A treasure trove of creative riches

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With sheltering-in-place still a thing, this is a great opportunity to discover and enjoy some amazing works across a wide spectrum of mediums.

Settle in and take a look. There’s a lot to choose from today.

Added bonus – several of the featured creators have also been interviewed on this very blog, so a link to each of their Q&As is also provided.

Enjoy!

Marilyn Anderson
How To Live Like A Millionaire When You’re A Million Short – book
https://www.amazon.com/Live-MILLIONAIRE-Youre-Million-Short-ebook/dp/B06XWZFNRY/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8&fbclid=IwAR3GqZdJFtV8ftEqH6V3pc2NxpxJCS7TwWZSHaSPOS4P8TnlRF-jMGSh7so
AND
How To Beat A Bully – film
https://www.amazon.com/How-Beat-Bully-Pearce-Joza/dp/B016DMY16M?fbclid=IwAR0ery6kikBDlZDwfGXV62WGIVIc05lkAcq-1T0c6DiSwLaysHia9n5RhqQ

Steve Altes
Geeks & Greeks – graphic novel
https://www.amazon.com/Geeks-Greeks-Steve-Altes/dp/0996350446/?fbclid=IwAR2kgIue5ev9gE86QyOsUdTH6bIjZ07JyQpV2mnYEBF8tJT0N41jptpzdEU

Tracee Beebe
The Rise & Shine Show – motivational live video feed
https://www.facebook.com/RiseShineMorningShow/?hc_location=ufi

Q & A with Tracee Beebe

Gregory Blair
The Ritual (Part 1) – book
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005955G1Y?fbclid=IwAR0stm9XLgcs_m6yfHJVNnSZ2lskN3ICM8yAqTbXYuI7apD2NSlHHJz1pUg

Lois Buchter
Gerti’s War: A Journal of Life Inside the Wehrmacht – book
https://www.amazon.com/Gertis-War-Journal-Inside-Wehrmacht/dp/0997510846/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=gerti%27s%20war&qid=1590531435&sr=8-1&fbclid=IwAR2wGp8aRp4s2ZSPbiJya7WLpIb1H0nr3Cdze50a9kbADgxhpae7sFxnnMw

Geoffrey Calhoun
The Guide For Every Screenwriter: From Synopsis to Subplots: The Secrets of Screenwriting Revealed
https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Every-Screenwriter-Synopsis-Screenwriting-ebook/dp/B07R92L1N1/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=geoffrey+calhoun&qid=1590599973&sr=8-1

Q & A with Geoffrey Calhoun and one about the book

Howard Casner
The Starving Artists and Other Stories: Nine stories of sci-fi and the supernatural – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ?fbclid=IwAR1LKXLOuZ61r0wB2vl3N2RGO1qg4j4-CUTjJ_Pr3pUvaIiQNzIJbEHrkP4
AND
The Five Corporations And One True Church – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF?fbclid=IwAR1v1XvJ6ZeVv79i66EtG6lNOfutzAgMY_LkYM5OkZCQkGk3zPpjofuq3Hs

Q & A with Howard Casner

Steve Cleary
ManHeat – microbudget webseries
A screenwriter takes his filmmaking career into his own hands and started a microseries about action film cliches that’s seen a steady increase in production values
https://www.facebook.com/storbangfanpage/playlist/2385554318362169/

Brian Fitzpatrick
Mechcraft – YA book
Sci-fi nanotech thriller – “The Matrix meets Harry Potter”
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079HTG6C6?fbclid=IwAR1ElBGEPvlJ8y_s9GQaO501D9WTlUoENm8Nwews3zW0XXMo5IiLTY4mJR0

Clint Ford
Cope – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/149433111X/ref=cm_sw_r_em_apa_i_7deZEbAMMETKD?fbclid=IwAR3_0IrhUFAarQyE1h9gdJF6jg97J4iS2-Urrwip1Z-nsDmh5jOxOnQWk7Y

Jimmy George, Jamie Nash & Bob Rose
Writers/Blockbusters – screenwriting podcast
Examining blockbuster films through the lens of writing
https://thundergrunt.com/category/writersblockbusters/

Q & A with Jimmy George

Randy Gordon-Gaticahttps://www.instagram.com/rggatica/
The Magic Bomb – film
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/themagicbomb

Jay Harez
Collection of horror and thriller books
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jayharez?fbclid=IwAR0yuD_-jYBdbe01lUOaR2Icm28fJk8IVIHbrXxvqYIazgTgkT1PBMBSVsE

Phil Hawkins
Star Wars: Origins – short film
A critically acclaimed fanfilm that combines the worlds of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. The saga we know, the origins we don’t.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVSox0qApO4&feature=youtu.be

Jason Henderson
Young Captain Nemo book series
Jason recently signed a deal with Kinsane Entertainment to develop the books as an animated series, mobile games, consumer products and more for worldwide release.
Young Captain Nemo
https://www.amazon.com/Young-Captain-Nemo-Jason-Henderson/dp/1250173221/ref=sr_1_1crid=2M2M8J5BQYIQJ&dchild=1&keywords=young+captain+nemo&qid=1590698680&sprefix=yougn+captain%2Caps%2C200&sr=8-1
Quest For The Nautilus: Young Captain Nemo
https://www.amazon.com/Quest-Nautilus-Young-Captain-Nemo/dp/1250173248/ref=sr_1_2 crid=2M2M8J5BQYIQJ&dchild=1&keywords=young+captain+nemo&qid=1590699109&sprefix=yougn+captain%2Caps%2C200&sr=8-2

Brannon Hollingsworth
Silent Night, Lady White (Wyrdwar) – book
https://www.amazon.com/Silent-Night-Lady-White-Wyrdwar-ebook/dp/B0834GRN3L/

Ann Kimbrough
The 100 Script Challenge Journal: A Journal for Screenwriters
https://www.amazon.com/dp/153708318X/ref=cm_sw_r_em_apa_i_vYlZEbWAMCB9M?fbclid=IwAR0wRXKP2b5DoFHKPFHAF6dLOdnjzn_uYrCu3e_PzpHeTC4OpWOboIss0lE

Q & A with Ann Kimbrough (and her equally amazing writing partner James Moorer)

David Lake
Tears of Glass – thriller novel
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CHTF3HQ

Tracy Stone Lawson
Counteract: A YA Dystopia Thriller (The Resistance Series Book 1)
(first volume is a free download; whole series of 4 for $2.97)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07J5NS9F5/ref=nodl_?fbclid=IwAR3NeRR0-3Z_73bWfEg98qiWbtQQbzhVol9V_KVlSRhMrEMXnZaY4hEz6FU

Chris Mancini & Fernando Pinto
Rise of the Kung-Fu Dragon Master – graphic novel crowdfunding project
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/whitecatent/new-2020-rise-of-the-kung-fu-dragon-master-vol-1/description

Q & A with Chris Mancini

Ellen Matzer
Nurses on the Inside: Stories of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in NYC
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ellen-matzer/nurses-on-the-inside-stories-of-the-hivaids-epidem/

Alicia McClendon
Wing Chun – short film
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt228HohbOE&feature=youtu.be

Sean McDonough
Collection of horror books
https://www.amazon.com/Sean-McDonough/e/B07SJWGX6M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1?fbclid=IwAR3d5kRzKL9kjwaiBd0CDiDJ4UfshxGbtCRBqQXuhDjjGX1Xjj6lJeBj1MY

Jim Mercurio
The Craft of Scene Writing: Beat by Beat to a Better Script – screenwriting
https://www.amazon.com/Craft-Scene-Writing-Better-Script/dp/1610353307/?fbclid=IwAR0wRXKP2b5DoFHKPFHAF6dLOdnjzn_uYrCu3e_PzpHeTC4OpWOboIss0lE

Q & A with Jim Mercurio and one about the book 

Josh Mitchell
Stand By Me (Revisited) – song
https://soundcloud.com/mitchwickid/stand-by-me-revisited?fbclid=IwAR01kCtiU359sQZJ7mevOhf9gDgiKy3LTjlthm0-J7foXkB57Cw_pImDM6w

M. J. Moore
Mario Puzo: An American Writer’s Quest – biography
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mj-moore/mario-puzo/
https://www.amazon.com/Mario-Puzo-American-Writers-Quest/dp/1942762631?fbclid=IwAR1aTbdr7QqF6tE3tMb6tyuZ4gCXhZXWZ7yws1eWc39abQ8M9TLvusjY0Cc

Annie Morgan
Complicated: The Zephyr Collection: Book One
https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1393683932/?fbclid=IwAR2-6ILJb6VxvMg-JhH9xbkUeIJoZeELcMQ25d2vVHLhoyTJnr8oI9IJgDw

Jeff Neparstek
Borrowed Time – book
https://www.amazon.com/Borrowed-Time-Jeff-Naparstek-ebook/dp/B01AA9KDZW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1484175499&sr=8-2&keywords=Jeff%20Naparstek&fbclid=IwAR2n5iYy9jsgCDAi2ZjVcuKX1DUWddeVjJT6Z4OO5RxeStWN-KAVku2lA9k
AND
The Arab Messiah – book
https://www.amazon.com/Arab-Messiah-Jeff-Naparstek-ebook/dp/B01AAOHW5Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484175499&sr=8-1&keywords=Jeff%20Naparstek&fbclid=IwAR3UtO0g6kI68nh4sqU1a7VFjIFMqmQw5SLeWX-TojJyv_8WCfXM-XvvnmI

Robert People
A Walk On Mars – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1466458313?fbclid=IwAR3WFOvITpvhcAugwPXAx5hrYbXgFe1kQSoVDo4OLkWVnfo2_Ww0SVx2yxk
A Walk On Mars 2: Overtime – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1470187388?fbclid=IwAR0u-7rltbLP6m_KLG65GPU6ggiSuM_h6ta98qbanujKCbt43iCJtENFd8A
Blowing Through The Jasmine – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/148184573X?fbclid=IwAR12lBLXqWjL6W5aiz50UsMuwj9Gcexmmwz_vGdyPT_-nny6knTnAB1MHyY
Sellout– book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1729732372?fbclid=IwAR3JAT2k6n-HyUzByFIanRdeJL2mBRuy-hwZwTuDm06x2VEU-QDRs7POCyA
Sold Out – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/109928533X?fbclid=IwAR293eZo5oayPWXzo6DQjg7qZeCZTjZW_ZNgUnSnT0ZH1KGvfhxcewS4CYE
The Basics (And A Little More) Of Writing A Book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08924GD52?fbclid=IwAR3ZLgCHR0u7VAiVA5j5GcdgZ_iOIlrQneZWCL7JV82xEsV_d1G7xQUGU9I

Jackie Perez
Beachworld – sci-fi/horror short film – authorized adaptation of Stephen King short story of the same name
“Stranded crew on an alien planet covered in dunes. Locating their ship’s emergency beacon is their only hope, but when a salvage crew answers their distress signal, it’s already too late.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wd7HeWs0jVQ&feature=youtu.be

Hudson Phillips
After The Fall: A post-apocalyptic anthology inspired by the universe of This World Alone – book
https://www.amazon.com/After-Fall-post-apocalyptic-anthology-inspired/dp/B088VR6L87/ref=as_li_ss_tl?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=FNT09EKN4KWMYMRJPGPH&fbclid=IwAR2vHP5fmHHhEZt3U2F9tC2484s-BcFK84cVS7XmS2w95cx54y3mN6utYSU&linkCode=sl1&tag=styocaus0e-20&linkId=b93767ca505cf1c60c046621718768f7&language=en_US

Dr. Sapna Ramnani
Lockdown – a documentary in pre-production seeking contributors
https://eu.jotform.com/form/200975116787060

Renfield Rasputin
In Defense Of Our Good Name – short story
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CMMFKYW/ref=cm_sw_r_apa_i_rhbZEb3840CS1?fbclid=IwAR1x29n6ly37Yuvu4Egtx5pkYAO2Gkx7Clhjksn8-SMWwsSQmxdUesRDDDA

Bob Saenz
That’s Not The Way It Works: A no-nonsense guide to the craft and business of screenwriting
https://www.amazon.com/Thats-Not-Way-Works-screenwriting/dp/1734347910/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1575403713&sr=8-1&fbclid=IwAR0TRWlRzoxneFNgyuP22hqJRBeErgHy0fvpG6UqqnWE5hYe-W-A6niDbf0

Q & A with Bob Saenz

Roman Scott
Tone Poems and Nightmare Fuel – blog
https://tonepoemsandnightmarefuel.wordpress.com/

Travis Seppala
365: A Year of Screenwriting Tips
https://www.amazon.com/365-Year-Screenwriting-Travis-Seppala/dp/1725810972/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3AY6WYU9SKJLD&dchild=1&keywords=travis+seppala&qid=1590599648&sprefix=TRAVIS+SEPPALA%2Caps%2C205&sr=8-1

Q & A with Travis Seppala

Justin Sloan
Prime Evil
https://www.amazon.com/Prime-Evil-Justin-Sloan-ebook/dp/B087YKY5SV?fbclid=IwAR1l64MgNO_FOWlka2K2CEeF1rAsrp51LYvUvBq-gODBKXC2Ac92-d_XgYQ

Karelynn A. Spacek
Queen of Swords (A Stone Wielder’s Legacy Trilogy) – book
An epic journey revolving around a sunken island, and a new queen that prefers archery over politics.
https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Swords-Wielders-Legacy-Trilogy/dp/B086Y3ZWQF/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=9798630009722&linkCode=qs&qid=1589933088&s=books&sr=1-1

Dan Stout
The Carter Archives – book
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/3CA/the-carter-archives/?fbclid=IwAR2iisl3XP2kXPH1R4PXHe2LZfY21ORydTdLRbiIPf7MoDH7MkbxdjKDyRE

Chip Street
Rocket Summer – novel
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1480202622?fbclid=IwAR2i4B62oDUO-dCGkIPCk9Z4jPbYEJVfBcrsncvMCaS7OJR80x7Pv0P3Bg4
AND
21 Things You Need to Know About Screenplay Options: The Indie Screenwriter’s Guide to Protecting Yourself and Getting the Best Deal
https://www.amazon.com/Things-Need-About-Screenplay-Options-ebook/dp/B07J1L5QLB/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?ie=UTF8&fbclid=IwAR0TRWlRzoxneFNgyuP22hqJRBeErgHy0fvpG6UqqnWE5hYe-W-A6niDbf0

Timothy Trimblewww.timothytrimble.com
Air Born: Do You Dream of Flying? – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1536873292

Phyllis K. Twombly
The Martian Symbiont series
Been Blued – book 1
https://www.iuniverse.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/139113-Been-Blued
Martian Blues – book 2
https://www.iuniverse.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/139112-Martian-Blues
Martian Divides – book 3
https://www.iuniverse.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/146298-Martian-Divides

Larry Whatcott
Telepath – short film
https://vimeo.com/8395049?fbclid=IwAR2CLjjoaOjNNUf2pHM40_Rli8QPHr7Kx0njq7AkT7f6i97gt6SfTW942u0

Allison Chaney Whitmore
Forgot Me Not – book
https://www.amazon.com/Forget-Me-Not-Allison-Whitmore-ebook/dp/B01GL04FJO?fbclid=IwAR34qN_nGlFRQGh2nlX0ywzV0-jruUSPGyYvaoW16Tm3FQC8vSrO8ScFagg

Q & A with Alison Chaney Whitmore

Q & A with Terry McFadden

TERRY Cool

Terry McFadden came up through the ranks as a playwright having been produced
throughout the United States, the UK and Australia and winning several awards. From there he worked as a script consultant for ARD Television, Radio and Films and Eternity Pictures before starting off on his own. He has had the good fortune of giving studio notes to producers on scripts that got made such as THE GOOD GIRL, CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND and THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE.

As the founder of Story Builders Script Doctor & Writing Services, he has covered, analyzed, given notes and consulted on hundreds of screenplays, TV pilots and story ideas and is dedicated to helping writers find and hone their own unique voice.

What’s the last thing you read or watched you thought was incredibly well-written?

JOKER. Without question. The absolute best script of 2019. From the very first page I loved the writing. Now, a lot of it is because I so identify with the charm and depth, the way it was done, the thematic and stylistic elements hit me right off. Not only was the lead character great and unique but he starts out as a very human but weird guy who has issues—issues that are clearly foreshadowed and then evolved. The story makes clear and piece by piece layers in not only his mental and delusional maladjustments but the idea that the way things turn out, as a result of his upbringing and belief systems and how he sees himself and world, is the only way it can end. This is developed wonderfully.

Screenwriters are taught to look at story, the characters and their arc, the twists, the spins, the reversals, the progressive development and surprises; a solid and rising structure with the catalyst plot points, midpoint, and the rest. All of that was there in JOKER but what kept me turning pages was the way it all weaved back in—supporting and commenting on what is already going on adding dimension. A real fresh slant on how he becomes not only his own hero but also the hero of those in need of such a person. The metaphors, the allegories, the songs, the running symbolic commentary—all snaking back and endorsing what is going on or will be, was both unpredictable, cool, necessary yet not seen coming in that way. Very well done.

How’d you get your start in the industry?

I started as a musician. Eight years old, I’m taking guitar lessons and my Dad tosses me onstage with “Tommy Schaefer’s Country/Polka Band at Jim Thorpe Memorial Park”. Music is a big part of everything I do. Writing is music. I came to formal writing at Penn State, penning funny essays about people and teachers. But it took off in Los Angeles in 1993 or so, when I began to write short scenes and monologues for the theatre. I became a member of Actors Art Theatre in Hollywood and remained there for four and a half years—this is where I really developed my style of writing.

Writing scenes progressed to ten-minute plays, short plays and one acts. The director and founder of the theatre was a real mentor to me and a great means of support. From there I studied at UCLA and AFI, did coverage and analysis for several production companies for a while, continued to write, act and produce plays and scripts. I then went out on my own as a script doctor.

Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?

Absolutely – for both. The “craft”, to me, comes first. Learning about story, character development and structure–how to turn an idea into 110 pages of course, is the gig here. So in order for me to recognize it, I had to learn it. I had to discover what structure does, why and how–what makes great story points and all of the rest. When you are reading tons of scripts and attending workshops and seminars by a lot of the great teachers like I have, the recognition of good writing becomes second nature because you’re also seeing bad writing and discovering why.

Writers who want to grow and become better intuitively know they need some help. My job is to provide that while showing them their promise as well. Their promise is what we develop. Writers who are open to and then apply good notes will see right off how it betters the work—this is “being taught”.

What do you consider the components of a good script?

A memorable story, clear and fresh characters and building structure as I mentioned above, but for most of us, that’s a given. Good scripts need to be engaging and surprising too.

Stories that emotionally move you as well as make you feel that you are there. The mark of great writing is a piece that has the reader or audience invested and rooting, one way or the other – eliciting an emotional response. Even though readers may not identify with the situation they will identify with the emotional life of what the character is going through, the actions and the way the characters behave, and this is because of the human experience.

What I consider the most important component of all of this is that the writer tell the story in a fashion that only her or she could—their own unique voice. This is who they are and how they see the world that nobody else does. The first thing I look at when reviewing a script is the description and I ask myself, “is this textbook or is this from a perspective that I’ve never seen before?” A script that has a unique and personal voice to it is already leagues ahead as the writer understands not just story, but “their” story and how to get that across.

What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?

Lack of prep and what’s worse, thinking that you don’t need it. Okay, great ideas make great stories but only if the idea is turned into a script that encompasses the story and structural elements to evolve, build, grow, sustain and resolve in 110 pages.

Another mistake is writing “pot-boilers”, that is, trying to copy what is out there without having a believably sustaining basis for the human aspect. Without a strong and personal character take, motivation, true want and need, you’re writing purely externals. Externals don’t get it for me. I need to know why.

Another mistake is that Act Two putters out and the scenes begin to get episodic and meandering. Biggest one is protagonist trade-offs: The protagonist, because of lack of drive, stakes, want and need is passive so the action is progressed by secondary characters thus confusing the lines and creating tangential sub-plots that do not correspond with the concept or original goal of the protagonist. I am a big proponent of using an outline. Sure, you could waver from it, but, do so in the context of the story that you are now familiar with—this is true and correct inspiration. Write an outline or treatment and get notes on that first. You’ll save yourself not only time but ego deflation and bouts of self-doubt. All comes down to execution on the page.

What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

I’d have to say voice-over as it’s so overused. If you’re going to use a narrator, and this goes for all devices and conventions, ask how is this still serving the story yet different, adding, and, could it only come from me? Is the narrator a character? Do they know the ending? Are they commenting in a way that goes against the cliché? Are they oblivious, dumb, judgmental? Are they an active character? Also, mentors who are older and have it somewhat together.

Photos on the wall or mantle showing who the characters were and what they did before we see them. I feel that exposition should be meted out when essential and in story forwarding form in crucial times and scene beats.

Lastly, villains that are too dark and mean. My take is that antagonists and villains are the protagonist in their own story; they’re just at cross-purposes with the hero. If you can show why antagonists do what they do and their reasoning, it’ll be more interesting. Watch the original FRANKENSTEIN bopping and stumbling all over the place, and tell me you don’t feel for him.

What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?

Write dialogue that differentiates the character as per who they are, their world, POV and experiences. Dialogue that only they could say.

Make sure it’s your world; your voice; your take—only you could have written this. The hook, the take, the scenario and the point of view could have only come from you. Not just overall conflict but inner scene conflict between the characters needs to be present evolving and resolved in some fashion, especially if they’re on the same side. Individual stakes and progressive character function is vital.

Do not have a character if he or she does not only have a role but also a function. How are they influencing the story and the hero? What happens to turn the story because of them?

Keep us guessing. Great scripts set up surprises, twists and reversals that catch readers off-guard yet make sense as per the foreshowing early on. There is no such thing as “out of the blue” (some comedies and farce exempt) even if you think it is. Everything that happens in Act Three is foreshadowed in some way and credible to this story.

Be open to changes; be open to collaboration; be open to notes that are going to improve the vision overall. Screenwriters are subjective and we need another pair of eyes that are not our own. We need to understand that getting sold, published and produced demands active collaboration. Get notes, shut up or drive a bus. Keep writing. This is a process and you learn as you go. Will you get better at it as you go? Probably. Will you evolve as a writer? Absolutely.

Have you ever read a spec script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, what were the reasons why?

Yes. I reviewed a coming of age drama, a TV pilot, that looks at one night in the lives of several late-teen/early 20’s pizza delivery-service workers, concurrently and from all of their points of view. So different were the characters yet all dealing with their own private teen angst. Phenomenal use of subtext; great devices and conventions that were imaginative, unseen before yet fell right in line with the voice and concept.

This slice of life story very convincingly depicted the trials of young adults searching for love but settling for sex and left me with the feeling of hope and the promise of their journeys to come. Because this pilot opened up so many possibilities for all four of the leads, I felt it could go for many episodes and progress uniquely as well. Great writing.

How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?

Only if you do well. Screenwriting contests can help leverage a career but again, you need to have a good script that is recognized by the contest. Bigger question is how are you going to get your script out there? Contests are simply one road and not for all of us.

How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?

You can check out my website at www.storybuilderswrite.com. I’m also on Twitter at @Storybuilderz and on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/storybuilders/

I also have a new e-book entitled, “That Sounds Like Me’ – ‘Implementing your Own Unique Voice into Act I of your Screenplay or TV Script’. The book takes a comprehensive approach to the usual refrains on getting your life and slant on the page. By delving into how the writer’s natural voice need influence all aspects of the process, it demonstrates how story tools such as Opening Image; Character Construction; Backstory and Exposition; Hooks; Allegories, Metaphors and Themes work together, complement each other, are part of the same world and why. Go to my website and sign in and I’ll send you the book for free, as a gift to you.

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

Ha! I’m going to bend the genre here and go with New York Cheesecake – graham cracker crust and bottom.

new_york_cheesecake

Q & A with Paul W. Cooper

Paul7

Paul W. Cooper has been a working freelance television and motion picture screenwriter for more than thirty years. With over 60 television credits and one feature film, his awards include three Emmys, the Humanitas Prize, Writers Guild Award and the Kairos Prize.

He wrote the critically acclaimed film ONCE UPON A TIME…WHEN WE WERE COLORED winning Best Picture honors at the Movie Guide Awards. His television credits include MURDER, SHE WROTE, HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE and THE WALTONS. He served as Story Editor on Oprah Winfrey’s dramatic series BREWSTER PLACE, and has instructed Film and Television Writing at Pepperdine University.

Paul has written 21 ABC and CBS AFTERSCHOOL SPECIALS dealing with subject matter exploring every significant social issue including incest, alcoholism, physical abuse, homosexuality and racism. A number of these projects won Emmys as Best Television Specials for their significant social and dramatic impact.

Paul has written a number of films for cable television, which have appeared on Showtime, Disney, the Animal Planet and Family Channels. He wrote THE MALDONADO MIRACLE for Showtime, produced and directed by Salma Hayek. It earned 5 Emmy nominations and won the Writers’ Guild Award. His film for the Hallmark Channel, THE NOTE was the highest rated Hallmark movie of 2007 and 3rd highest rated of all time.

What’s the last thing you read or watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. Visually stunning. I ached for the characters.

Two of my favorite genres to write in are straight drama and crime. There are two screenplays I constantly refer to so I’m certain the last material I read are one or both of these screenplays. The first is TERMS OF ENDEARMENT by James L. Brooks. It’s the only screenplay that actually brought me to tears while reading. The second is the crime drama SEA OF LOVE by Richard Price.

Here’s my practice. After I’ve written ten pages, I will pick up my dog-eared and worn copy of SEA OF LOVE. I’ll read ten pages (any ten) then come back to the last ten pages I wrote. Now I find myself re-writing those pages with a different tempo. I’ll knock out words from the dialogue to give it a more staccato and street feel. My shoot-outs become more cinematic because now I’m trying to write UP to Richard Price’s standard. And the more I do that, the better writer I become.

When I write a drama-charged relationship story, I use Terms of Endearment the same way. Again, I’m always trying to write UP to the standards of the masters. So those are two works I refer to constantly and believe are incredibly well-written.

Were you always a writer, or was it something you eventually discovered you had a knack for?

I learned I had a knack for writing when, in the 8th grade, the class was assigned to write a short story. Once I started, I couldn’t stop and the world of fiction opened up before me. From that time on I wrote stories, plays, songs and poetry. But I never considered pursuing writing as a career. I was eminently practical and got my degree in business administration.

How’d you get your start in the industry?

There was a war raging in Vietnam when I graduated college. Rather than being drafted, I joined the Air Force, attended Officer Training School, then pilot training. I was a pilot in the Strategic Air Command for six years. I got assignments all over the world including three tours of the war zone and came back registering 61 combat sorties. As a crewmember in SAC, I was also required to sit alert for seven day periods. The Strategic Air Command was our first line of offense in the event of a nuclear war. So we had to be ready. And that meant living in an underground alert facility (mole hole) for those seven-day tours. There’s not a lot to do while waiting for the horn to go off. Guys played poker, shot pool or watched TV.

One night I was watching an episode of MEDICAL CENTER and thought “I can do that”. So I went to my little bombproof room, took out a spiral notebook and started writing. I had never seen a film or television script and had no idea about formatting. So I wrote my story like a play, drowning it in terms like cut to, fade out, dissolve etc. When finished I was optimistically excited and immediately began writing another episode. Then I branched out and wrote for other series popular at the time; MARCUS WELBY, THE WALTONS, SANFORD AND SON, MCMILLAN AND WIFE, and others. Now, none of these scripts was very good, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was I was writing stories, creating characters, giving those characters words to speak. And I loved the sensation, the power I had over these fictional “people” and their lives.

After a year or so of writing television “scripts” I thought it was time for the entertainment world to be exposed to my heretofore undiscovered talent. I wrote to the Writers Guild of America and they sent me a packet of useful information, including a list of agents. So I began firing my material off to agents who would summarily return fire with a politely worded rejection letter and my envelope unopened. Dissolve to a year later when I met my future wife, an Air Force nurse. On a blind date, I discovered she had lived next door to the sister of Earl Hamner, Jr., creator of THE WALTONS. What do you know, I had written two Waltons episodes. Through that connection I contacted Earl and he graciously agreed to read my scripts. I sent them and a week later, he called me and said I should be in Hollywood writing for television. So off to Hollywood I went, Earl became my mentor who put me in touch with an agent, and I was on my way.

Sad to say, my story only reinforces the notion that you have to know someone in the business in order to get into the business.

What do you consider the components of a good script?

People ask, what is or are the most important elements of a screenplay. Some will say character. Others say story. But the answer is – structure. You may have the most beloved character since Hoke (DRIVING MISS DAISY) and an absolute jaw-dropping story (THE RIGHT STUFF), but unless the pieces are stacked properly, the whole construct collapses.

What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?

The thing I see most often is that a story is derivative. Nothing new. All the same old plowed ground. And this, of course, makes stories predictable. I believe it was William Goldman who said, “Always give the audience what they want, but in a way they didn’t expect.” If it’s true there is no story new under the sun, then at least get us to the desired ending by way of a different road.

Too many words, not enough story. I will often tell a student, “You have a 105-page script here but it only contains 65 pages of story.”

My pet peeves are typos, misspellings and grammatical errors. There’s no excuse for these infractions. They label the writer careless at best and illiterate at worst and create an unfavorable impression for the reader.

Other mistakes are what I call re-hash and deadwood. Never tell the reader what he already knows. And omit anything that doesn’t relate to the premise. Keep the story ever moving forward.

What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

I’m not a fan of superheroes. It always comes down to the hero battling with an equally powerful villain in an epic cinematic struggle only possible with CGI. Yes, it’s visually impactful, but for me, cartoonish. No matter what the bad guy throws at the hero, he/she
always recovers and comes back for more. After ten minutes of lightning bolts being hurled and mushroom clouds rising over the city, I’m bored.

What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know? 

-Determine what your premise is. This is found by asking who your hero is and what does he/she want, need or desire. You should be able to state your premise in ten words or less. The premise of Romeo and Juliet is Romeo desires Juliet (boy wants girl). Indy wants to find the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Rocky needs to go the distance. The premise is your searchlight that must always be in view as you write the story. If it disappears, you’ve taken a wrong turn.

-Be aware of the third question — why do we care? We must be endeared to the hero (or despise the villain) and the hero’s goal must be worthy and important. The implication is obvious. If we’re not emotionally attached to the hero, we won’t care what happens. And if his goal isn’t both worthy and important, we won’t care if he attains it.

-Until the premise is revealed, the story is pointless. In other words, until the audience knows what the hero WANTS, the story has nowhere to go. Example: In Raiders of the Lost Ark, we open with Indy in an Amazon jungle cave stealing some artifact. He barely
escapes with his life and manages to return to his work as a professor at Chicago University. Now what does any of that have to do with the Lost Ark? Nothing. Indy has stated no particular goal so the story is nowhere. But then… he learns of the existence of
the Ark and decides to find it before the Nazis get hold of it. Now the premise becomes, Indy WANTS the Ark. And everything he does from that point on is aimed at achieving his goal. I like to see the premise revealed within the first 20 pages.

-Love is a process. You can’t just put two people together in a story and tell us they’re in love. We may believe it but we won’t feel it. You MUST give us the scenes showing us the behavior that causes one person to fall in love with another. What is it in her that he needs? What does he have that makes her desire him? And it can’t be only physical attraction. We know that people in bars can be physically attracted, fall into bed and the next morning regret it and never see each other again. That’s lust, not love.

-Once the hero has attained his goal… THE STORY IS OVER. Think of it this way. You’re watching a film full of danger and intrigue keeping you on the edge of your seat as the hero hurtles ever onward toward his worthy and important goal. The drama builds. Tension is unbearable. Then, in the exciting climax, the battle between good and evil is waged and the hero wins (or loses as in a tragedy). At that moment, all of the dramatic tension that was built is released like air out of a balloon. At this point, the audience is ready to rise and file out of the theater. THE STORY IS OVER. A common mistake these days is for a writer to keep going with the story even though there is no more tension to be derived. Yes, you often have to spend time to tie up loose ends but this must be done
quickly so you can get out and fade out.

-Think about what the audience is seeing onscreen. I often read a scene wherein two people are at a restaurant. They order. The waitress leaves. The two people converse for about thirty seconds and the waitress returns with their chateaubriand.

-Think of a script as a document of information. Something happens. And that something is first registered in the brain, right? We see and hear the event. Now if that information stops in the brain (intellect), then you’ve failed as a writer. Once it registers in the intellect, then it must go further into the heart or the gut. Those are the places emotion comes from.

-Character development occurs when we create the scenes that show the character behaving in the manner we want him identified with. Don’t tell us Joe is wonderful, he’d give his shirt off his back. Give us the scene where Joe gives the shirt off his back or “Saves the Cat.” Don’t tell us Sam is so evil he’d stick a knife in his grandma’s back. Give us the scene where Sam not only stabs his grandma in the back, but then twists the knife. Those scenes hit straight at the heart and gut.

You’ve written for both TV and film. How does writing for one medium compare to the other?

No difference unless you’re writing for a series. Then you have time (page count) considerations. I’ve written a number of movies for cable television and every one I wrote as though writing a feature film

Have you ever read a spec script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, what were the reasons why?

Yes. And the reasons are hard to explain. First, it followed all of the requirements listed above concerning proper mechanics, economy, etc., but beyond that it grabbed my interest on page 2 and never let me go. It had complication, conflict and invention. It gave me the satisfying ending I wanted but in a way that was unexpected.

How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?

Go to my website at www.PaulCooperScreenwriting.com or my IMDb site: http://www.imdb.me/paulw.cooper

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

Coconut cream. The best I ever found was in a little diner/pie shop in Williams, Arizona. My wife and I always stop there on our trips between California and Oklahoma.

coconut cream

Me vs. the clock

keaton clock

After a rough couple of days, I’ve opted to put the revision of the sci-fi adventure outline  on hold and redirect my focus to a new draft of the horror-comedy.

Lots of changes in store for this one, most of all making it as cheap to produce as possible. Several characters cut, locations drastically slashed, overall production costs severely reduced.

What was once a low-budget story taking place throughout a small town has now been shrunken down to an ultra-low- (possibly even micro-) budget story with a majority of the action on a forest road, and in and around an isolated house.

In some ways a challenge, but also somewhat liberating. Also a major plus – so much usable material from the previous draft – including a line or two of description that’s been expanded into a plot-propelling sequence.

I’m slowly working my way through the outline, with the intention of getting to pages within the next week or so. One option is to type up pages for what I’ve already got in the outline, edit those, then work more on the outline, then pages, and so on and so on. I’ve done it before, with tiring but pleasing results.

No matter how I approach this, the ultimate goal is to have a completed draft (or as darn close to it I can get) by 31 March.

The ticking of the clock rings like thunder in my ears.

Wish me luck.

Hope this helps

TR
Nothing like a rousing speech to get things going

To all the writers out there having a tough time with their latest script:

It’s challenging.

It’s frustrating.

It’s the way it is.

But that spark within you continues to burn.

Right?

Nurture it.

Feed it.

Work on something else if you have to.

Let your enthusiasm help it grow.

Remind yourself why you write.

Why you do this.

Rediscover the joy.

Your enthusiasm for this particular story.

The excitement of putting ideas on the page.

Grab onto it.

Hold on tight.

There’s no “right” way.

There’s the way that works best for you.

Write when you can.

Don’t worry about how much.

Any amount of writing is better than none at all.

Write because you want to.

Write because you need to.

Write because there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing.

Write for you.

Write.