In Treatment

I started to write my first treatment. In screenwriting terms, this is, basically, a screenplay written in long form. There aren't any rules in how you write treatments. You can include dialogue, you can write detailed, to the second, descriptions (back story) of your characters. The writer can describe scenes in as much detail as they would like. For them (damn) screenwriters that get paid for writing screenplays, a treatment is all that it may take, pre or post pitch, to get it sold.

Are treatments necessary? No. It’s the screenplay (story and characters) that gets sold. But can it help? I am in the process of learning this. In reading anything I can get a hold of, in regards to successful screenwriters, I have read that this can be part of their process. Some screenwriters don’t write treatments, some write outlines, and others write both (or a combination of both 'scriptment"). Some of my heroes just stand in front of a computer, or pad of paper, and write scenes and let the story/characters take place in front of them. I have read that some professional screenwriters will write 40 to 50+ page treatments. Other screenwriters are solely into outlines (I hate outlines). I read a treatment of a 2+ hour movie that was written in about twenty five pages where ten or more of those pages had nothing to do with what we saw on the screen.

What am I to do? Are treatments only pertinent to screenplays before they are written? Is this a clue that my current (45 page) screenplay I’m writing isn’t worth the hours I’ve spent at the computer combined with the hundreds of hours thinking about this screenplay? Am I trying to find something that isn‘t there? Is my main character, the story is based on, relevant? Does he have a voice others want to see?



The Oscars

I have many comments about the outcome of the Oscars. Since this blog is specifically and intentionally about writing, I have a few comments…

First of all, I thought it was a brilliant show - good writing (yes, even the Oscars are written). Well done.

Second of all, I was so happy to see that they decided to do the categories in steps… from the beginning to the end, of how movies are made. As a screenwriter, I was happy to see that the screenwriting categories were given out early in the show (see my earlier blogs regarding the nominees). I was most proud to see how the writers of the show decided to go about presenting the screenwriting nominees by including the words of the screenwriters along with the actors, on screen.

My mom, whom every word I write goes through first, always says how hard it is to read screenplays. I hope this presentation, the Oscars deciding to go with, helps her be more comfortable with the words I, proudly, give her to read. Screenplays are written for the screen. It is hard to see the words unless you are able to connect the words with images. The 2009 Oscar show was able to do this. I only hope she was watching. I value her opinion more than anybody.

The last, and most important comment I would make… is a big one. Endings.

Every person who wants to be a (successful) screenwriter, reads Syd Field’s “Screenplay - The Foundations of Screenwriting”. It is the first book I bought and read regarding screenwriting. The first thing that made me think that reading his book wasn’t necessary, was that he insisted (my words) that you know the ending of every screenplay you write.

Bullocks, I thought.

I reached back into my memory of watching the Oscars. Every time, I can remember, they rushed through the last three categories… Best Lead Actor, Best Lead Actress, and Best Picture.

In a three hour extravaganza, why do they rush the three most (excluding the screenwriting) categories in a ten minute period? The answer is simple… they want to keep the audience’s attention as long as possible. That is why the break up the categories in between musical/crap pieces.

RE: the Ending.

We are all waiting for the winners. We want an ending. We want to know the winners and losers of the biggest races. We want to turn off the TV with an answer - a solution. It’s the same with movies.

Oh Crap! I just made a discovery (in my own mind). The Oscars are presented just like a movie. It is structured just like a film (My fascination with screenwriting structure continues). There’s an introduction (the main character/host invites us to take a journey with him)… our interests are peaked by giving a Supporting Actress award (inciting incident)… They tease us with the Best Directing award, until finally giving it… and they go to the end of the second act by presenting the audience with those great actors that pasted away - in a montage. We are all, emotionally, engaged with what will happen next. One more twist before the big categories go out…

The Supporting Actor category followed by…

The ending.

God Bless movies/story



Two things happened to me I never thought was possible. One is that I wrote some poetry last night. The second is that I am actually going to share it.

This is my "Smile" collection:

Down around the corner, just outside the carnival lined streets…

Under the lighted sky, sits…

One with a wilted, second hand dress and long, blackened eyelashes…

The carnival crowd, dressed in smiles, holding cotton candy…
doesn’t recognize her.

It rained. Others left. She, with a dress and long blackened eyelash sits…

In the front row - with a smile.

The bike was built for three. Three seats. Three pedals.

In the front seat, with his feet moving… round, and, slowly… round again…

Is a man riding uphill.

The top of the hill seemed so far when he started.

Now he sits, out of breath, with a smile looking…


The tarp covered a hundred people…

Except for one.

She liked rain. She liked the feeling of being on the outside.

“Come in. We have room.”

With a smile, she says…

“No thanks.”

It was the differences she hated.

Why were others different from me?

I am beautiful, but they take difference to me.

Why don’t they see me… my beauty?

That’s what I’m saying. Why does that boy say that?

“He doesn’t smile the way you do. He’s jealous.”

She thanked her friend by giving him a high five with her left hand.

Her other arm and legs stopped functioning after the accident.

It was the smile that gave him away.

He tried to hide it, but it always came out.

The good looking girl across the room saw his smile and…

Turned away.

The next girl around might like his smile, but…

Maybe not. Oh well.


The mask was picked out several months before.

You can’t be passive aggressive in the fall before the Christmas season.

Ghost, Goblin, Superman, or his favorite comic book villain…

The Joker.

I want to avoid the crowds. I’m not one for the crowds.

In his mirror he’s had since forth grade, the man smiles in a way…

Only the Joker could admire.

Falling down never crossed her mind.

Spelling is spelling.

Rehearse. I must rehearse.

I know the words. I know the words. I know the words.

There are rules. I know the rules.

Grammar. I “am” grammar. I see things in my mind.

Letters become pronouns. Pronouns become…

Stop that! Syllable by syllable.

Listen to yourself. You know this.

What will I wear? Will it distract me from spelling?

My mother groomed me to be special - what I should wear.

I am special. Exceptional, festive, out of the ordinary, primary, peculiar, first…

“You’ll be late. Get your butt out there. Don’t make me look stupid.”

That’s my mom. She smiled when I won my first prize.

Line dancing was really great when my grandfather joined me.

With Grandma’s 100th birthday, he wasn’t able to come this time.

Too bad for him… it was two for Tuesdays.

Grandpa loved two for Tuesdays. He would often dance his best on these nights.

“Two dances in one was a bargain.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but I understood his smile when he said it.

I’m sure Grandpa likes Grandma but…

I know he likes my smile more than hers.

He talked about marriage the day after meeting my mother.

It was the smile and the warm greeting she gave him, I think.

In a way I think he missed it - my smile.

My best friend warned me of this.

“Don’t let him meet your mother. She has a smile bigger than mars.”

My friend’s astrological inclinations aside, I think she was right…

He liked what I could not give him.

She pardoned herself from her company that evening.

She had to smile. She had to smile.

“I’m sick of those that don’t smile.” She says.

He didn’t smoke, but he was caught outside of the employee entrance on his way to work…
listening to some happy person talking about something between each inhale and exhale.

“I’m sorry, but I really want to see a smile.” She says.

“I smile”, says the man on his way to work.

“You hide it well.”

“I only share it to those that really need it.”

She tried to sleep off her smile from the night before. She couldn’t.

You can’t blame her, it was a long day of smiling. It started in the morning.

The tenth smile in an hour, her new child gave her, was only the beginning.

It continued when her life partner brought home a dozen chocolate cupcakes and….

A new attitude.

She wanted her more than she ever thought was possible.

Frickin Bukowski. Gotta love that guy

One of my favorite Bukowski poems:

So you want to be a writer

if it doesn’t come bursting out of youin spite of everything, don’t do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut,don’t do it. if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don’t do it.

if you’re doing it for money or fame,don’t do it.

if you’re doing it because you want women in your bed, don’t do it.

if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don’t do it.

if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it, don’t do it. if you’re trying to write like somebodyelse, forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out ofyou, then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you, do something else.
if you first have to read it to your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your parents or to anybody at all, you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers, don’t be like so many thousands ofpeople who call themselves writers, don’t be dull and boring and pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-love.

the libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over your kind.

don’t add to that. don’t do it. unless it comes out ofyour soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don’t do it.

unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don’t do it.

when it is truly time, and if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. there is no other way. and there never was.

— Bukowski



"One of my -- standard -- and fairly true -- responses to the question as to how story ideas come to me is that story ideas only come to me for short stories. With longer fiction, it is a character (or characters) coming to visit, and I am then obliged to collaborate with him/her/it/them in creating the story."

- Roger Zelazny

I must say that this is what got me into writing. I love the idea of letting your characters "have fun". To allow them to take you into paths you wouldn't expect. I still remember sleeping one night when a character of mine came into my subconscious, asking me "what he should do next." I thought that was really cool. This is what professional writers feel - I'm one of them. Unfortunately, for me, I spent several months writing, rewriting, and then rewriting two screenplays in this manner (listening to your characters). -- It's bullocks (my favorite English slang term).

I don't know if Mr. Zelazny was British or not, but I found out that he was a science fiction writer. It figures. Of all that is literary, who chooses to write science fiction...

Oh wait, I know... a romance novelist.

Crap! Here I am dissing on people that actually make money for their writing.

I regress.

Characters of mine don't talk to me anymore. I am so glad (I hate their banter). If they did, I would still be re-writing the same junk over and over again till it made me feel better. I love that I just erased over 15 pages of my current screenplay, because, well it just sucked and I'm sick of making sucky stuff into less sucky stuff.

The current character of mine forced me to "collaborate" with him. He became so much less of a character than I originally had in my mind before I started. His journey became less of a journey.

Thank you, science fiction writing, Mr. Zelazny.

God bless you.


Re: American Idol post

I have, unofficially, got my first negative/"I don't understand" comment on one of my blogs.

This is wonderful. I wanted this.

I must clarify my posting about relating writing to the show "American Idol".

All I was saying is that we cannot dismiss (or laugh) at all of the bad auditions on that show, because art is about exposing one's self. If artists, no matter how bad (or good) they are, gave up after their first negative review, we would be without art. Van Gogh would have an ear, and all of those authors that the character, James Lear in "Wonder Boys" so, spectacularly spouted out about committing suicide, would have died by natural causes without writing a thing (or at least a good thing).

Life is about exploration. Life would suck without boys and girls singing in front of Paula Abdul.

(wait a minute... did I just say that?)

Yes I did. Paula Abdul, giving praise to almost everyone that can't sing (singing can be learned) has done the best thing she could have done. She has given hope... she has given those with a voice, (a bad, but an improving voice) something to hope for.

I have a voice and I am your next American idol.

I do Studid things by Myself....

A friend of mine read a past blog in which I talked about screenplay structure. It was how certain events, in a movie, take place at certain times. He was referring to the midpoint/half way point of the movie where the story, in terms of the main character (A-story), is turned completely around.

Structure to me, in screenwriting, is down right fascinating. It has taken a hold of me and it won’t let go. The specific part of structure I just can’t quite get a handle on is that of the B-story. It is referenced in books about screenwriting in different terms, but it is a character who is in the life of the antagonist, but is not truly in the life (He or she doesn‘t take as much screen time). The importance of that character or story line is as, equally important but it never gets in the way of the main character until it is absolutely necessary.

This B-story must play a vital part of the antagonist’s journey, but it is never explored in detail. But, at the same time, this character is just as important as the film’s antagonist. This represents a huge dilemma on the screenwriter, especially the spec writer who is trying to find out what the hell is the answer. In a way, I think the mastery of this story line/B-character is more important than that of the antagonist/main character‘s story.

To real life…

We are all on our own journey of life. We encounter obstacle after obstacle and we deal with those obstacles the best we can. In that pursuit of life, day after day, we don’t realize what is truly important. This is the B-story. We don’t pay enough attention to others until it is absolutely necessary. That friend, or person whom you never met, but has given you words of wisdom or who has acted in a way that you see as noble, ends up being more important in our own lives (at that moment) than you ever thought. It brings a tear to your eye, it reaches down and brings the fear out of your body, showing it to everyone at that moment, or it makes you laugh at something you never thought was possible. This is the B-story in everyone’s lives.

I was watching the movie, “Water Lillies” (translated into English). The B-story’s (character) said “We mustn’t split up, Marie. I do stupid things by myself.”

Guess what? That line, in the movie, came at the end of the 2nd act, ending that character‘s story.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be the B-story in everyone’s life. They never get enough credit, do they?


Darn that American Idol

Is it wrong to watch American idol? Yes, it is. We have so much more to worry about. We have so many other options to get away from our daily life, to escape. What is worse, is ignoring that the show exists and why it is so popular. It is about young Americans throwing everything out, through (multiple) auditions, showing their true voice. Whenever people do that, it brings an audience.

The writers audience doesn’t always include actual people. Simon Cowell doesn’t sit in front of writers as they peck at their keyboards waiting for a good review, or a British crack of how bad that last sentence, or line of dialogue was. Writers, on all levels, face our inner demons through every sentence, act break, quick line of dialogue, and sequence of scenes. It is ultimately about the story as a whole. The young twenty something’s on American Idol don’t know what lies ahead of them, but they know, when they step on that stage, they believe that they can be a professional singer. In reality (in spec writing terms), they are thinking that they can be the next writing sensation.

I am your next American Idol.

Today I spent a couple hours writing. Hundreds of thousand of writers (paid or unpaid) did the same. It is us on that page. I’m am one of those belting out something from inside me. I may be that guy who thinks he has a wonderful voice but, to others, it is “bloody awful”. I might be that person with an amazing voice and stage presence, but is too shy to try out.

It doesn’t really matter does it? We are all artist trying to get our voice heard and/or throwing ourselves out there, through art.

I may not have “the chops”, but at least I am trying. With that, I go to sleep with a smile on my face and an understanding, that before that character presented him or herself on the page, he or she didn't have a voice.


Picking my Guitar

I started to play the guitar again. I picked it up for the first time a couple years ago but I didn't keep up with the learning process - I put it down. The first thing you realize when picking up something new is that it is not only fun, but it is difficult. Difficult sucks when you know, that if you were to make any sort of money playing the guitar, making music, it will take years to get that good. It is a goal that is almost impossible. It can't be attainable, not at my age.

To become someone good enough to play guitar for a living, you have to be good as or better than everyone else. That means playing it till your fingers are about to bleed. The best part of your fingers bleeding is that you feel alive. This is what I feel when I grind through story after story knowing that what I produce after several months, will likely not go anywhere but on a page in my desk drawer or a file on my personal computer. But the best part of it all is that those pages, those calluses on the fingers, is worth every moment because what you did is something coming out of you. If anybody that knows me is reading this, please share it.

That is why I write and that is why I share these thoughts of mine to anybody that will listen.


The 75 page dilemma

Okay, so you have reached about the 75th page of your screenplay. A typical screenplay, and therefore a movie you watch, will always (if you don’t believe me, watch any movie) makes a complete turn at the midpoint (half way). This, depending on the number of pages of your screenplay, is where the story makes a 180 degree turn. Everything that has happened before this moment is just a false victory or a false defeat for your antagonist. He or she has entered a whole new set of problems he/she has to deal with.

Back to writing screenplays. Hours have been put into writing your script at this point. After hours spent thinking about and/or outlining, it turns to actually writing scenes on the page. Since the midpoint is half of your movie in your mind, this is the time, as a screenwriter, that is the toughest. You either know you have something and you go on with a big smile on your face, or you are contemplating that you have made a mistake even getting to this point. The problem in realizing you may have made a mistake is that you have already put several hours into writing actual scenes. If you are like me, instead of progressing the story, you go back and start re-writing. Re-writing at this stage can be brutal for spec screenwriter. If you spend hours tinkering with something you have already written, you may not truly believe you have a good story to tell. In a way you are trying to find answers for your story which means it might not be good enough. This can be really tough because spec screenwriters must be able to sell a script when he or she is done writing. Only a 10% of getting an actually movie or TV show put on screen is dependant on your quality of writing. If you don’t have it, you are dead.

A step back.

Stories, characters, scenes, or sequences of scenes go through my mind on an hourly basis. Everything I see and every person I have contact with is magnified. Even a mannerism someone makes will probably end up in a story I write. This being said, writers are quick to jump on something or someone, thinking they have a story to tell. Dozens of movies pop up in your mind. As a writer you have to explore everything. This means we start writing scenes and thinking about new screenplays on a weekly basis. When this happens those little fingers start a’typing or they start writing on anything that you can find. This pulls us away from the project you have already started.

The 75 page dilemma.

After all those things that go through your mind and with all of those stories you’ve started writing, you have to settle on a screenplay and go with it. Hours and weeks later you are at that 75th page knowing that if you go on you may not have a good story, but if you give up you’ve lost that time developing something you hope someone will buy.

Did I mention only 10% of getting your screenplay getting it on screen depends on the actually quality of your writing?

I believe in this story… I must go on.


Emotional Part 2

I recently watched the movie "Love, Caution", directed by Ang Lee. In the extra portion of the DVD, Mr. Lee started the 'made of' portion of the DVD commentary on his movie by saying, "The most important thing is bravery. You need the courage to expose yourself (so) people can see something for real. And that's the beauty of art."

And yes, writing is art.

It's about emotion. "expose yourself" ... "bravery" ... "courage" ... "real" ... "art". All of those words and phrases is what creating characters that reach the basic emotions of the audience, is all about.

More importantly, as a writer, it is his or her duty to expose yourself through the characters on each and every page, each and every scene.