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View Full Version : Comedy is not pretty. (A writer's rant.)



Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-06, 09:37 AM
That was said by Stever Martin during his standup routine, many moons ago, and he wasn't kidding.

I spoilered the rest because, though I'm known for lengthy posts, this one breaks any of my previous records.


Over in Friendly Banter, it's known to an extent that I enjoy writing. I've taken to writing screenplays because...well, there's less that needs to be written. I give the basics of a scene, and then hope to sell the script and let some set designer do the REAL work. The hero and villain are to have an epic battle? Righto! I type onto the page, "They fight." Then I await a stunt coordinator to make that mean something on screen. I kid you not, when I give you this example of an entire scene from one script I have in the works:


EXT. THE WHITE HOUSE, ESTABLISHING - MORNING

ĎTis a sad day in Hollywood when you canít find stock footage for this.

That's it! One scene down! On to the next!

One must take into account that I am self-educated in the writing of screenplays. Many books were read, the best of which was How Not to Write a Screenplay, by Denny Martin Flinn. If I can get my hands on a DVD packed with special features on the making of a movie, odds are good that I'm watching the extra features more than the actual movie. (My inability to make a sale is a completely different rant, but I felt that I should point out that I have a pretty good idea of what I'm doing.)

The aspects of writing a screenplay are so easy that, using the screenplay format, I was able to finally get a story out of my head that had been plaguing me for DECADES! It was to be a horror novel. Every time I sat down to write it, I got about two pages into the story before I decided what I had thus far was garbage, and would scrap the whole thing.

I was discussing this particular story with someone, when they said, "Well, you know how to write a screenplay. Why not try it like that?"

Before I go on, know that every screenplay I write goes through five drafts. That doesn't mean I start from scratch each time. It simply means that it usually sees at least four revisions before I even dare think of registering it with the Writers Guild.

My horror script's final word count was 17,091. That's 90 pages of story development, with plenty of blood and guts mixed in. And I wrote - ALL FIVE DRAFTS - in a mere 12 days. TWELVE DAYS! Approximately 20 years rolled by without me ever getting past 1,500 words for a novel, and I write the whole script in less than two weeks.

What's that? You want a taste? Sure, have a bite. This is between the leading man and the tough-as-nails cop.


Mitch wears a mask of neutrality.

Detective Cole sits in one of the client chairs in front of the desk.

MITCH
Dead?

COLE
Rather drastically, I might add.

MITCH
But...How? When?

COLE
Thatís what I came to ask you, Mitch. What do you know about Mai Lingís death?

MITCH
Detective Cole, Iím as shocked as you are. If you could tell me something...

COLE
She was literally - and I do mean literally - shot to pieces. Her arms, legs, and head were almost completely separated from her body. The coroner estimates that she took two hundred rounds.

Mitch couldnít look more surprised if he was told heís pregnant.

MITCH
Oh my God. Thatís horrible.

COLE
She was on the list, Mitch. Your little list of guilty parties, remember? And now sheís dead.

MITCH
I wanted her punished by the law, not butchered.

Cole stands and starts moving toward the door.

COLE
For your sake, I hope youíre being honest. Because if anyone else on the list meets a premature end, youíre going to be under the microscope again.

MITCH
I have no idea what happened. But then Iím not the only person these people ticked off.

The detective stops at the door with his hand on the doorknob.

COLE
One other thing that we found odd. If you did hire someone to do these people, you might want to ask them where the bullets are.

MITCH
Excuse me?

COLE
The bullets. Two hundred rounds. The killer practically turned this girl into chopped meat, and we havenít found one bullet or shell casing. Not in the walls. Not in the furniture. Not in the girl. Not on the floor. With that much firepower, one has to wonder where all of the bullets went.

Ooooh! Freaky, ain't it? And a dark part of my psyche really had fun killing a misanthropist VERY slowly using an entire subway train. :smallbiggrin:

Okay...I wrote a horror script. I wrote an action/adventure script. I even recently completed what is known as a political "dramedy."

But I'll be damned if writing something that is strictly a comedy isn't the most agonizing tale I've yet to work on in what is a "simple" format. Oh, it could be split into genres and be called a fantasy/comedy. Far from anything like The Princess Bride, it's more along the lines of Airplane and many Mel Brooks films. That is, unlike many goofy comedies of late that are thick with "jokes" and a loosely formed plot, this actually has a story.

"Golly, Bor! You intrigue us! Please, tell us more!"

Oh...if I must. In 1001 Lies, the hero, Alden, has been caught stealing a loaf of bread. King Eric, a rather creative ruler who insists on hearing all criminal cases, gives Alden a choice: lose a few fingers to prevent future thefts and spend a year in prison, or tell his life's story using 1001 lies. And so the young rogue begins...


ALDEN
I beg your forgiveness, Highness, if I reveal too much, but I feel I should begin with my parentage.

King Eric nods his agreement.

ALDEN
Then youíll remember my mother, a serving wench with whom you had a dalliance.

There are shocked faces all around. A few of the guards reach for their weapons.

The king, however, holds up a restraining hand.

KING ERIC
(grinning)
I suppose the task invites cheeky remarks. A lie is a lie.

ALDEN
Thank you, Sire. As I was saying, such encounters cannot be made public, so mine was a single parent home.

Mildly amusing, but then I really had to get into what makes a comedy a comedy. Shticks gallore! Rapid-fire, witty (or semi-witty) banter! And...well, I gotta bring the funny! :smalleek:

Now, there is a quote that floats around the world of writing. "Good authors borrow. Great authors steal." Being the bright, moral star that I try to be, I have done all I can to remain a "good author." For example, in Peter David's Sir Apropos of Nothing, he has the town of Town, named as such because it was easy for the local drunks to remember. After all, it was a town that sprung up around a tavern. I took that idea and expanded it to:


EXT. VILLAGE OF VILLAGE - DAY

Taverns. Lots and lots of taverns. It seems that this entire place revolves around drinking. Even the general store has a neon sign that reads: MEAD LIGHT! A sign before the bank says: FREE KEG OF ALE WITH EVERY MISER GOLD ACCOUNT.

The citizens of Village, and there seem to be many of them despite the lack of actual homes, show the effects of being an alcohol based economy. Theyíre drunk. Every one of them. They stumble and stagger as they go about their business. A ball rolls by, followed by a group of children around the age of 10. Alas, theyíre drunk too, so their efforts to chase the ball become an extreme exercise in the most basic coordination.

My Bor-senses are tingling. It feels as though a lawsuit is nearby. :smalleek:

It's a fine line between theft of intellectual material and bending it enough into a different idea. This being the first draft, one never knows what will be changed as I go along.

If you think recycling humor isn't easy, try coming up with something original!

No...wait. Try coming up with something original while trying to keep a plot on track.

Hang on a second! Try coming up with original material, keep the plot on track...and then torture yourself by trying to keep to the title of your story! Because you just KNOW that if I EVER sell this script, and it EVER gets made, there will be that one movie geek in the audience with a pad and pen, making a scratch-mark for each lie told, and then doing the math at the end credits. And you just KNOW that geek will sit through several showings to be sure the count is right. (For the record, I'm on page 55, and the total count so far is 503 lies.)

*sigh*

Despite this rant, and my frustrations when it comes to writing this thing, I'm still having fun. I mean, there are some shticks in the script that make me think, "Wow! That was REALLY funny! Did I write that?" (That's discounting any recycled jokes.) Like:


The heroes are stopped on the road, looking shocked.

RACHEL
That is just so wrong.

SIMON
Taking advantage of a woman like that, even a goddess, is simply too fiendish.

LUCY
We must act, and quickly.

Alden strikes a dramatic pose.

ALDEN
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in the petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of record time. And all our yesterdays have -

LUCY
No, no, no. Act, as in ďdo something.Ē

ALDEN
I was doing something. MacBeth.

:smallbiggrin:

Now, if you've made it this far, feel free to comment, comiserate, throw some ideas at me (and expect no credit whatsoever when/if I make a sale), or add your own rant about your frustrations with writing.

Disclaimer: This rant is brought to you by a complete lack of sleep un the part of the author, and he should not be held responsible for eyes, brains, or complete head asplodings.

Dallas-Dakota
2008-02-06, 10:52 AM
Bor, t'is not a record becouse quotes don't count!

rubakhin
2008-02-06, 04:55 PM
See, this is why I only write stories that are extremely depressing. I tried to write comedy once. It wasn't pretty.

Making people cry is easy. Making them laugh is hard.

Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-06, 06:03 PM
I can tell. The tiny parts of the comedy that I posted in the quotes that apparently don't count for length OBVIOUSLY have you folks falling out of your chairs with laughter. [/sarcasm] :smallamused:

Jalor
2008-02-06, 06:05 PM
Very well-written essay on writing comedy. I really like the screenplays you've posted and I'm pretty sure you could sell one to a movie studio.

Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-06, 09:21 PM
A few things, Jalor.

That "essay," as you called it, was more of a way to vent my frustrations. I mean, I was running out of ideas for my heroes, so I took a fleeting idea that Rich touched on way back toward the beginnings of OotS.


RACHEL
You know, weíre way overdue for some kind of cut-away to the villains to see what theyíre really up to.

LUCY
I believe youíre correct.

She walks right up to the camera.

LUCY
Well? How Ďbout it?

Now, speaking of Rich, he gets a lot of credit for a great web-comic. He's won awards. He has a boatload of fans. And, strangely, an equally large boatload of critics. Have you ever visited the OotS threads? I sit there and read some of the posts, and I think, "Wow, it must be great to have such dedicated fans." Perhaps such a thought went through Rich's head at one point...

And then lengthy discussions started over V's gender...Belkar's alignment...what :mitd: really is...what V's four words to gain ultimate cosmic power will be...and on, and on, and on. Not to mention the fact that fans of D&D occasionally come out with sich statements as, "...but the rule books say..." And suddenly I imagine Rich a lot less flattered, and instead throwing up his hands in surrender and saying, "Everybody's a critic." (Which is probably why, as I understand it, he stopped going into that area of the forums on a regular basis.)

The most amazing part, though, is that ALMOST every one of his comics "brings the funny." Sometimes it's an "in your face" kinda joke, with Elan shouting on his move silently check, "I GOT A 4!" Other times, it's subtle, like when Miko used a demon roach to light a charge, and in a corner of the strip you see one roach saying to another, "Show me on the doll where she touched you." And then there's the running gag, where something finally clicks in Belkar's head, an expression comes to his face, and all he says is: "Crap."

THIS STUFF IS NOT EASY! And he's said in the FAQ area that he's sometimes making this stuff up "on the fly," as it were. He has his story in his head, or on paper, or wherever it's stored. He knows where he wants it to go. But he can see something in the news, and that's what inspires the joke that will hit us all come posting time....or some random idea he has walking down the street...or...well, maybe that bottle labeled "take once a day" turns into Spanish for the word "once," and he's taking 11 tablets. :smallconfused:

Whatever it is, it's an amazing talent. I seem to have a bit of it. People seem to enjoy at least SOME of my stuff. But if Rich has a secret that enhances his ability to bring the funny, I wish he'd share it.

And while this response to Jalor has turned into something more along the lines of "Rant 2: the Revenge," I should also say something about making the sale of a script. On that subject...

*points*

LOOK! IT'S ELVIS!

*runs away*

Jalor
2008-02-07, 12:21 PM
On the subject of Rich's humorous ability, I have a feeling it's something you're born with, like musical talent. Don't get me wrong, your stuff is very funny and well-written(I couldn't do nearly as well) but he was born with an incredible talent for humor.

As an example, I am a good musician. I write songs and can play almost anything after hearing it once. However, one of my friends is far better. He can sight-read anything for any of 5 different instruments. I've tried, but I will never do the things he can.

Of course, this tends to be balanced with other talents. He's rather poor at Halo compared to me.

Also, your plot for 1001 Lies reminds me slightly of the original Arabian Nights.

Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-07, 03:14 PM
Wow...talk about jarring a memory loose. Jalor, I believe you may be right! Arabian Nights is actually a collection of tales, including Aladdin, Ali Baba...and I believe a story about a prisoner escaping a death sentence but having to tell a story of which nothing could be true. It ends with him claiming everything to be true, and the quickly ammending that such a claim was the final lie.

Most amazing is that I vaguely remember reading that story about 32 years ago, and I have a hard time remember what happened last month sometimes!

As for that pesky talent thing...I, too, had a friend who was musically inclined. Frighteningly so. Had I not witnessed it with my own eyes, I would doubt it could happen, but this friend could spend ONE day with ANY musical instrument, and be playing it reasonably well by day's end. (You don't know funny until you've heard Metallica played on the viola! :smallbiggrin: )

Maybe my fight is with...life. Many aspects of my life have altered me, and perhaps that may be the reason why I have such a problem bringing the funny. That, or the talent has become rusty due to a lack of use.

I should work on that.

SPoD
2008-02-12, 01:30 AM
All I have to say is that when Alden does his line from MacBeth, he should speak the words very quickly, as instructed.

Although there's a point to be made that quoting a more well-known line would be more immediately funny, such as Hamlet's "To be, or not to be..." speech. Humor works best the more quickly it is recognized.

The Extinguisher
2008-02-12, 01:45 AM
What's that one quote. "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard"

I personally enjoyed the snippets of the scripts. I recognized the MacBeth line, but then again, I'm a total nerd. I think you have a knack. Comedy is never perfect. My best suggestion is to take everything about this seriously. It's Acting 101, but it applies to the whole creative process. Goofing off it fine, but you need to save it for the script.

Also, if any of them get to be movies, can I get free popcorn?

Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-12, 02:20 AM
All I have to say is that when Alden does his line from MacBeth, he should speak the words very quickly, as instructed.

Although there's a point to be made that quoting a more well-known line would be more immediately funny, such as Hamlet's "To be, or not to be..." speech. Humor works best the more quickly it is recognized.
I must say that the hardest thing about writing a script is not over-write. Don't tell the director how to do his job. Nor the actors. Nor the set directors. Nor the wardrobe department. At the same time, you need to write a script with some style. Keeping it too simple will bore a potential buyer to tears. Only when something very specific needs to happen should I do ANY of those things.

For example:


A group of kids runs across the yard, scream and laughing as they chase a ball.

Jane
I love kids.

Seems generic enough. But what if Jane actually dislikes kids.


A group of kids runs across the yard, scream and laughing as they chase a ball.

Jane
(sarcastic)
I love kids.

Alternatively, maybe her maternal instincts are in overdrive.


A group of kids runs across the yard, scream and laughing as they chase a ball.

Jane
(longingly)
I love kids.

Further dialogue will play off whatever decision I make.

As for going with what's familiar...What fun is that? :smalltongue:

@ FMA: Ummm...Not sure what you were saying after "My best suggestion..." Can you clarify? :smallconfused:

The_Hunting_Enemy
2008-02-12, 02:29 AM
One of the things about comedy is that you will be hard-pressed to "Learn" it. Comedy is one of those things that has to come naturally or else it sounds...wrong. I've always had a particular knack for comedy. I can't write a serious story without a few jokes in it so it isn't dark and awful the whole way through (By awful I mean content, not quality).

I do like the way your stuff sounds from the snips you gave. I'd pay to watch that, but I'd pay to watch anything. Except furries.

Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-12, 01:31 PM
One of the things about comedy is that you will be hard-pressed to "Learn" it. Comedy is one of those things that has to come naturally or else it sounds...wrong. I've always had a particular knack for comedy. I can't write a serious story without a few jokes in it so it isn't dark and awful the whole way through (By awful I mean content, not quality).

I do like the way your stuff sounds from the snips you gave. I'd pay to watch that, but I'd pay to watch anything. Except furries.
You've hit a chord there. I don't think someone can "learn" to be funny. Either you are or you aren't. For example, I was in a diabetic chat room last night, and the moment came when I could share some of my cheesy diabetic pickup lines. "Baby, you're so sweet, you make me wanna take another dose of insulin." :smallbiggrin:

I can also keep friends and acquaintances laughing for quite some time, chatting, of all things, about the various disasters in my life.

So I can bring the funny. The problem is bringing it to a structured story and keeping it going. Movies like Airplane and Top Secret, with their non-stop silliness, also had plots. Recent reviews of Meet the Spartans showed me that audiences don't want plotless gags and spoofing.

And it seems I've made my task more difficult by:
1. Keeping count of the lies.
2. Keeping the spoofing to a minimum. Yes, the story spoofs fantasy stories, but I'm trying very hard not to poke fun at other movies. (Failed on LotR, though.)
3. Making sure there's an actual story/plot in it.

Most disappointing is that I haven't touched the script since I wrote my first post. It might be because real life issues are making me feel unfunny. Still, I should be trying, even if what I scribble gets deleted and rewritten.

Oh...I should also mention that almost everything I write has some jokes slipped in, no matter how serious the story. :smallwink:

Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-16, 04:23 PM
The rant goes on! :smallamused:

So, I brought some of the funny. Of the recent addition of eight pages to 1001 Lies, we have this brief shtick:

ORC MERCENARY #1
Me no want to go in cave. Is scary.

ORC MERCENARY #2
Master punish us if we not go.

ORC MERCENARY #3
Me wondering why we talk like this? Make us sound stupid.

ORC MERCENARY #1
We supposed to be stupid. Is plot device. We go after humans, get slaughtered mercilessly, make good action sequence later.
Now, what you don't see in my posts are the numbers. I've said that I'm counting the lies, so after I pound out a few pages, I go back and number them. So a line from the first draft looks like this:

ALDEN
Itís twisted, but true. (579)
Curiosity got the better of me, so I saved the entire draft thus far as a second file, then went through it, and removed the numbers. Lo and behold, my page count changed. Sixty-three pages became sixty-one.

*head-desk*

Every single book I've read on the writing of a screenplay mentions this formula: one page of a script = approximately one minute of screentime.

Now, there's something a lot of people don't think about when they run off to the movies. When they look at the running time of a movie, they usually fail to realize that a chunk of that time is the end credits, and those tend to run a few minutes. For example, I was going to splurge and catch a matinee showing of Jumper. It's a 90 minute film. Subtract the end credits, and it's probably an 86 minute movie, if that. As it is, I can't really afford pay the price of admission, and there would be no popcorn for this barbarian monk. I'm certainly not throwing money at Hollywood to see a movie that's so short.

Pause a moment: while this is starting to look like a media discussion, it's still me ranting about writing. Thou must cooleth thy jets.

This is the kind of thing that runs through my mind while I write. It has to be. The ratio of critics to actual movie-goers is off balance. Thus, my goal isn't satisfy any critic on Earth...although a little love from them might not hurt. :smallwink: I write, what I hope, is what an audience wants to see.

This, of course, raises another problem altogether. Silly me, I'm writing for an audience I don't have yet. I'm not writing for Hollywood. "The Big H" seems to want crude humor and no plots in their spoofs, while I'm doing all I can to avoid such things. And in a time of fossil fuel crisis, Hollywood also appears to want car chases, explosions, and action that happens so fast on screen that you can't even follow it.

And love scenes...Oh, don't even get me started on some of those. I would have to say that 90% of all sex scenes on screen have NOTHING to do with moving the plot along. I can almost envision the meeting now:

Producer: Well, we've read your script, and we have a big problem.
Me: What's that?
Director: There's no sex.
Me: Right. And the problem with that is...?
Producer: The film needs sex.
Director: Definitely. Skin is in.
Me: But...a sex scene isn't needed. It doesn't do anything for the story.
Producer: We don't care. No sex, no film.

:smallconfused:

From my work-in-progress, Anyone Can, here is as close as you're likely to get to a sex scene in my scripts:


CORAL
(leaning closer)
Exciting. Yes.

GARY
(also leaning closer)
More than expected.

CORAL
(closer still)
A surprise.

GARY
Like a -

They kiss. Pent up emotion expressed in a passionate action.

The pad and pen are forgotten as she pushes forward, bringing them on to the bed, with her on top.

Just when one would think clothing should start to fly, he gently pushes her off and rolls away.


GARY
Wait, wait, wait.

CORAL
What? Whatís wrong?

They both sit up, and a moment of awkward silence ensues. He breaks it by taking her hand.

GARY
Nothing is wrong, per se. Itís just that I donít want this to go too far too fast.

She stunned, but not insulted.

CORAL
Itís not possible. No one is this nice. No one is that good. Are you trying to tell me that youíre a man with actual morals?

GARY
I donít recall trying to tell you anything. It seemed more like actions speaking louder than words.

CORAL
Can I submit the argument that weíre both consenting adults, permitted to do adult things?

GARY
Argument logged and noted. But...

He takes a moment to find the words.

She searches his eyes, hoping to find them for him.

GARY
Itís like this. Youíve gotten to know me over the last few weeks. Hell, everyone has gotten to know me if they bother to listen. But I donít know you, Coral. Any man can sleep with a body. I prefer to sleep with a person.

Coral gives him a gentle kiss on the lips.

CORAL
Are you sure you were born on this planet?

GARY
(smiling)
Itís a known personal fact that I was rocketed to Earth as a baby, and Earthís yellow sun gives me my powers.

Mind you, this is a socio-political "dramedy," which is why anything before hand is left out.

My apologies. You know, maybe this is the wrong place to bring these rants of mine. While there seem to be many views of this thread, there are few responses, and I fear this is turning into a kind of "blog" about my frustrations. If this is the case, I invite a moderator to send me a note telling me take my woes elsewhere and lock this thread up. If, however, there is an actual discussion to be had, may the thread stay open and let some debating, critiquing, chatting continue.

End scene.

Uncle Festy
2008-02-16, 09:15 PM
My apologies. You know, maybe this is the wrong place to bring these rants of mine. While there seem to be many views of this thread, there are few responses, and I fear this is turning into a kind of "blog" about my frustrations.

For shame! If you move this somewhere else, I'll never see it again, and that would make me sad. :smallfrown: This is really interesting. I've never actually seen an analysis of writing a movie, and the excerpts are great. I wish I had something to contribute, but... I don't. :smallsigh:
Good luck, anyways! :smallbiggrin:

CurlyKitGirl
2008-02-17, 09:43 AM
I am a notorious cinema hater in the extreme. Which is why the cinema never comes up as suggestion of what to do when I go out with friends. I always suggest it.
Therefore anything that makes me desparately want to go to the cineme is really good. And my friends always love the film as well, no matter if they were particularly interested in the film before.
If this came out in the cinema I'd want to see it. An intelligent comdey with a plot! *gasp* Hollywood has grown up.
Such a rarity must be written, produced and seen in the cinema.

Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-17, 10:48 AM
Well, as long as Festy is interested, and I'm still capable of ranting...


I wrote a novel, which has gone through several incarnations, The Summer of Magic (SoM). It started with my gaming group from when I was 20. I was the GM. I sat back and wondered, "Hmmm...What would happen if all my friends actually became their characters?" So I started writing...and writing...and writing. It was the story that wouldn't stop! I initially used their characters, but that changed over time. (I'll get to that.) My friends were flattered that I used them in my story, and they got a real kick out of the tale.

The one who seemed to have the most fun was my friend Terence, who took it upon himself to edit my work. It's from him that I got part of my own editing style. When I accidentally switched "barely" with "barley," he wrote in the margin. "Oh no! Wheatever shall we do!" :smallbiggrin:

The comment that got me started in studying screenwriting was, "Dude, this would make a great movie!"

Would it?

All-around author and Academy Award winner William Goldman wrote a fascinating book, Adventures in the Screen Trade. In it, he reavealed that All the President's Men, the movie, ends around the middle of the book. The reason? The book contains SO much information that there was no way to get the whole thing into a movie.

Then there's the axiom, "The book is always better than the movie." Have you ever wondered why that is? I can tell you the secret, and you're welcome to tell everyone. And I'll also tell you that this secret smashed my brain when trying to convert SoM into a screenplay. When writing a screenplay, only write that which can be filmed!

My opening chapter of SoM introduces all of the main characters. I would guess that 98% of the chapter is exposition by way of characters thinking about their lives. The other 2% is some dialogue and action. So what happens if I covert it into a screenplay? Well, I never actually wrote it until now, but it would look something like this for one of the characters:


INT. BARRY'S BEDROOM - DAY

BARRY is a small, but muscular young man around age 20. He appears lost in thought for five minutes. In case audience members forgot to go to the bathroom before the movie started, this would be a good time, and you can superimpose that message on screen.

Even if I were to try and form the characters' thoughts into flashbacks, they would be Boring, with a capital B! Despite chapter one having a few nuggets of dialogue and action, it had to go when the converstion to a screenplay occurred. Instead, Barry get's introduced as his alter-ego, Crisis. In fact, I'll show you how I introduce two of the main heroes, because alone it would be out of context...


EXT. ABANDONED WAREHOUSE - NIGHT

This derelict building in the Bronx is not a fixer-upper; itís a tear-down-and-start-from-scratcher. Weeds grow from every crack in the surrounding pavement. Almost all of the windows are shattered; someone has at least made the effort to board up the lower windows. It appears that every other light in the area remains in working order. Decaying wooden boxes and metal barrels litter the area, their contents long-since missing.

Itís quiet. Unnaturally quiet. Not even the scurry and squeaks of rodents can be heard.

Thereís a metal door at the side of the warehouse; itís aged, dented, but still holding strong. A large, rusted padlock keeps this portal closed.

The sound of straining metal begins slowly. The center of the door begins to bend outward; two focal points show where someoneís hands are pushing from inside. The hinges are frozen by rust. Hence, itís the entire frame of the door that comes free of the building and lands with a crash.

From the shadows inside the building steps a man - BLONDIE for the time being. Heís tall, lean, muscular. His hair is long, platinum blond, and somewhat wild. Thereís a feral quality to his face, including slightly extended canine teeth. His fingernails are long and sharp; claws. His eyes are white through and through.

Despite his semi-ferocious appearance, his voice is quite cultured.

BLONDIE
So much for the stealthy flight from justice.

He begins jogging away from the door, across the open ground of the warehouse.

Twenty feet from the ruined door, the wall explodes outward as though hit by a wrecking ball.

Emerging from the settling dust is MONOLITH. Heís eight feet tall, at least four feet wide at the shoulders, and made entirely out of volcanic rock! Numerous cracks wend their way across his body, revealing the slight glow of molten rock. His eyes have the fiery orange light of magma. His costume is designed to leave a great deal of ďskinĒ exposed. His voice sounds like it comes from deep within a huge cave.

MONOLITH
Heís mine.

He brings his hands up, laces his fingers...and in the next moment, his hands swells up like balloons and explode! Molten rock streams forward as though jetting from a fire hose, heading right for his target.

Blondie, however, easily dodges with a dazzling acrobatic move.

In an instant, Monolith's hands are whole again. He waves one and the magma on the ground instantly cools.

CRISIS (O.C.)
Throw me.

Monolith looks down to see CRISIS. This newcomer, age 20, is about 5í6Ē and muscular. Dark intent eyes follow Blondieís progress.

Monolith reaches down and pushes his fingers into Crisisís back. The smaller manís form moves and molds around the larger heroís fingers. As Monolith lifts him, Crisisís body forms into a ball.

MONOLITH
High and away?

CRISIS
Fastball.

The stone man winds up and throws the shape-shifter with all his might.
Instead of striking the desired target, Crisis collides with one of the functioning lamp posts! The pole bends and collapses at the point of impact, a shower of sparks coming down on the now unconscious form of Crisis.

MONOLITH
Oops. Hero down.

The above moment also skips the beginning of chapter two in my novel.

*sigh*

But this is what Hollywood wants. They want action right out of the gate, or they fear audiences will start walking out, demanding their money back. I will quote Denny Martin Flinn, from How Not to Write a Screenplay.


Alfred Hitchcock said that the difference between an American film and a European film is that a European film can open with a shot of clouds, cut to another shot of clouds, and then cut to a third shot of clouds. If an American film opens with a shot of clouds, it must cut to an airplane, and if by the third shot the airplane hasn't exploded, the audience is bored.

Think of some of the movies you've seen over the last decade, even if you waited to rent it. V for Vendetta opens with a hanging. Pirates of the Caribbean opens with a dark discussion of pirates, followed by a burning ship. Fellowship of the Ring grabs you with a war sequence. It seems that if violence or some dark piece of humainty doesn't open a screenplay, it's not going to sell. It's why my comedy - MY COMEDY - opens with:


FADE IN:

INT. ANCIENT DUNGEON - DAY

Well, now that we're in a dungeon, we know things are nice and ugly, and we can happily go into our film. :smallconfused:

Oh...I said earlier that I used my friends and their characters in SoM, but that changed. Well, there was a falling out amonst us, and as time went on, threats reached me. Threats of copyright infringement of their fictional characters, a defamation of their real characters. It's why The Summer of Magic has been through so many incarnations, and why it may never be finished. I'll always fear that a success with this particular story would prove to be my downfall. :smalleek:

Rant over...for now.

Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-17, 05:01 PM
I waited a bit before replying to this, as it was posted while I typed the last rant, but...


I am a notorious cinema hater in the extreme. Which is why the cinema never comes up as suggestion of what to do when I go out with friends. I always suggest it.
Therefore anything that makes me desparately want to go to the cineme is really good. And my friends always love the film as well, no matter if they were particularly interested in the film before.
If this came out in the cinema I'd want to see it. An intelligent comedy with a plot! *gasp* Hollywood has grown up.
Such a rarity must be written, produced and seen in the cinema.

Emphasis, mine.

My response: NEVAR! (That's "never," but with, like, an accent or something.) From the same script you'd like to see produced...



The quartette is walking purposely from the house when Alden comes to a halt.

ALDEN
Hold up!

The others stop and turn to him.

SIMON
There a problem?

ALDEN
Yes. Look.

He points to his feet.

Separating Alden from the rest of the party is a hole in the ground about fifty feet wide and ten feet deep.

LUCY
Gods above! What is that?

SIMON
And why didnít we fall in?

RACHEL
I know what it is, but Iíve never seen one so big before.

Alden flashes a sly grin and opens his mouth to say something.

Lucy clears her throat loudly.

He looks to her and sees that sheís nocked an arrow in a bow and aiming at his face.

LUCY
One crack about male genitalia and this arrow goes through yours.

She adjusts her aim for his crotch.

SIMON
(points to the hole)
Excuse me, but what about this?

RACHEL
Itís a plot-hole.

SIMON
A what?

RACHEL
A plot-hole. A major gap in a story that would ruin everything.

SIMON
My apologies if Iím slow, but why didnít we fall in?

RACHEL
Because we missed it. But Alden is too observant for his own good.

Rachel folds her arms impatiently and glares at Alden.

RACHEL
Well? Are you going to tell us what the problem is?

ALDEN
For starters, where did Lucy get the bow?

RACHEL
The hole wouldnít be that big for that. Next!

ALDEN
Oh. Ummm...well, we came all this way to ask where the bubble bath was -

LUCY
The sword.

ALDEN
Oh. Right. Forgot I was deceived and that weíve changed story lines, which Iíll have you know can be quite confusing. I mean, you donít see something like that happen very often, and -

RACHEL
Would you shut up and tell us already!

SIMON
Wait! I got it.

All eyes are now on Simon, whoís holding the script in his hands. He flips pages rapidly as he skims along.

SIMON
We seek the wise man. Heís dead. Blah, blah legends. The sword. Some Yiddish the writer thinks will impress people. Alden threatens to crack a [censored] joke. Over an entire page on the plot-hole. I come up with the script.

He snaps the script shut.

SIMON
We never asked for directions.

ALDEN
Exactly.

LUCY
Wow. Glad I missed that one. Itís pretty damned big.

Again, Alden opens his mouth.

LUCY
Oh, cut it out.

:biggrin:

Uncle Festy
2008-02-19, 10:16 PM
:biggrin:, indeed.
You have officially made me want to see this movie so many times more.
Oh, and I finally figured out something to say!
I know what it's like to try and convert between mediums. Over the past year, there's been this storyline that has been growing in my mind. I don't remember which came first - the campaign setting (for D&D) in which it was set, the adventure that it was based on, or the characters it revolved around. Regardless, I spent a lot of time over the past summer hammering out this story.
How does this tie in? See, for the whole time this story's been growing, I haven't been able to decide between book or comic. It's really annoying. There are so many scenes that would take forever to describe on a page, but could be easily conveyed by a comic. Anything visual is a piece of cake - relatively speaking. However, if I should ever want the characters to get contemplative in the comic (god forbid![/sarcasm]), I have to run it at the same time as some major action scene. Otherwise, it would be boring as <insert curse word here>. The really dramatic opening that I penned (penciled, actually - I avoid pens when unnecessary) last April wouldn't translate smoothly into comic form. And at the same time, there were so many scenes that just seemed even better in the comic, but - look, do you have any idea how hard it is to make a scene where everyone knows someone's identity except the reader in a visual format? Keeping them in the annoying concealing shadows, or just off panel, or... anything. Grr.
Huh. I guess this got kinda ranty. 'Course, that's what a lot of this thread is being used for, I guess. You know, I haven't touched this story in months. Maybe it's time to pick up the pen again...

Paragon Badger
2008-02-19, 10:34 PM
I have heard the key to comedy is thusly;

Step 1: Say everything that comes to your mind
Step 2: Remember what made the audience laugh.
Result: With time, you'll get an intuitive knowledge.

Might be difficult with cinema as the medium, since you rarely get to see the audience's reactions.

Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-20, 09:19 AM
Hmmm...People to reply to, instead of me just going on and on? How strange! :smallconfused:

@ Uncle Festy

First off, THANKS! Wanna buy the script for a few hundred thousand dollars? Then you can make it. :smallbiggrin:

Your difficulty with writing explains why the genres are becoming increasingly blurred as time passes. But I can point you toward the writer that might be able to help you: J.K. Rowling.

The Harry Potter series was much more than a fantasy. It was also a CLASSIC example of a mystery series. Clues were dropped in the readers' laps, "red herrings" were placed, and characters within the stories had knowledge others, specifically the audience, didn't. In fact, it was the red herrings that ensured the readers were looking the wrong way when the truth was revealed.

Harry's adventures crossed many genres. Fantasy, adventure, mystery, suspense, drama, and comedy. For a bit of writing education, don't just read the novels...study them. :smallsmile:


@ Paragon Badger

In my first post, I made mention of there being at least five drafts of anything I write. Draft number four is when I get audience reaction.

Here's how I do it:

Draft 1: Get the story out. It doesn't matter what kind of shape the story's in, just get it out of my head and onto a word processing program.

Draft 2: Print a copy of the story and get away from the computer. The reason to get away from the computer is to avoid jumping all over the story, changing the page count, and confusing myself. Attack the pages with a red pen. By the time I'm done, the copy of my story looks like a battlefield. Then go back and edit the story...backwards. Sometimes the changes made alter the page count so severely that finding a specific point is too difficult. If page one sees a lot of work, finding page 33 later could be a job unto itself. (Been out of ink for years, so this step has been REALLY...well, nonexistent.)

Draft 3: By now, most of the major work has been done, so I don't print it. I read the story again, fine tuning it as much as I can. Most common is my need to correct my corrections. Oddly, "there, they're, and their" manage to plague me quite often, as does "you're and your." I usually catch them, but then...

Draft 4: ...is usually when my errors are caught. This is when I have someone else read my work and critique it. I don't hand it off to someone who will simply rave about it. I have another set of eyes go over it to tell me what works, what doesn't work, and what errors I've managed to miss.

Draft 5: Put whatever the manuscript I'm working on through Word. The spell and grammar check often pick up what the program thinks is an error, but was my intent, so I often click that precious "ignore" button. Then again, it sometimes picks up something all eyes have missed, and I make my corrections.

With a screenplay, draft #5 is the roughest, especially when it comes to dialogue. People often speak improperly, with such things as a preposition at the end of a sentence, fragment sentences, and what the program calls "a non-standard question." It's so tempting to click "ignore all" during this phase...but what if there's something that's always been clear to me, but remains unclear due to one of these grammatical errors?

Of course, if I ever make a sale and it's made, your suggestion of getting audience reaction will be unavoidable, as my work gets ripped to shreds by critics and audience members alike. :smalleek:

rubakhin
2008-02-20, 06:03 PM
Nu, Bor, what do you know about the entertainment industry? Recently I've become hellbent on getting killed filming something in Chechnya. (Or Morocco or wherever, it doesn't matter. Actually, if I can't get to Chechnya, I'd like to film on Vozrozhdeniya or in Promyshlennyi.) Only I don't know how to drum up money or anything like that.

I know a couple of people with industry connections, but they don't like me. :smallfrown:

Bor the Barbarian Monk
2008-02-20, 09:45 PM
Nu, Bor, what do you know about the entertainment industry? Recently I've become hellbent on getting killed filming something in Chechnya. (Or Morocco or wherever, it doesn't matter. Actually, if I can't get to Chechnya, I'd like to film on Vozrozhdeniya or in Promyshlennyi.) Only I don't know how to drum up money or anything like that.

I know a couple of people with industry connections, but they don't like me. :smallfrown:

As much as I APPEAR to know about the industry, my one and only connection turned out to be a self-centered -


Okay...name calling is actually beneath my style, and can lead to, of all things, a libel suit. So I will tell the story as it happened, and let you judge. A wee bit of this is hearsay, so don't hold me to ALL of the facts.

In my juvenile delinquent years, I knew this guy. Of the group of failures that we were all sure to be, he looked to be the one who would go nowhere the fastest. Oh, how little we knew.

Well, the years went by, and he vanished into the music industry. I didn't know what happened to him, but when I faced a surgical procedure that he'd gone through as a teen, I looked him up. We chatted for a bit, he quelled my fears of the surgery, and we went our seperate ways again.

When I moved back to Arizona, I took my screenwriting seriously enough to invest in a screenwriting program. I was sitting on a few thousand dollars then, so the $300 program, which would set up everything perfectly and professionally for my writing, was nothing. The program was a blessing, and made my hobby infinitely easier.

Ah, but the money ran out quickly. I was having a hard time trying to get my work to the eyes that should see it.

So I did some searching, and found my old "friend" again. He was working for an entertainment firm called, shockingly, The Firm! He agreed to take my manuscripts over to their movie people so they could see them. I did my best with what little resources I had and sent him three scripts.

In short order, I felt like I was using an instant message program, and the person I was trying to reach had me on ignore. :smallannoyed: I made call after call to both his office and his cell phone. No call back. I received an e-mail that made some vague mention about another e-mail he supposedly sent to me with some comments, but no such e-mail existed. Since his e-mail address was on my mailing list, it would not have ended up in the spam bin. The simple answer: he didn't send me anything. In all likelihood, my scripts went into the trash.

At this point, I was in trouble. I was facing eviction. My friend HAD to be in a good financial position, as I knew what he was doing in the industry. I BEGGED FOR HELP! What I received in answer was silence.

Y'see, while I knew what he was doing, I didn't know EXACTLY what he was doing. While I was trying to sell my work, and get myself out of poverty, instead of begging as I had, he was focusing on what was most important to him: himself. Seems my friend was working diligently on only one thing, and that was leaving The Firm, taking one of their best assets along with him.

What am I babbling about? Well, Google it. Look for news of Linkin' Park, and their manager. Like me, his initials are "RM." Unlike me, it seems he wouldn't help a friend in need, even if that friend in need was facing homelessness. :smallmad:

In a recent call with a ghost from my past, I learned the error of my ways. The money I used to send my work to my "friend" would have been used equally was well if I'd mailed it to a ditch in the desert. He gets very excited about a project, but unless it has an impact on his wallet, there's no followup.

Oddly, once he'd all but swiped Linkin' Park from The Firm, the dunce sent me an e-mail to let me know he had a new office, and what have you. My reply was...less than kind. :smallfurious:

Sorry I can't help, Rubikan, but I can't even muster the funds to print my work, much less mail it out. :smallfrown: