Shakin’ things up so much it registers on the Richter Scale

richter scale
Brace yourself

I recently took part in a group conversation with some other writers, and naturally, the topic came around to “So what else are you working on?” I always enjoy this sort of thing. So many great ideas out there.

When it was my turn, I mentioned some of what’s been occupying my time, which included the Christmas-themed mystery-comedy.

“A Christmas mystery-comedy? What’s that about?”

I launched into my 30-second elevator pitch. “LA Confidential with an all-elf cast.” The seedy underbelly of the world of Santa’s workshop. Guns. Sassy dames. Tough-talking gangsters. Intrigue. Double-crossings. The whole gin-soaked ball of wax.

While most thought it sounded like a lot of fun, one person looked absolutely horrified.

“Oh no!” they exclaimed. “My kids and I love Christmas. It’s supposed to be sweet and wonderful! I can’t believe you’d want to write something like that.” (All that was missing was them sprawled on a fainting couch, claiming to have the vapors while frantically fanning themselves.)

How could I not want to write this? Sweet and wonderful doesn’t make for good storytelling. I love this kind of story, and think it would make a great script.

This person makes it sound like trying something new is a bad idea because it messes with the comfort of the familiar. Yet one of the most common tenets is “Familiar, but different.” A story you’ve seen before, but told in an entirely new way. It’s what we should all work towards.

Everybody’s looking for something truly original and unique. Why in the world would you want to write something that doesn’t offer up anything new?

Every script you write is a golden opportunity to push your creativity to the limit so you really catch ’em off-guard. You know the story you want to tell, but it’s on you to truly surprise your reader/audience. Take things in an entirely different direction. They may think they know what’s coming, but you know better and look forward to how they’re going to react.

No matter what genre your story falls into, there will be certain expectations that come with it. The challenge of every writer is to not just meet those expectations, but toss them out the window and offer up a totally new and unexpected way of telling that story. Some people may not like it, but it’s most likely they’re in the minority, and therefore not your target audience.

Think about it. What kind of script are you more likely to take notice of and remember? One that goes for new and original, or one that plays it safe with the tried, true and predictable?

I know which one I’d pick, and will be waiting over by the window for your answer.

Reduce heat; let simmer for 2-3 months

I look exactly like that after finishing each draft, flour and all
Exactly how I look after finishing a draft, even though the flour wreaks havoc with my keyboard

It took a little longer than expected, but the revamped outline for the pulpy adventure spec is finally done.

As is my usual practice, I won’t take another stab at it for at least a couple of months partly because I’m feeling a little burned-out on it. This has been my primary focus for the past couple of months, and I just need a short break from it.

The other reason is I’m getting ready to jump into rewriting the Christmas-themed mystery-comedy. Notes are in place, so hopefully it won’t take too long.

But getting back to the outline, my original thought upon finishing it was the standard “It’s better than it was, but still needs a lot of work,” but experience has taught me that this may not necessarily be the case anymore.

I like to think I’m a stronger writer compared to a few years ago, so while I would never consider the material as it reads now as perfect, it may surprise me when I return to it as to how much better it is than I remember.

At least that’s what I’m hoping for.

On the other hand, I could read it and think “Where did that come from?”, “Well, that’s not going to work,” or even “Hmm. How much wine did I have that day?”

Taking it another step further, taking this break will enable me to pretty much forget a lot about the story, so I’ll be able to read it with fresh eyes and potentially come up with fresh ideas about how to improve it.

All things being equal, I like the way it turned out and am looking forward to getting back to it.

But first things first. Time to shift from the fight against monsters wreaking havoc to seeking out answers behind seedy goings-on in a holiday metropolis.

As always, watch this space for updates.

All wrapped up with a bow and everything

Nothing like a gift from a nice Jewish boy on Christmas
Nothing like a gift from a nice Jewish boy on Christmas

This being Christmas Eve, the timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous.

I’m very grateful for my ever-growing legion of readers, and try to show my appreciation when I can. And today is no exception.

You know if I could, I’d give each and every one of you much success with whatever project or projects you’re working on. And a piece of pie, just to make this festive occasion that much more festive.

But since neither is actually doable, I hope you’ll enjoy a gift of a more hypothetical nature.

Don’t worry. Size, color and the usual details do not factor into this. It’s actually pretty simple.

Here’s how it works: You can have anything connected with the making of any movie ever made. Prop, costume, vehicle, director’s chair, animation cel, script.

Whatever you want, it’s yours with my compliments. Again, hypothetically.

What’s it going to be?

But remember – just one.

(And once you’ve made your decision, maybe reconsider the pie option)