Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. – Doris Lessing

Go forth into the unknown, explore the caves of your unconscious, fear not your “dark side,” find the gold.

— Robin Hoffman (@AuthorAlchemy)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Writing Advice from SexyWolfen

By guest blogger Joseph Greene

WHEN I REALLY sat down and thought, “You know, I think this writing thing is what I want to do for the rest of my life” it was about 12 years ago, at the wise old age of ten.

I had always loved writing stories, mostly for the happiness it provided for others. I thought, “Why stop there?” and decided to write short screenplays. Which I did.

I finished my first full length screenplay a year later. Granted it wasn't in the industry standard format and I hadn't yet discovered the buggy wonder that is Final Draft. But hey, for a kid with low self esteem you'd think I had written half the Bible.

But I guess that's enough tooting my own horn for right now. Let’s get down to business.

Really, my writing style was wild and misguided until high school. I won't go into detail, but there are a bunch of stories about talking food. That's when I met my mentor . . . writing wise anyway. Really showed me what writing is truly about. Mort Castle, Pulitzer Prize nominee and writer of some pretty darn good horror. I thank him every day for getting me where I am today . . . writing-wise.

But anyway, some quick things to share.

1. You Can't Be a Judge of Your Own Work

Since you write the stuff, you know it better then anybody . . . but come on, no one writes for just themselves. Seek out as many people as you can to read it.

Be wary of other screenwriters sometimes. From my experiences, they can sometimes be the rudest, most snarky individuals since the ladies that work in the office of your local high school: you know, the ones that are the least helpful on the planet.

If you got family, hit them with it. I know it's tough to get any American to read something, but if you nag enough you'll be successful in that task. But that's hard to do as well when you have a 120+ page screenplay to chuck at them.

2. Write About What You Know and What Excites You

If I wrote a book about corn reapers, it might be informative, hilarious at times and quite heartwarming. But would be published posthumously . . . me having died from boredom. Write about things YOU would want to read about.

That's what makes writing hard during high school/college. I always hated having to write about some lame Toni Morrison novel straight off the Oprah's Book Club list. Or Romeo and Juliet (I swear if I have to read that one more time).

I really don't have to work that hard to find interesting things to write about. I just look out my window. I'm 22, so by the laws of nature, I have to live someplace crappy. ’Tis life.

What do I see?

— Crazy guy who never wears a shirt and yells a lot.

— Dude across the way selling various weaponry. Nice guy. We go out for lunch sometimes.

— Strange Mariachi/tuba music with Spanish wailing over it.

The possibilities are endless. Take a walk and see what's what.

3. Accept Criticism

Doesn't mean you have to listen to it. When it comes down to it, you really gotta use your gut. Because if you're not proud of your work, the heck if the reader is going to. Be sure to always get a second, third, and seventh opinion.

4. Writing is Healing

Long as I can remember, the best times I've had involved writing. As writers, we're the ultimate control freaks. While we're writing, we're in total control and nothing else really matters.

Even when times were tough in my family, writing would always cheer me up. Nothing like drowning your workplace in a pool of fire to brighten a bad workday.

5. No, There is Nothing Wrong With You

During my 2 years of writing classes in high school, I went to the school psychiatrist about 20 times for different things. It got me out of math, but that didn't make it any less irritating. People saying they “just don't get it.” You have two choices there.

A recent experience made me question my writing. My estranged father happened to run across some of my work and used his political connections (shoutout to Chicago politics!) to have me dragged out of my home and thrown in a mental hospital. Took my friends three weeks to convince them to let me go.

What that thought it was . . . my writing was a little better than I thought. Which kinda brings me back to the judging your own work thing. If people have complaints about things IN your story instead of how it was written, then you've done your job.

Keep writing. And thanks to Milli for letting me spend some time writing for you.

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JOSEPH GREENE is a live or die writer, part time blogger, and an editor from time to time. He blogs at SexyWolfen and his Twitter handle is SexyWolfen. He's written a number of short stories in the past but his current focus is feature screenplays. Joesph lives in Chicago, Illinois and doesn't intend to go anywhere.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Serpentine, Shel, Serpentine!

IF YOU'VE NEVER seen 1979's classic, The In-Laws,do yourself a favor and stock up on popcorn. This is Banana Republic humor at its best.

The story starts out in New York, centered on an upcoming wedding—but without any inkling it will end up in Central America, insanity and mayhem.

The bride's parents have invited the groom's parents for dinner. If you think you have crazy in-laws, try marrying into a family headed by Vince Ricardo.

Peter Falk does such an intense wacko job as CIA agent Vince Ricardo, it makes Colombo look mellow.

Alan Arkin as dentist Sheldon Kornpett—the straight man of this inspired comedy duo—could not be more perfect. At one stage, Ricardo urges him to “go with the flow.” Kornpett replies, “What flow? There is no flow” with such acid deadpan you'd swear Alan Arkin was living through the pain of this himself.

For me, that was the best line of dialogue in the movie. I even wondered whether Falk and Arkin ad libbed that part or whether the screenwriter was that acute. Either way, these two old-time actors made Andrew Bergman’s screenplay come screaming to life.

The line most remembered from this movie involves learning to “serpentine.” It would spoil all the fun to tell you anything about that; you'll just have to rent the movie and see for yourself.

The In-Laws is one of those films that you'll love simply because it’s so preposterous.

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MILLI THORNTON is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She blogs about writing and creativity at millithornton.blogspot.com.