt strange. There was something grotesquely fascinating about them. They were huge and distorted, swollen from this ordeal. The rats had been at them once more. He would never walk again. His whole body was racked with pain.

He could feel his skin peeling where he had been burned with something, but he did not remember any fire. He shivered. It was cold. So cold he could see the life force steaming from where the nose and mouth of his approaching tormentor ought to be – but wasn't!

He did not recall his own name. Who he was, what he had been and done, all that was lost to him. The voices called him names, some too profane to repeat, but he paid them no heed. He was alone in this cellblock or whatever it was. He did not know where the voices came from, only that they gathered on occasion to curse and condemn him. To bear false witness against him!

A twisted, jagged metal ring bit into the flesh around his head. He sensed no bleeding. Evidently it had been placed there long ago for the area was insensate, but the object felt so heavy. He remembered now. It was no metal ring, but a crown. They were mocking him!

Dried blood flaked off his forehead. He could feel something entangled in his hair. Something warm and wet – and moving!

He choked back his terror. He had never shown fear in his life, that he knew instinctively. What heinous crime was he judged guilty of that someone would torture him in this cruel and unusual method? And just who was his jailer?

A sudden flash jolted him, triggering a flood of dark and terrible memories. Memories that gently sketched a malicious grin across his scarred face. His thoughts pierced the air as if he had spoken them aloud. Now the silhouette began to hum softly. A kind of song danced in the prisoner's head, a hideous ballad from what the prisoner could picture as thin, putrid lips pursed mockingly to make perverse music. The whistling was lyrical, but threatening. He was at this thing's mercy.

The silhouette's yellow eyes bulged as it inhaled deeply the scent of its helpless prey. The succulent smell of stark terror hung heavy in the stale air of the cell. Genuine fear.

Fear of darkness!

The prisoner slumped again, his head resounding with a loud crack against the wall, further embedding the uneven metal edge of the crown into the back of his head. A black bat leapt from his hair with a hiss.

He could feel the pull of gravity drawing him headfirst towards what would be the ceiling if this place had one. There was no way to prevent what was coming. His entire body tensed as he watched the dark shape creep closer, trying not to make a sound. He now realized it was not walking on the ceiling, after all. The prisoner was hanging upside down, watching sunrise over the earth above, not beneath him. The world was not at his feet in any sense.

Like a snake slithering over grass, the shape silently drifted closer. The prisoner knew now that there was no rain falling except that which came from his own eyes. In shame he cast his gaze downward. Large dead insects lay scattered at his feet, thickly encrusted with grime, floating.

All the rats now lay on their back, feet turned up. The vulture was spinning into the vacuum below, the rat still in its clenched beak. Everything within his reach was dead. Everything except him and the thing that was even now edging closer to consume him. Beyond the decaying bugs the brilliant blue Earth smiled at him. Just out of reach.

Fear gripped him as never before. It was something he remembered seeing, indeed enjoyed watching, but had never experienced firsthand. He remembered wondering what it must be like, how deliciously rich and saucy it must taste. Now he could only laugh. It was all he had expected, all he had hoped it would be, and now it was being visited upon him.

His laughter rose from the pit of his empty stomach to thunderous pitch and reverberated throughout the cell block, echoes crashing back at him with deafening madness. The shape cringed, as if not sure what to do next.

He swallowed hard and for the first time, appealed directly to the entity that coveted him.

“No! No! Not me! Not this!”

His shouts roller-coasted over the head of the black shape and skipped down the endless black corridor where something digested his words with an audible, anxious belch and groan. The shape remained still while he fought to wrest himself from his chains with increased desperation.

He stopped struggling and went limp like a rag doll. His entire body swayed loosely for a moment. The two oblong, yellow eyes contracted as the prisoner's body hung still.


The soft laughter returned and the silhouette bobbed towards his cell, expanding as it did. It sprang to the jail cell bars like a carnivorous predator eager to loose its primal savagery. It sifted through the cell like fog and rolled towards the prisoner, who quickly opened his eyes and stared his jailer in the face.

Eye-to-eye stood the architect of everlasting damnation and his finest creation: Hell.

“It's your turn now...father.”

The velvety collective voice oozed like thick syrup dripping onto pancakes now. The prisoner cracked a wide smile, causing his blistered and swollen lips to peel and burst open. He licked his lips, for the first time ever tasting his own blood. He opened his mouth wide and drew in his breath with a monumental inhalation.

The entire cell turned over like a rolling ball suddenly coming to rest. The prisoner began to expand, his body filling the entire cell. His antagonist fought desperately to maintain its perilous footing, trying to envelop the prisoner in its black, foggy shroud.

The silhouette lifted off the ground and fluttered, battling to retain its shape. The cell door crumbled under the intense pressure and was carried into the prisoner's expanding jaw. The outer corridor rolled up like a carpet and clawed down his throat, shredding his gums and spilling large quantities of the prisoner's blood, which he inadvertently swallowed.

The taste of his own blood held no fascination for him, but the taste of his tears was something else entirely. He trembled uncontrollably as his wet, shining face became distorted. He knew this was the beginning of the long, cold interval. He had always fed the darkness, eager to satisfy its insatiable hunger for all things physical. He had delivered countless others to the eternal pit if only to delay his own inevitable appointment with a revelation he mocked, even despised.

The silhouette, the floating vessel of tormented souls, was sucked hard against his face. It dug into his eyes with sharp, invisible talons, blinding him forever, as it fought for life. It clawed his smooth, tear-streaked face as it began to enter his nostrils to anesthetize the prisoner for his timeless journey into exile.

The uncounted billions of unworthy souls buried somewhere deep inside the silhouette loosed a collective scream that burst the prisoner's eardrums. He gagged as the cat-like yellow eyes shriveled and the willowy, distended black shape cascaded down his throat, lodging itself in the pit of his stomach.

He wanted to vomit, but couldn't. He wretched in nausea. The sickness he'd ingested was unbearable, overwhelming. He now bore the bile of the mortal sin of uncounted generations of damned souls, but did not have the luxury of death to release him. All he could count on was sleep. A cold ethereal night that might last eons. That was worse than death!

His bleeding, blind eyes itched madly, but his restrained hands could not reach them. He could feel the warm glow of the sun reflecting off the Earth above him. He began to sob shamelessly. He had never cried before in his life, had never felt so lonely and afraid. He could not stand being afraid!

Finally he raised his head high in supplication and began to pray, something he had not done in many thousands of years. A thunderclap broke the prisoner free of his chains, causing him to fall face-first into the drifting soil and dust that floated now at his feet, fixed there somehow where there was no floor to support them.

A bright flash was the last thing he sensed through unseeing eyes as a soft touch gently rocked him to sleep. As he succumbed to the nightmare unconscious of a million generations of souls forever blackened by his own machination, he whispered a final promise through a cloud of relentless tears.

He slowly rolled over on his bent but mighty wings, vowing to return for another chance at glory. Another chance at the throne he had long coveted.

God's throne.

“He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:2)

From the Kindle book anthology "No Place For Mercy: An Eclectic Anthology" by Brian G. Walsh

“Fear of Darkness”

© 2014 by Brian G. Walsh

All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Outlining a novel

I have always written more or less "by the seat of my pants." This method allows for inspiration and immediate gratification, but lacks planning and foresight and can lead to an awful lot of rewriting that could have been avoided. Most published authors extoll the virtues of outlining, and I add my voice to the chorus proclaiming it to be the best method for ensuring that your novel or other writing project will end up closer to the way you envisioned it than if you did not employ an outline.

Outlining can be an enjoyable process, but it can also become all-consuming. However, as the outline process progressed, I noticed that the outline was becoming more and more detailed. So detailed, in fact, that dialogue and scenes were beginning to clog the outline and make it unwieldy. It became difficult to use as the broad overview it was envisioned to be. That is when I decided to begin writing the novel as I continued the outline.

I am currently snug and ensconced in my tree, writing my new novel while still assembling a detailed outline. This is not advisable, but so far it's working for me. I would prefer to completely finish my outline before beginning the actual writing process, but I was eager to begin and sentences, descriptions, and dialogue were tumbling around in my head. I felt the best way to proceed was to begin the writing, even though I know I will have to change some things. Since I know how this story will end (unless it changes, as endings often do), I have no problem with writing while outlining. Time will tell if this method works.

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:

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

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.

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