Monday, April 30, 2012

Unofficial Fairy Tale Fortnight! Cinder and Shan's Top Picks

So I really wanted to participate in FTF, but, alas, April is also Script Frenzy and I didn't plan enough ahead too. So, I'm going to unofficially partcipate, and those reading, check out the The Book Rat's Fairy Tale Fortnight Line-Up.

So I'm going to start my FTF post with some Food for Thought: Cinder.

Last week, Marissa Meyer released discussion questions for Cinder. I didn't contribute any questions, because, well, I couldn't think of them at the time. But, being the big fan that I am (besides absolutely loving the book, Marissa Meyer is my hero), and because some of the questions I've actually discussed myself with friends and family, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on my favorite questions.

 3. Cinder has many unique abilities—the ability to detect lies, to download information directly into her head, to overlay her eyesight with helpful diagrams, etc. What kinds of abilities might we want to develop from future technology? What cyborg skill would you like to have today?

The cyborg question: Ok, I'll admit, this is the biggest logic fault for me. I'm assuming that Ms. Meyer has thought about this, and I just don't know the answer because, well, it's not pertenant. If there is such discrimination against cyborgs (who have really awesome super powers), why would anyone become a cyborg??? My choices are death, palatalization, or becoming something that's not even a citizen anymore? Is it really better than death if you escape death just to be drafted and killed with the plague draft??? Many stories talk about how freedom and human rights are noble - a cause worth dying for. Is a life as a cyborg really better than death?

Actually, I think that if (well, when) cyborgnetics become that advanced we will develop two social status - those with enhanced parts and those without. There will be an eletisim for those who are pure, but I can aslo imagine that would exsist for those who are cyborgnetic. I think there would be discrimination, but not a class division.

4. In Cinder’s future, Earth has been conglomerated into six countries who have formed an alliance called the Earthen Union. Though Cinder lives in Asia (the Eastern Commonwealth), there is much evidence of western influence (ex., the ball gowns that are made for Peony and Pearl). Do you think this mixing of cultures is a believable result of the Earthen Union? How do you foresee cultures changing (or not) as a result of the increased communication and travel we have access to today?

This is my favorite part of the book - globalization! This is a real socio-economic-political theory! I adored that this world considers the world as a whole, and that there are different, even if it's just slightly, factions in the world. Having one truely homegenous culture in sci-fi always, always, bothered me.

Yet, we are on track for losing the majority of our culture and beoming on homengeous community. Yes, there will still be cultural quirks, but, I do believe that influences would strech that far. I live in New Orleans, which has an alarmingly strong and not traditionally American culture, but I can see that as my generation grows, that culture is really fading and turning into the standard American culture. We're loosing our slang, our festivals, our flavor. Some of this homengenation is good, but some of it is sad.  Yes, it's still here, but not like it was 10, 20, or 50 years ago.

9. Was it right for Cinder to try to deliver the antidote to Peony first, even though there were others who also needed it? Was it right for Dr. Erland to offer her first access to the antidote? What would you have done in either situation?

This is an interesting question. As a writer, I know why this action worked out the way it did. Cinder is our hero. Her first goal was finding a cure for Peony. So, logicially, from a narrative POV, Peony is the only one who could recieve the antidote. When I was reading this, I didn't think anything of it. It wasn't until I started talking with someone I lent the book to that I the moral question was raised.

The reader disassociated with Cinder because of this action. She thought it was cruel and selfish of Cinder to believe that her sister was deserving of the cure when so many other were suffering. She also blamed Dr. Erland for offering it to Cinder, but Dr. Erland is already a bit of an morally ambigious character, so it was less bothersome. I hadn't thought about it that way before.

Those are my favorite questions, but there are a lot of food for thought among the questions. If you read Cinder, check out the questions and tell me what your answer would be.

So, this is part 2 of this post, and I'm going to list my favorite Fairy Tale adaptations!
(So add all of these to your reading list if you haven't already...)

1. Cinder  - Ok, so no one's surprised by this. Sci-fi, cyborg Cinderella of pure awesomeness.
2. A Long, Long Sleep - Another Sci-fi tale, but this one is Sleeping Beauty. There are so many layers of awesomeness in this book, I just can't describe it. But I can say, the story really starts after the kiss...
3. A Tale Dark and Grimm - Hansel and Gretel is just the beginning of this fun and well written fairy tale collection. There's an interrupting narrator, who makes this book awesome, and they way Hansel and Gretel are woven into various tales in unique ways.
4. Howl's Moving Castle - So technically, not based on any particular tale, but Jones weaves her own unique fairy tale that's just as good as any predecessor.
5. Cloaked - The most fun fairy tale mash-up I've ever read! It's a mix of the Frog Prince, and The Salad, and the Swan Brothers tale that I can't quite remember. It's a fun run, and my favorite of Flinn's books.
6. Briar Rose - A contemporary retelling of Sleeping Beauty involving the Holocaust. Yolen is amazing at weaving history and fable together.
7. Black Thorn, White Rose - A short story anthology (the only one in the series I've been able to get my hands on) that's really cool. There's an awesome "Godfather Death" story, and a frog pricne with a Sci-Fi twist, plus a chilling Sleeping Beauty...
8. The Sun - A very literary and poetic book, but so far the only Little Red Riding Hood I seem to love.

So there we have it, my FTF forrary.

Oh, and in case you were wondering....

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Writer's Block is Imaginary

Writer's Block...I refuse to admit I have it.

So what if keep staring at that large number of pages I'm behind in Script Frenzy and not doing anything about it. Or that I keep throwing pages in the air out of frustration with the script I've been writing at work. (Why won't it just come together in amazement yet??) Or that I've waited until after the last minute to write this blog post.

Writer's block - this magical excuse that a writer's muse has vanished for a short period of time, and a writer, no matter what, cannont write.

am exhausted. I work 40 hours a week (where I've been spending all my time working on 2 script for Summer reading videos, plus planning and filming said vidoes), come home, write, sometimes cook dinner, try to clean house, take care of the animals, socialize with my husband, organzine filming projects, film....I do a lot. For this last week and a half, every time I open my Script Frenzy project, all I see are the pages that are fluttering away from me and hesitate to write the next scene.

I could be creatively drained.

But I won't call this writer's block.

I am afraid that my script won't have the juice to make it to the 100 page mark (though, should I really be worried about that? I do have 12 pages of summer reading and mop scripts to fill with...).  I'm afraid that my script is crap - that it won't live up to the needs I have set for it. So I keep looking at it and thinking "something is wrong." My editor wants to go back and fix it, but I don't even know what the problem is yet.

But I won't call this writer's block.

This is the dredges right before the end. The middle slump. The hardest part. Since I'm behind, I missed this in week 3, and am now hitting it with just over a week left of April. Crunch time is about to set in. This is the easiest place to give up, throw the towel in, and move on.

But I won't because I don't believe in writer's block. Right now it's my exhaustion and fear trying to convince me to take the easy way out and quit. So, I take a deep breath, a nap, and a bath and keep on trucking.

I will not give up.

So, what do you think? Writer's block, real or not?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Writing by the Seat of Your Pants with...Screenplays???

Screenplays can be more structured than novels, short stories, prose, etc... And all screenwriting advice talks about this epic mapping of plot and beats - that you need a wall of notecards ever putting pen to paper, or hands to keyboard. Lot's of novelists give this advice as well. But, lot's of other novelists encourage just writing and letting the novel unfurl with minimal pre-planning. As Chris Baty calls it: pantsing.

But I never see this advice offered to screenwriters. Why is that? Many writers are already scared off by the formatting of screenwriting, but then let's add that you need an entire month or more of pre-planning? Those looser, non-outliners run for the hills...

Well I'm here to dispel this. Yes, you can completely write a successful screenplay without all those index cards and planning.

I am a panster screenwriting.

My "baby" screenplay was born of a challenge. Write a screenplay about a homicidal scrapbooking club, oh and the main character has to be gay (because the commissioner had certain parts already). Oh, and it has to include a shoe made of body parts (why?). Oh! And there has to be room for a sequel. Now go!


Script Frenzy rolled around, and I just started typing. I had no idea how any of this was going to work or who the main character was. But as I pushed forward, I started thinking and started letting the characters develop, and suddenly, I really had something. Something good. Something born without an outline.

I couldn't stretch out the ending anymore, and ended up making up the last 10 pages of bonus features to meet Script Frenzy's 100 pages. After revisions (there are about 2), the final script is 90 pages. I don't plan on selling the script, because, well, my production team wants to make it. But I have shown it to people in the "biz." One said that it wasn't his cup of tea, but that it was really well written and solid. The producer said that it wasn't something he could produce at this time, but has since called me about a script doctoring job. I showed it to actors and a few other writers, all of whom loved it.

No one said anything about pacing, or poor plotting, or weak structure. No one could tell that I didn't outline to the smallest detail, or that I made the whole thing up on the spot. No one thought for the briefest of moments that I wrote the whole thing without planning.

Now I'm not saying that I don't need revisions, but even traditionally outline scripts need revisions.

I have not planned out a screenplay since Scrapbooking three years ago. Even my current work, which is an adaptation, has no pre-planning and has gone from a short to a feature because I just sat down and started writing. And I plan on keeping it this way as long as I write.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Let's Talk About Adaptations

This Frenzy I'm writing an adaptation of a short story about zombies and the Great Chicago Fire. I'm keeping my lips a little tight about who's story it is because my film team is about to enter negotiations for rights.

This is not my first adaptation. My first attempt at screenwriting was an film noir adaptation of Grimm's "12 Dancing Princesses." My second attempt a screenwritng was an adaptaion of H.P. Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model." I've learned alot about adaptaions just from that, and with my experience level leagues higher then when I was attempting those, I'm now doing yet another adaptation.

And speaking of adaptations, let's talk about the Hunger Games, the adapation everyone's talking about, and because I read an article about concept art that wasn't used.

Before I even begin to start, let's set some basics down in writing.

Point 1: Film and prose, be that novels or short stories, are totally different mediums. They share many characteristics, but they are quite different. Things that work in words do not work on screen and vice versa.

Point 2: Readers are more forgiving than Viewers. Books can get away with slower pacing and even some plot holes without upsetting readers too much. Viewers are much harsher. Then, there's also the filmmakers in which economy of scenes, characters, and time are a necessity.

My opinion: The Hunger Games is one of the closest book to movie adaptations, and while an excellent adaptation, its goal to remain so close to the book actually detracts from its value as a movie. When I talk about the movie, I think of it as an excellent visual companion to the book, not as an excellent movie aside from the book. This is because the movie hits every major plot point of the book, and in doing so, causing the importance of certain events to be underplayed. (Such as Rue.)

There are going to be some people who think the movie is better than the book (especially those of us who found Katniss' narration F***ing annoying). There are going to be many that find the book better. I can't say if it ultimately is, but I do feel the movie means more if you read the book.

Let's get to the nitty gritty. There are changes made from the book to movie. Most of them are minor, some, major, but ALL understandable from a filmmaking prospective.

So let's talk about that article from earlier, and if you haven't seen/read Hunger Games - be warned - spoilers.

When I first heard they were making the Hunger Games into a film, my reactions were "Hell yes!" and "How are they going to keep this PG-13?" (I had very similar reactions when I heard Coraline was being made into a movie.)

Keeping Hunger Games PG-13 is an absolute must because this is a teen novel. The major demographic is teens between 13 and 17. By no means is this a children's movie, and it is certainly enjoyable to adults. But, leave the little ones at home.

Let's go back to that article I mentioned earlier. One of the biggest deviations from the book is the Muttations at the end of the movie. Before the movie ever came out, I remember laying in bed with my husband talking about how they're going to handle the dog-people at the end of the movie. It's pretty horrifying. Dead tributes turned into monsters sent after the remainging few. How were they going to keep that PG-13?

The answer: they couldn't. At least, I would bet large amounts of money that the dog creatures at the end of the movie were just dogs more for rating than anything else. (Though, it could also be because the character creation wasn't working, but the bad CG of the dogs in generally lead me to believe that it was more a rating issue.) The dogs are actually so bad, it almost takes the viewer out of the movie. Many who didn't read the book are left wondering, what the hell was that about? Those who read the book, are just plain mad.

I'm going to address this in two ways: 1.) Why keeping the movie PG-13 was so important, and 2.) why staying so close to the book actually hurt the adaption (aka, my opinion).

It's clear from the concept art that the filmmakers were intending on doing the Muttations right. Which is so cool. But, somehow, this concept didn't make it to the final cut. My best guess, ratings. It could have been poor character execution (like the reason Peeves was cut from Harry Potter), and it could have been budgetary (though, this was not a movie lacking in budget or profitability).

If the Muttations meant an R-rating, then they had to be changed, or the profitability of the movie would have changed. Most parents wouldn't have let their teens go to an R movie, and the few movie people who just love movies, wouldn't have been enough for the movie to make back it's budget. Because we have to remember that movies are just as much a business as an art. So, to keep the rating down and keep the movie available to the target audience, the Muttations had to go.

This leads right into my argument that the movie is too faithful to the book. Ok, I understand that the Muttations had to go. They were only impactful in the book because they looked like dead tributes. Now that they're just dog beasts, well, it's kind of lame. So why keep it? Because they were being "faithful." This became an aspect of the book that needed to be changed, but wasn't, and lessened it's overall impact. Why couldn't they have set the arena on fire again? Or flooded it? That would have gotten them to the top of the cornucopia and achieved the same ending. And it would have felt more natural than the weird dog things that were left.

But noooo, they had to be faithful. And the movie suffers for it.

So, let's look at the lesson here. When adapting a work of fiction to a movie, there has to be a balance. Keep the story as close as possible without letting the movie suffer. Acknowledge that some things just don't work in movies, and some things just don't work in print. Once you recognize that, watching a movie adaptation becomes more enjoyable. A movie can still be a good movie even if it's not 100% faithful to a book, or even 90% faithful.

I am keeping the Hunger Games close at mind while adapting my work. And if you've always had a problem with books turn to movies, I think you should try to write a script based on that book (What a Great Script Frenzy Project!). You'll have a whole new outlook on theprocess.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Let the Frenzy Begin!

So besides all the numerous things that consume all my time, I've also participate in Script Frenzy - Nanowrimo's sister script writing challenge. Because of this, I've put my revision WIP on hold. At least for a month. So for all of April, I'm going to post topics that come up during the Frenzy.

Today's topic: Don't be Afraid of the Script

A lot of people I talk to don't want to write a script because they're afraid of formatting. And I'll admit, compared to any other form of writing save some unusal forms of poetry, scriptwriting looks like Greek.

Personally, I think this is done half to scare away people from writing scripts.

In a way, it's a test for industry gatekeepers. They know how serious you are because you followed the ridiculous gatekeeping format.

But mostly, when actually filming the script, the format works really damn well.

But, thanks to modern technology, you don't have to really worry about formatting anymore! There's top of the line programs like Final Draft. Then many other writing programs like Scrivner offer Scriptwriting mode. Hell, even Mac's default Pages offers a scriptwriting form. And if you can't "afford" any of these programs, Celtx is free and available for download.

So there is no excuse for not formatting. Now we can rely on technology to transcribe our writing into Script Greek for us, and we only need to know 3 basics.

1. Scene headings - the INT./EXT. DAY/NIGHT

In prose, we spend paragraphs carefully crafting setting. In scripts, we spend one line.
INT. stands for interior and EXT. stands for exterior. Basically, are we indoors or out? (Tip: use INT if you're inside a car.) If you're moving indoors to outdoors, or not quite sure if it counts as either, just write it best you can. This is a 1st draft, you can look up the specific ruling on that after you've written it, if there there is a ruling.

Next, comes the where. HOUSE, CAR, CHRYSTLER BUILDING 27TH FLOOR. The actual where of the scene. It can be as brief as house, or as detailed as you want, like the 27th floor of a major building.

Finally, if it's important, time of day. Day, night, afternoon, morning, dawn, dusk, 3pm, etc. Time of day is really only used when it's important, otherwise, you don't really need it.

There you have it! All of those paragraphs and paragraphs of beautiful prose condensed down to one line. Now to move on.

2. Dialogue

A lot of any script is dialogue. It's short and squished together and doesn't use quotes.

Don't be afraid of it. Don't be afraid if it doesn't sound quite right yet. Just get it down, and be happy you don't have to worry about that "should I use said" conundrum.

Hey, look, we're 2/3rds of the way through all the basics!

Lastly, 3. Action, aka, everything else.

Now that we've eliminated dialogue and scene headings, everything else falls into an Action block. This is where any description goes. (Yes, there is still description, just not paragraph and paragraphs of it.) Any silent visuals. Any props. Any movement. It's a catchall for everything that's not a scene heading or dialogue. So when in doubt, just use an action block.

It's also a really great way to add on to your page count for Frenzy.

Does this cover every little detail of scriptwriting? No. Sometimes, you'll have odd little format questions. And in the real world, if it's odd, and you don't get it quite right, no one's going to notice because, chances are, they don't know how to write it either.

So if you've ever wanted to write a screenplay, play, radio drama, video game, comic, anything involving scripts, get off your butt, stop using excuses, join the Frenzy, and write.