Re[6]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

Just a few quick responses while the baby's waking up -- more later.

If we define back as “back to life” you did. If we define back as “back to Earth”, which is what I was getting at, then I don’t think it’s there. But then, I don’t think Earth figured at all into your concept, so that’s splitting hairs.

Right right right. Gotcha. This is indeed the crux of the whole issue. If you need to go back to Earth for the revivication to work, then it ends on Earth. If you don't, then it ends on the prison planet. We just need to decide which.


I've never seen Silkwood, so the allusion was completely lost on me. I mean, I know what it's about, but not having an experience of it, it didn't mean anything to me.

I'm still not sure what my two movie references are, but I'm leaning toward The Fugitive for one of them -- that kind of energy and excitement and tension, but with that kind of cool smarts about the whole thing. Also, Speed didn't make me think of "road trip" at all, and I think it's kin to The Fugitive -- keep it on the table. Also also, completely new pitch coming up. And finally, a critique of yours!

Re[3]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

Waitaminnit. When you say the struggle is getting there, you actually mean that the ship is just there in orbit, and the trouble is getting into the facility, not what I said below -- is that right?

(I'm not totally taken with that, but that's 100X better than what I thought you meant.)

Re[2]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

you have September Rose going to the Prison Planet to meet her husband. So, the struggle all takes place there.

Um, I always thought that was the whole idea. Remember when we were talking about it offline last year, and the idea of the power struggle between the three factions (September, Inmates, Warden)?

I picture her on Earth, and a large part of the struggle is getting there. And then getting back.

Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

Here's my first try, and I've already failed, by the standards of the challenge: I'm pretty sure it's too long, and there's no blank meets blank statement. That's what iterations are fer.

It also may seem strange, at first glance, that there's no new information about the story. But again, that's not what a pitch is. A pitch is an attempt to sell the idea of the story to someone who knows nothing about it. Or put it more bluntly, a pitch is an attempt to sell the sizzle, not the steak. It is not the place to tell the story -- it's simply the means to get your hook into someone so that they'll want to read the story themselves (i.e., the screenplay).

Here's my pitch:

Re [2]: Pitch by Example

One thing he did well is make the reader / viewer complicit in the story. He says:

We’re gonna send him down to South America…

I think it could be a tricky strategy to do that, but it seems to have worked for him.

I don't think that's exactly what he's doing here -- it's more like he's speaking in the voice of Charlie's church. It's very difficult to translate into text -- the use of quotations would make it more confusing -- but I think it's clear when you hear it.

Re: Pitch by Example

I think that pitch is excellent. I think it totally carries through to reading, but I’m curious how his voice and energy made it better in person. And if Carrie Fisher didn’t snark at him, it must have been amazing.

One thing he did well is make the reader / viewer complicit in the story. He says:

We’re gonna send him down to South America…

I think it could be a tricky strategy to do that, but it seems to have worked for him.

As Shockah knows, I’ve been working on pitches lately, trying to hone the craft of them. I’ll have one for Time To Die up soon.

Pitch by Example

Here's the pitch I was talking about in my last post. The pitch is by Andrew Hunt, and he was given the logline, "A priest meets the woman of his dreams before he is to be ordained." I'm curious to see what you think, Burley. (I'm assuming that you haven't seen the show.) Does it work only as text? Or does it need the excellent delivery to really make it sing? (As judge Carrie Fisher remarked aftewards, "You inspire confidence by being so confident.")

Here it is, pretty much verbatim:

RSS feed update

June 21, 2007 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, communiqués

If you’re reading this via RSS, we’ve updated our feed to go through FeedBurner — please update your list to this address:

We thank you. We’re working on full-length feeds for those who would like to read them that way.

Other possible titles for this post: The Feed, the Feed, the Feed is on Fire. Or, Feed me, Daddy!

We’re making some other changes too. Have any you want? Fire ‘em off in the forums.

Re[2]: Babies and Jobs

And I say, before we take another extended break, we have a first draft, however rough, completed. What say you, Burley?

I say yes. Good plan.

Last night we watched The Day of the Locust. Man, they would never make a movie like that today. Does anybody else wonder if the climax inspired Spike Lee and Do the Right Thing?

RE: Babies and Jobs

June 18, 2007 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: Original Version, communiqués

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

Yes, it's true -- I have a spawn. You can track her growth on a new blog I set up, The Laura M. Beeson of Western Civilization. (Oh, and while there is one picture of the Beard of Grand Proportion, I trimmed it down severely a few days ago -- Mrs. Shockah demanded it.)

While time has become a serious constraint for both Burley and myself, we really can't afford to remain motionless any longer. So, to that end, we'll be putting up at least one post a day. And I say, before we take another extended break, we have a first draft, however rough, completed. What say you, Burley?

I'd say more, but the baby is waking up. Forward! One way or another!

Babies and Jobs

Hi there. I’m Burley Grymz. I have a day job.

That guy over there? That’s Shockah, and he and his wife made one of those really cute loud things that makes life worth living for. He also is growing a beard of grand proportion, that fits him very well.

That’s our excuse. Babies and Jobs. But the only thing worse than excuses is reading them. So, now the excuses stop. And this is a notice, for your attention, that Spitball! is officially open for business again. We’ve got a damn screenplay to write, and that’s just what we’re going to do.

So we hope you’ll join us as we get things revved up again. We may find the engine needs lube, but we’ll keep turning until it catches. We must make our babies proud, despite our jobs.


(and Happy Father’s Day, Shockah! The first of very many…)

Re[3]: National Novel Writing Month

By my count, that’s 393 words you wrote about not writing 100 words.

Well, please note that none of those words had anything to do with plot, character, atmosphere, all that jive. If writing novels (or at least, what I consider to be a novel) was no different than, say, talking on the phone, I'd be set. I'd be Nicholson Baker.

That’s why a difficult deadline helps — there’s no time to pay heed to that voice.

Don’t let your fingers slow down to it. Just write. Even if it sucks and you know it, just write. Even if you don’t know where the characters are going, just write.

I really wish it worked like that for me. But it doesn't. Especially in this case, where I've set up much harder goals for myself. Luckily, I think I have figured out what's going to work for me, but even though I may finish the novel, I'm not sure I'll finish NaNo.

Anyway, based on what you’ve posted so far, you’ve got nothing to complain about. I’m already hooked. I think it rocks.

Thanks. That's appreciated.

Re[2]: National Novel Writing Month

By my count, that’s 393 words you wrote about not writing 100 words.

In my view, NaNoWriMo is about learning to turn off the voice that is letting those doubts in. There will always be doubts, but critiquing a piece of writing before you write it (or critiquing your abilities to write before you write it) is cart-before-horse territory. That’s why a difficult deadline helps — there’s no time to pay heed to that voice.

Don’t let your fingers slow down to it. Just write. Even if it sucks and you know it, just write. Even if you don’t know where the characters are going, just write.

If you’re not sure what to write, follow the advice of my brother-in-law who told me to always find the bass-line in avant jazz when you don’t know what’s happening. Find the bass-line in your protag and start writing about that for awhile.

Too bad you’re not writing a post-modern meta novel. Your 393 words here could count towards your daily total.

Anyway, based on what you’ve posted so far, you’ve got nothing to complain about. I’m already hooked. I think it rocks.

Re: National Novel Writing Month

Well, NaNoWriMo is a bitch this year. It's only the second day, and I'm not going to make the 2000 word count -- in fact, right now I'm just trying to put down enough words to bring my total to two standard days' worth (3,334) and even though I'm only about a hundred words short, I'm not even sure I'm gonna make that.

National Novel Writing Month

Both Shockah and I are knee deep in our favorite November activity: NaNoWriMo. Shockah’s writing a novelization of Little Black Stray, and I’m doing a non-Spitball! story that is also a novelization of one of our script ideas, titled Third Eye.

To keep us honest, you can view our progress right here on Spitball! in this very post. Here is the current live word count for Shockah (NaNoWriMo user name kza):

Here are his in-depth stats.

And mine (NaNoWriMo username Mr. Lowry (Anybody? Get it? Too obvious?)):

And my in-depth stats.

We’re both shooting for 2000 words a day, a bit more than the needed 1700 or so, but I want to get ahead this time.

Anybody else doing NaNoWriMo this year? And refresh the page already, we may have updated our word count!

re: Where Do We Go From Here

I too am happy with our final choice. It’s interesting how the option that I wasn’t the most passionate about is indeed the one I’m most excited about writing.

I like the idea of Points of Conflict, and I think we should incorporate that idea in our writing and outlining, but first I wonder if we shouldn’t do a brief one-page treatment each just to put some plot sketches on the table and see where we are.

At this point, I think it serves the story better to see it from the 10,000 foot elevation before we zoom down. Previously we’ve had character outlines that are not necessarily about the story itself. Let’s put some story on the table and see what happens.

Then, I would also like to have a discussion about mood and tone — what other movies feel the same? What’s the pace going to be like? I’m still all-for starting with a very violent opener where the husband gets snagged and killed. What say you?

Where Do We Go From Here that all of the nominees have shrunk to one / and how do we spend our time, knowing we have to make something work?

(apologies to the Alan Parsons Project, which I believe was some sort of hovercraft.)

Behind the, 'In A World': Time to Die

Wherein we investigate the history of our winning idea, a dark horse that kept the race slow and steady while others surged or faltered.

I’m honored to write this post, as I am currently the first official Spitball! Employee of the Month. I’d like to thank Shockah, my peers, and the readers who read what we write, which would be you right now, eh? I’m very much looking forward to my doughnut reward.

So, Time to Die:

Time To Eat Sugary Fried Dough

You are the Spitball! Employee of the Month. I owe you donuts.

(Bonus trivia: the winning story idea was ranked #6 by me and #10 by you.)

Burley Grymz votes with a rhyme

I read your post first, but I promised myself it wouldn’t make an impact on my voting. Am I right? You be the judge.

I asked myself which ones I really want to write. What I’m really excited about? Here’s my list:

Urban Shockah Votes With A Bullet

I have a feeling this list would look different if I wrote it a day later, a day earlier, or even just at a different hour. An idea that sounds good in the morning looks uninspired in the evening, then looks fresh again the following day. So who knows what this list would look like a week from now? But as we have to check and see if the cat is dead or alive, the stories have to get slotted into an hierarchy. Here's mine.

The semi-finalists

Herein lies the six stories that made it to the very end. My last post contained one mistake — I thought there were five stories. So, each story should be placed in order, and then assigned points based on their rank. #1 gets 6 points, #2 gets 5 points, and so on to #6 getting 1 point. Then we add them up and see where we are.

In any case, here are the six semi-finalists, listed in alphabetical order:

Re: Two guys walk into a blog -- you'd think the second one would've ducked

October 22, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, communiqués, the screenplay

Huh? What? Is this thing on?

Sorry folks — I was gorging myself in San Francisco last week, and I’m only now staring to move again, like a wet bug that needed to dry out before coming out of stasis.

Anyway, where were we?

What say you, Burley?

Right! I say that I vote for both as well, although really in my mind the two could be easily combined. Is that always my answer? Combine the stories?

Also, I have a challenge: since I want to dig in and start working on the actual screenplay we will be writing, I say we set aside needless complexity™ and we do a speed round to find our final pick. What say you to this?

I say we list the remaining stories in order of preference, and award them points based on their position on the list. So, the number one pick would have five points, the number two pick four points, and so on until the fifth pick with one point. Then we’ll add them together and see what the order is. If we agree on the outcome, then we’ll take the top story. What do you think?

Two guys walk into a blog -- you'd think the second one would've ducked

October 16, 2006 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: Original Version, communiqués, the screenplay

Hey everybody -- voting time!

I, Urban Shockah, vote for both The Scabs and La Commune Planet. I'll admit, I was a little sketchy about LCP coming into this -- it was interesting, certainly, but it seemed like there were better ideas out there. But Grymz's character sketch gave me a more concrete idea of what the story and the world was like, and I feel like my contribution helped me latch onto the concept more strongly. Don't know about Grymz, but I like the idea of a cross-class unrequited romance on board a space station that's quickly going to hell. I don't necessarily think that this is what the screenplay's about -- it's probably just one part of it -- but it is, for me, the one tiny thing I can emotionally hold onto and will get me through the rest of the development process.

It's interesting -- for me, The Scabs was clearly a comedy, and LCP clearly wasn't, but they seemed to have switched places. I'm still not entirely sold on The Scabs as a drama, although it's coming more into focus. Again, the key for me was to find a human character with a conflict that wasn't directly about the robot uprising (which, right now, for me, can only be Futurama-hilarious or Terminator-horrific) but about issues that orbited that: job dissatisfaction, dreams deferred, the character's slow realization that he has more in common with the "cold" robots than the humans around him, despite his protests to the contrary. That's all interesting to me, and that's what I'll be holding onto if and when this story is expanded upon.

What say you, Burley?

Re: [6] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

In re-reading some of the posts in this thread, I don’t think I was being very clear about a few things, and I didn’t hear you strong enough when you asked me to define how this is a action-drama. I think it’s a good point that you raised, so I apologize for overlooking it, and I’m wondering if our balance over this is off kilter because of one word: action. In retrospect action was exactly the wrong word for what I see in my head when I think of this movie. Drama? Yes. Action, no.

Where action = Bruce Willis, The scabs != action.

I’ve been wracking my brain today trying to come up with a movie or show that might give an idea of how I see it, but I’m drawing blanks so far. So, let’s say this: the mood is serious, and kind of dark. I see the events playing very straight: the robots shut down mysteriously. I imagine a scene of industry where the production line just stosp, and the effect is a little disconcerting, like a noisy factory that has worked noisily for many years just suddenly stopping.

The humans are so stuck in their concept that robots are only for their duty, that when they stop working, its almost as if they sun has stopped shining. The idea of robot sentience is so alien, it’s as if our toasters went on strike and we had to rediscover fire. As if our cars suddenly said “uh, sorry. Our wheels are tired [err, no pun intended] and we’re not going to run anymore” and we had to rediscover walking.

In that, I think there is plenty of comedy, but I’m just not seeing it as character based, but instead faced with the absurdity of the situation.

So, that’s a bit more of a peek into what I’m thinking. I’ll try to elaborate on it more later, but does that help at all?

Re: [5] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

I don’t think I can really add much to my vision of The Scabs at this point than I already have.

I would very much be interested in reading your character sketches from this POV. Maybe even skip La Commune Planet (my interest in which has waned), and give me a human and a robot? Or maybe a plot outline (if it differs from the one I suggested). I need to see the story from the inside. Since it seems that you liked my plot sketch, then the thing that differs is how we’re seeing the characters placed in that world. Leaving Arrested Development aside for now, give me your pitch.

I’d still like to hear how you see this as an action-drama.

I’d be happy to offer more information, but please give me some thoughts on how what I’ve already provided is lacking, so that I have something to address.

Re: [4] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

I don't think I can really add much to my vision of The Scabs at this point than I already have. Again, I see it as a comedy, in an "Arrested Develpment" vein: fast, smart, layered, with characters that are kinda wacky, kinda venal, but still sympathetic. I see the humor arising out of the humans to attempt to learn stuff they had foolishly forgotten, thinking they had no more use for it, and from dealing with robots that use to be slaves, more or less, and are developing sentience and will. The humans in the story are ripe for a come-uppance, which the robots provide. I also suggested various "AD" characters as templates for potential screenplay characters.

I'd still like to hear how you see this as an action-drama.

Re: [3] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

See, I’m a little worried about this one, because if we can’t agree on the tone, trying to come to terms on plot and character seems pointless.

I guess that would depend on your definition of pointless. Maybe the step forward is to define better our visions for it and see if they are, indeed, incompatible. Give me a taste of the comedy as you see it in a character sketch or overview and let’s go from there. You say Arrested Development, but that doesn’t actually give me a very good idea of your vision. I still stand by my original sketch, but I don’t want to be presumptuous in making arguments that don’t address actual issues on the table.

Re: [2] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

But despite the fact that I played with the humor a bit in The Scabs, I disagree with Shockah when he says it should be a comedy. I actually think this is an action drama, albeit with comedic elements.

See, I'm a little worried about this one, because if we can't agree on the tone, trying to come to terms on plot and character seems pointless. Can you explain further how you see this as an action drama? From my POV, we've already established that one of the basic elements or themes is "communication", and I get communication (the lack of it, misunderstandings, purposefully ignoring it, etc.) as the basis for comedy, but not for action. And what kind of action? What do we mean when we say "action"? I don't see this as a story with derring-do, car chases, or gunfights, so you need to help me out a bit.

I don't remember if I've said this before so explicity, but I see this as a full-length futuristic "Arrested Development" episode -- Michael Bluth as the human negotiator, Gob and Buster trying to figure out how to farm, George Michael as the robot negotiator, that kind of thing.

(Not literally as an "AD" episode, just to be clear, just trying to describe the tone.)

Re [2]: These two guys walk into a blog

We have a winner! According to the needlessly complex™ rules of Spitball! Little Black Stray moves ahead, and Terminal Connection is placed on the nobody-loses-in-our-world-but-you-didn't-win-either pile.

Next up, a knock-down match. The last until we run into our final heats and whittle our ungodly huge list of ideas down to the eventual winner. It's coming soon, folks, and then you know what happens?

We have to write the damn thing. Uh oh. Better make this next one last:

La Commune Planet v. The Scabs. Coming soon to a Spitball! near you. Like this one.

Re: These two guys walk into a blog

Dammit, Grymz, I told you to unplug the blog while we were on vacation! Geez....

So. Voting. Yeah.

I, Urban Shockah, vote only for Little Black Stray; while Terminal Connection is intriguing, I'm not feeling it enough to push it forward in the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. However, I am mucho interested in returning to it at a later date. (Or potentially cannibalizing it for other stories.)

Next up: Burley Grymz will introduce us to the final two competitors in this heat: La Commune Planet and The Scabs. It an SF class-issues smorgasbord! Be there or be crushed under the treads of history.

These two guys walk into a blog

What? Is this thing on?

Is summer over yet?

When we last left you, (yes you!) intrepid reader, Shockah and I had laid out our bios for our concepts of Terminal Connection and Little Black Stray. Shockah's can be found here and here, and mine here and here.

We both explained a bit about the choices we made and why we made them, which leaves us only with a vote. Here's mine:

I, Burley Grymz, vote to move both stories forward at this time. There. We'll let our future selves sort it all out.

Shockah? What say you?

The State of the Blog: May 2006

Human secularists, satanic majesties, crimson overlords and clarified-butter dharma dolls, welcome to the State of the Blog for May 2006. May was a month of 21 posts, an average of .67 posts per day, which is a sequential kind of number. A memory of the Summer of Love, in that number. A memory of a to-do list overflowing with actionable items.

The month began with the tail end of the Radical Idea approach to stopping an argument. In good form, we made some rules, and then discussed them for quite awhile to make sure they reached the patented Spitball! gold standard of needless complexity.

Once that was done, we finished up our Round 10 discussions about which stories to move forward, and then moved on to Round 11--which started by defining the “in a world” scenario that we never did define for Terminal Connection when we created it as a frankenstein story idea.

Starting this month, character bios for Round 11--which, according to our new rules will not be an either-or proposition, but instead a situation where both could potentially move forward.

I don't know about you, gentle reader, but when I think of how close we are getting to actually starting the writing, I get a little excited, in culturally acceptable ways. Won't you join me and let's be excited together in culturally acceptable ways?

Weekly Wrap-Up (5/6/06 - 5/12/06)

So one thing and only one thing has crossed the lips of the Spitball! boys this week. Listen, and listen carefully, and you too might hear it. There it is! Can you hear it? Across the wind and through the trees, it falls upon your ears like the whispers of a long-forgotten lover. It says...

Terminal Connection.... Terminal Connection... Terminal Connection...

Meaning: What the hell is this story, anyway? As Burley recounts, this was the first story that was formed out of the consolidation of two competing stories, and as such, never got a proper write-up. It was determined that, before Round Eleven began, it might be a good idea to determine just what Terminal Connection is before starting the bios. Then Burley provided a write-up, and Shockah found it just dandy. And unless Burley wants to expand on the idea further, Shockah will start with the bios... on Monday, that is.

Also this week: Shockah put up the link for the hilariously accurate Do It Yourself Giallo Generator, and Burley highlighted the fascinating (and to Shockah, somewhat unnerving) found (vintage) photo site Big Happy Fun House. Spitball! Sez: Check 'em out.

Weekly Wrap-Up (4/28/06 - 5/5/06)

Hey there, loyal Spitball! readers. The Weekly Wrap-Up is back, after missing a few weeks. Don't worry, you didn't miss anything, unless you wanted to hear Shockah complain about people complaining and Burley complaining about his own complaining. Oh, Burley already made that joke. Nothing to see here, folks, move on.

The week began with an interesting question from Burley: Why aren't there any big-budget epic movies about American Indian mythology? If the Chinese can mine their own history and mythology for kick-ass movies, why not one based on Northwest Native American folklore? (Shockah's one word answer as to why we won't be seeing one anytime soon starts with "r" and ends with "m", but that's the kind of answer one expects from Shockah.) Still, sounds pretty cool, and maybe one day someone will get it done.

Then Shockah finally posted his second bio, President Jones Alan Porter, for the idea Rasputin the Translator. It was... different, to say the least.

But then the Spitball! boys... excuse me while I get into my Dukes of Hazzard narrator outfit... but the the Spitball! boys found themselves in one dilly of a pickle. Seems like they both fell in love with the two stories, wouldn't you know it, and couldn't bring themselves to do the right and honorable thing and show one the door. So Burley Duke proposed a new way of goin' about things: both stories in a round can move onto the final round, and a winner would be determined through the magic of Needlessly Complex rules. Now Shockah Duke, he aint the brightest bulb in the bottom drawer, so he had to have the new rules explained to him. Twice. But he finally got it figured out, and so it was then agreed that these new rules would be in effect for the rest of the heat. Until Boss Hogg got wind of the new plan...

Anyway, after a little bit of discussion, both Rasputin the Translator and Time to Die were voted through to the final round. Hooray! Only two more rounds until the moment America has been waiting for: the winner of the First Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. Who will it be? Rasputin? Little Black Stray? The Scabs? Stay tuned as the competition is only going to get hotter!

Shockah out.

The State of the Blog: April

Friends, paper monsters, chicken-sqwaking parakeets, and CIA agents who were working undercover in Iran on nuclear proliferation before being outed by the (as of this date) still unfired presidential monkey boy, welcome to the state of the blog looking back on April, 2006.

April is a special month. The showers bring flowers, the rain falls on plains (at least in Maine, so they proclaim), but here the great sickness of 2006 was just ending. I, a stalwart and upright fellow--sound of body and mind--not, pray tell, athletic per chance, but nor feeble or prone to sudden illness--I fell under the spell of one wicked and hideous influenza, passed to me by a globe-trotting photographer who is a good man, so shant be named here. On that first day of April where minds turn to fools, I turned mine to the simple task of walking (slowly!) four blocks for a taco. No metaphor lives here--a real, fresh taco, bathed in Blue Water and Chipotle salsa. I made it, this walk, with the accompaniment of my inspiring and faithful companion. It was she that bought me the taco, for indeed--and here's where you'll lend me your sympathies a mite--it was indeed the celebration of the day of my birth.

More Meta Commentary

Shockah? Did I forget something?

Don't think so. I told you about the crazy opening scene of Sam Fuller's The Naked Kiss and how I saw that in connection with the potential opening of Time to Die, with the brutal violence that starts without any context, but other than that, I think that was it.

Weekly Wrap-Up (4/7/06 - 4/14/06)

Another pretty slow week at Spitball!, with only three posts, but that's soon to change when the Great Spitball! Media Blitz awakens like the slumbering leviathan it is and begins its inexorable conquest of realities both physical and virtual. But until that moment, when all bow down before the might of Spitball! or else be crushed like bloated, overripe fruit, how about some links?

The week began with the tail-end post of the Tragic Round Nine Debacle, which ended with the two story ideas, The Atheist and Atmosphere, being combined into one idea -- The Atmospherist -- despite their incompatibility. Burley's idea of how such a monstrosity might be summarized deserves to be quoted in full:

In a world where autistic youth believe they are not living on earth, one religion proves itself useless when the methane atmosphere changes into scientists. Also known as My Blog with Andre.

It was agreed that, despite the absurdity of the concept (or maybe because of it), The Atmospherist will be treated as a legitimate contender in the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. Heat #3 will be... odd, to say the least.

Then Burley gave us the rundown on March's blogging. Short version: we wrote stuff.

Finally, Burley (it's been all Burley this week) threw us the opening pitch of Round Ten, Rasputin the Translator v. Time To Die. It was so good that Shockah, off-blog, asked Burley if he could write some supporting material for the two character bios instead of creating whole new ones. He said yes. Look for Shockah's post sometime on Monday, if not earlier.

State of the Blog: March

Citizens of the world, websurfing aliens, and sentient underwater overlords--welcome to the State of the Blog address for the month of March, 2006. We (we being I, as Shockah had nothing to do with it) apologize for the delay in posting this overview--it is my responsibility, and I fell behind. I accept any disappointment you feel in me, and will try to please you more next month.

We were happy to see a few more people popping up in the forums in this month, and we encourage all people reading this to go and comment on anything you would like, including comments like 'You guys are really boring me,' and 'I thought screenwriting was supposed to be filled with buxom babes, perilous parties and more excitement than any reasonable person should be exposed to.' Of course, we may be holding out on you and when you sign into the forums you will find those parties. That's all I have to say about that.

Our Google ranking has remained about the same this month. We're still a first page result for searching "Spitball". We posted around about 74 posts in March, wrapping up the first heat of our battle in Seattle over screenplay ideas. Shockah continued his fine study into the Sequence method, to which I added nothing of value other than occasional quips. Shockah gets the gold metal for actual work this month.

We both became weighed down in minutia in round 9, which seems to be a bit dispiriting to us both, but I predict will be a minor hiccup in the road. From my point of view, when we get into the nitty gritty about something, it's usually about something else--in this case, I think it's about the weakness of the two ideas presented.

The last week of March saw a dramatic slowdown--first from my need to focus on work, and then from the flu which struck me down in practically biblical ways. Speaking of which, how about that Gospel of Judas? I'll bet you gnostics are just psyched.

In any case, I predict April will be much busier as things pick up. We're about to start round 10, and it contains two very strong ideas that we both have strong opinions about. Get ready for a smackdown.

Thank you for tuning in to Spitball!, the world's only screenplay being written by blog. Memberships are still available for free. Hurry and sign up, before they are all gone.

91 Word Update

Sorry 'bout the lack of updates, folks -- Shockah's been busy with RL stuff, and Burley... poor Burley's got the 'flu. And not that boogie woogie 'flu you might have heard about, but the other kind. So take a few moments to wish Tha Grymz a speedy recovery.

And while you're at it... Burley's one year older today. You know what that means folks -- it's paddle time! Give his buns a thwacking on the forum -- he'll thank you later. Or kill me. One or t'other.

Weekly Wrap-Up + 2! (3/18/06 - 3/26/06)

Kinda like the Funky Four + One More... only, y'know, not.

So this week's been full of discussion, if very little forward momentum. Sometimes that happens, y'all.

The big thing this week has been Round Nine, The Atheist v. Atmosphere. By Shockah's estimate, this round probably would've been over by now, but Shockah and Burley got sidetracked by whether or not an autistic character is appropriate for the Atmosphere story, and other meta-discussions relating to such, even though it's highly likely that we won't be writing any autistic characters in whatever wins the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. Also, Shockah owes a story sketch of The Atheist, one that takes place on our modern-day Earth and not on an alien planet, and he swears he'll have it done soon, but really, nothing's gonna move forward until he does.

Then, there was some rules discussion about how to gracefully exit a Round for the time being if it looks like it aint going anywhere anytime soon, known by the more elegant name tabling. Unfortunately, that discussion also ground to a halt, which was so ironic that all the anemics in a fifty mile radius were instantly cured.

Also, Burley is getting ready to do a sequence method analysis of Blue Fuckin' Velvet. He had a few questions, that Shockah, as designated expert (snort), answered the best he could. We're all quite excited to see what Burley comes up with.

Finally, both Shockah and Burley posted their philosophies behind creating character sketches for the story ideas. Why? Because it's fun. Burley, by simply explaining why he likes to name characters, has pretty much volunteered himself to name every character, as far as I'm concerned. (I hate doing it, y'see.) (Another aside: He credits me with "Valerie Plum", but I'm pretty sure that's his, too. He has enough names for both of us.)

Odds for next week:

Finishing Round Nine: 2-1
Figuring out rules for tabling: 4-1
Getting hung up on minutiae of space travel: Even
Someone suggests that the "Rasputin" character be autistic: 900-1

Re[3]: Motion: Rules Addendum

Sorry if I was unclear. Here's what I think:

1. Anybody who wants to table a battle at anytime for any reason need only say that this is their desire and the battle is tabled.
2. The other person has the right to lodge an official approval or complaint about the lodging, but this has no bearing on the fact that the battle is tabled. It's only for self-satisfaction and to allow a voice to the other party. There should never be any punishment for tabling a battle.

As for calling a vote, I think that a member can always call a vote at any stage if they really wanted to, and this could be an interesting thing here, but what if the tabling party refuses the vote?

The timing of this is all very funny in lieu of the fact that Christine and I went to go see the Seattle Rep's performance of Private Lives last night, and the main couple forms a pack early on that every time they start fighting and bickering one of them calls "Solomon Isaacs!" and they have to stop talking completely for two minutes to cool down.

Re[2]: Motion: Rules Addendum

REJECTED on technicality. I don't like the idea of placing an arbitrary number of posts to tabling, I'd rather it be in human hands. What if we get up to 20 on a post, but are really digging the exchange?

Excellent point, and one I should've realized. Although I'm 100% sure that a twenty post battle is just going 'round and 'round, there's always the chance that it isn't, and we should protect that possibility.

The other member can respond that the tabling exists with their approval or veto, but either way the tabling will continue.

I am confused here, however. If I table a battle, it's automatically tabled? And you can say you agree or disagree, but it gets tabled anyway? I think a battle should only be tabled with the agreement of both parties -- or is that what you're saying?

I'm also playing with the idea that if someone moves to table a battle, the other person may call for an immediate vote on the battle, but I'm not sure what I think about that yet.

Re: Motion: Rules Addendum

March 23, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, communiqués

REJECTED on technicality. I don't like the idea of placing an arbitrary number of posts to tabling, I'd rather it be in human hands. What if we get up to 20 on a post, but are really digging the exchange?

So, I propose the following:

Any member, for any reason without explanation at any time may table a round, which is then automatically added to the end of the queue. If the heat is at the end and the discussion is the lone holdout, then the discussion must continue until the issues are resolved.

The other member can respond that the tabling exists with their approval or veto, but either way the tabling will continue.

What say you?

Motion: Rules Addendum

I move that when a Round lasts ten posts, five on each side, that said Round is immediately tabled, to be resumed after the next Rounds in the current Heat are dealt with.

What say you?

Weekly Wrap-Up (3/11/06 - 3/17/06)

Lots of activity this week!

First, Shockah posted the second half of his Jaws analysis. (Part One is here.)

Then, after the constipation of being unable to come up with a story for Rachel, My Dear, Shockah was forced to forfeit, the first (and hopefully last) such instance in the short history of the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. This meant that Burley could either pick his favorite (Rachel) to automatically move ahead, or he could pick Shockah's (Methane Madness) and take a "trump card", meaning he can force Shockah to write a 1000 word essay on a topic of Burley's choice at any time. Do you even have to ask which one Burley picked? I mean, seriously.

So Methane Madness moved on, and Shockah requested that the title be changed to Atmosphere, in honor of his adopted cousin on his father's side, the late great Ian Curtis. It was approved.

Then Round Eight, Cop on the Hunt v. The Scabs commenced, and it was kind of like a Yankees v. Devil Rays game -- one of these story ideas just didn't belong here. Maybe in some kind of Spitball! AAA club, but not here buddy -- this is the major leagues.

So, Heat #1, where we pitted 16 ideas against each other to come out with eight, now becomes Heat #2, where those eight will become four. These battles will now include short, 600 word character sketches of each story's protagonist.

Round Nine, The Atheist v. Atmosphere, will begin shortly. Today. I swear. On the grave of my late adopted cousin.

Re:[2] The Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas -- Heat #2!

My Top Four:

1. The Atheist
2. Rasputin the Translator
3. Little Black Stray
4. La Commune Planet

(Unlikely that anyone cares, but I did not look at Burley's list until I composed my own.)

Thus, Heat #2 consists of the following:

1. The Atheist v. Atmosphere
2. Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die
3. Little Black Stray v. Terminal Connection
4. La Commune Planet v. The Scabs

Round Nine (thought I'd keep the numbers continuous -- it'll make searches easier) belongs to me, and should make an appearance tomorrow.

Re: The Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas -- Heat #2!

From most to least favorite:

1. The Scabs
2. Terminal Connection
3. Time to Die
4. Atmosphere

I accept all of the terms and conditions. Awaaaay we go!

The Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas -- Heat #2!

Now that Heat #1 has wrapped up, we're now onto Heat #2, where things really start to heat up! Big Money! Big Prizes! I looooove it!

Re:[3] Motion for Title Change

Um, no. That was my attempt at heart-tugging propaganda in order to get my way.

Sneaky. A little too sneaky. But, never let it be said that we--who are making up stories all the time--shouldn't celebrate lying. Viva your fake-famial relations. Have I ever told you that Ambrose Bierce was my godfather?

Re:[2] Motion for Title Change

Holy shit, dude--you're related to Ian Curtis?

Um, no. That was my attempt at heart-tugging propaganda in order to get my way.

And it worked ;-)

Re: Motion for Title Change

Holy shit, dude--you're related to Ian Curtis?

Well, motion passes. Joy Division got me through many a long dark night of the teenage soul. Or, maybe it put me there? In any case, motion passes, motion passes.

Motion for Title Change

I move that the title Methane Madness be changed to Atmosphere, in honor of my mom's uncle's cousin across the Atlantic, the late Ian Curtis (1956 - 1980).

Re: Round Seven -- I Forfeit

Sir, I say to you: good try. I know this man well enough to say that if he says he tried, he went down fighting.

For that reason, because my decision was a difficult one to start with, and for a little essaytainment, I hereby declare Methane Madness the winner of this round.

For those of you not following our needlessly complex® rules, this means that I get the Trump Card, which is to assign an essay to Mr. Shockah, 1000 words, one week to finish, on the topic of my choice. I will be playing this card before too long, but for now I say with good cheer that it is time, dear time, to move on to the final heat of this round.

My hat is off to you, Urban Shockah. My hat is off.

Round Seven -- I Forfeit

Nope. Couldn't do it. I tried, several times, but I simply can't make a story about a woman trapped in a house work. (And by work, I mean come up with a second act, let alone a third.) I only had three requirements: that it be interesting enough that I'd want to spend time writing it, that it make sense (even if only in a poetic or metaphoric way), and that it be suspenseful. I could get one, sometimes I could get two, but never all three.

I thought I was maybe onto something with my latest idea (which was promising, I thought, because it went in a slightly different direction than what the original concept suggested -- think a supernatural version of Primer) but a) I ran out of time, and b) my enthusiasm for it kept waxing and waning. If Rachel, My Dear survives, I'll keep working on it and share it at some point.

So, it's all in your hands, Burley.

Re:[2] Structurally Speaking: Jaws (Part II)

Lindbergh's publicist or wife can now take center stage for awhile.

Dude, does it really say publicist? Before wife? If so, Howard's book's a lot funnier than I remembered.

Spitball! Tourney update: I apologize to everyone for the lateness of my reply. Things kept getting in the way of work and the Jaws thing took a little more time than expected. However! Because this train must roll, I'm giving myself a deadline of tomorrow at 8pm. Some kind of reply regarding Rachel, My Dear will be posted here at that time -- I gare-un-tee it.

Weekly Wrap-Up (3/4/06 - 3/10/06)

Nine posts this week, but only two topics!

Earlier in the week, Shockah posted Part I of his analysis of Jaws, covering the first four points of the sequence method. Part II coming up soon.

Then the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas came to a screeching halt, as the other eight posts were devoted to a drawn-out, slightly contentious and lovingly pedantic discussion about the penalties of forfeiture. (Yes, we make our screenwriting blog sound like tax law; y'wanna fight about it?) Last week, if you'll remember, was the very first tied vote in the history of the Tourney. Our rules dictated that Shockah and Burley had to come up with a version of the story they didn't vote for to continue the discussion. While Burley was able to do so for Methane Madness, Shockah wasn't sure if he was going to be able to do the same for Rachel, My Dear. What would happen if he couldn't fulfill his obligation?

After much, much discussion, the rule of forfeiture was agreed upon and there was much rejoicing. No, not rejoicing -- something else. Now, the world waits with much anticipation to see if Shockah does indeed forfeit or pulls it together with a blazingly brilliant post about a story idea he ranked fifteenth out of twenty-five. Should be (better be) interesting -- there's a trump card at stake!

We'll be back in two and two.

Re: [7] Point of Order: Rules Clarification

in my mind, contradicts what you wrote previously about "reneging on the forfeiture"

Sorry if I was unclear. I meant that if you forfeited, and then later came back and wrote your response to Rachel, that would be reneging on the forfeiture and might confuse issues.

No worries, though, we're on the right path, and your last paragraph and two points are correct. We are ready to move on. So, sir, I say to you: Play or forfeit the round.

Re: [6] Point of Order: Rules Clarification

I guess we're talking across each other, because this--

As far as I am concerned, we're still negotiating terms now, so the forfeiture is not officially on the table until terms have been agreed upon. If, when we agree on terms in the abstract (terms which, remember, I myself may become beholden to in the future), you decide to forfeit, then the terms will be enforced. Otherwise, you can decide not to forfeit and forward your ideas on Rachel, if any of this inspires you.

--unless I'm misunderstanding what you just wrote, is what I was arguing for, and in my mind, contradicts what you wrote previously about "reneging on the forfeiture", hence my last post. Also, I never had anything against the terms of the penalty, merely about when they would be applied -- that was my only issue.

So, to be clear:

1. We agree on the penalty for forfeiture, then;

2. I may either continue the battle as normal or forfeit.

And to be clear about your further explanation of the penalty, using this battle as an example: I'm the backer of Methane Madness, and you are the backer of Rachel, My Dear. If I forfeit, then you can either a) choose Rachel, My Dear and we move on to the next battle, or b) choose Methane Madness and you also get a trump card.

Is that correct?

Re:[5] Point of Order: Rules Clarification

after all, if I knew what the penalties were going in, it's possible I wouldn't have forfeited in the first place. Right?

As far as I am concerned, we're still negotiating terms now, so the forfeiture is not officially on the table until terms have been agreed upon. If, when we agree on terms in the abstract (terms which, remember, I myself may become beholden to in the future), you decide to forfeit, then the terms will be enforced. Otherwise, you can decide not to forfeit and forward your ideas on Rachel, if any of this inspires you.

But, to be very clear, I don't see picking the winning entry as a reward, I see it as a necessary duty because the forfeiting party has, for whatever reason, given up or felt that they couldn't continue their explorations. So, my evaluation will be not what do I personally desire, but what will be best for the (in micro) game and (in macro) eventual screenplay. If, for instance, I was to say that Rachel wins because it's my favorite, then we're going to run into an issue when Rachel, the winner of a round, goes up against whatever actual winner it goes up against in the next round--one that both of us chose-- and you're going to have to argue for Rachel which, currently, you don't feel that you can do successfully, and you doubtfully will like as much as the other, which you had a distinct opinion on. So, the choice before me is a devil's bargain: win and potentially make a weaker game, or give way to the other idea and keep the game strong but suppress my personal wishes to some degree. Since this position was not chosen by me, but awarded me by default by the forfeiting party, then I feel I should have a reward for being put in the position of having to choose.

My personal preference is always to argue it through, but if I have to make the choice and choose one, then I think the party who is taking the easier way out needs the penalty, thus the trump card essay. However, in the spirit of compromise and moving things forward, how about this:

If one party forfeits a round, the other party has the choice of which story to send forward. If the non-forfeiting party picks their own favorite, then the forfeiting party owes nothing more, but only gains a delay in their defense of that idea, for they will have to defend it in the next round. If, however, the non-forfeiting party decides to further the other idea, then they are awarded the trump card, which can be played for an essay.

This addresses both of our issues, I believe, and is excessively needless and potentially strategic. Do you like these terms?

Re: [4] Point of Order: Rules Clarification

Wait, just so I understand this correctly: you want a renegable forfeiture? Sir, I'm afraid I must say that forfeiting is forfeiting, and you accept the penalties. Otherwise, the can of worms is open. I started to give many examples, but then decided that I'd just say this:

Well, let's be fair: I said I would forfeit, and the penalty would be the "automatic win" of Rachel, My Dear. You said if I forfeit, then the penalty would not be the automatic win, but instead you would get to choose the automatic winner and you would get a "trump card". Since those are radically different terms, it seems fair that I should be given the chance to avoid these new, agreed upon and binding penalties of forfeiture if possible, as it is fair that I would submit to them if I feel I must, after all is said and done, forfeit. Yes? Or put another way: Just because I forfeit, doesn't mean that you get to set the penalties and enforce them in one fell swoop -- after all, if I knew what the penalties were going in, it's possible I wouldn't have forfeited in the first place. Right?

Re:[3] Point of Order: Rules Clarification

First: TV Shows?

Oops--yes, for those of you who are confused, I accidentally filed my last entry into the category "TV Shows" of which it is obviously not. I am the first to admit that an essay writing TV show would be very boring. I have remedied this by placing this entry into the negative TV shows category, so everything is balanced out.

I only accept it on condition that I may rescind my initial forfeiture and attempt to try again, however futile that attempt may be.

Wait, just so I understand this correctly: you want a renegable forfeiture? Sir, I'm afraid I must say that forfeiting is forfeiting, and you accept the penalties. Otherwise, the can of worms is open. I started to give many examples, but then decided that I'd just say this:

I see the point of the forfeiture not as the forfeited party giving up, but as the other party simply gaining a bit of control. Remember, that should you agree to the terms, I can pick either story I want, so the point of re-writing later may be a moot one. The ability to make you write an essay (of which, I will mention, that I am not sadistic and will choose an appropriate topic intended to challenge, but not frustrate, the writer) may actually be enough payment for me to switch sides and start batting Methane Madness. One will never know until they agree to the terms fully...

Re:[2] Point of Order: Rules Clarification

First: TV Shows?

Second: This is a good plan. While you don't think it should move ahead because I'm having trouble creating a vision of it, I don't think it should be held back just because I'm having trouble creating a vision of it, and this is a good compromise. I accept this amendment.


I only accept it on condition that I may rescind my initial forfeiture and attempt to try again, however futile that attempt may be. You think I'm just going to give you a trump card? Not likely, buddy. You're too essay-crazed to be allowed to have one.

Re: Point of Order: Rules Clarification

I'm torn about this. On one hand, I do want Rachel, My Dear to move forward, and also want to keep the competition moving forward. On the other hand, it seems that the argument is that Rachel should win because you aren't finding it compelling enough to find your way into it. That tells me that it's not a good candidate for moving on, since in the next rounds I want the competition to be stiff and full of it. Ideas, that is.

So, thinking about those things, I think we should establish the following rule: forfeiture. You forfeit the round if you feel that you can't further the story of the disputed work. Forfeiture means that the other player gets to pick which work moves forward, and also receives a trump card.

What does the trump card do? Hmmm, since I'm about to receive one, I should shoot the moon. I think instead I'll just say this: the trump card can be played at any time to make the other player write an essay. The essay will have to be 1000 words or more on a topic of the trump card holder's choice written within one week.

If you accept these terms, we'll move forward, and I will post which story I choose to forward this round.

Point of Order: Rules Clarification

Well, after spending several days on it, I've found that I simply can't come through on my end of the tie-breaker round. Here's how my Round 7.9 post began:

So, my big problem with Rachel was that, despite the interesting premise and all the notes and discussion on it, I still didn't feel like I knew what happened in it. What were the Cool Scenes, that you might see in a trailer? How exactly was Rachel confined to the house? Does the house have some freaky supernatural powers, or is it simply constructed in a strange, but logical, manner? Why doesn't she just break a damn window? There were still so many variables that hadn't even been penciled in, that it felt like it was in a kind of holding pattern, and it really needs to move forward.

Yet, every attempt I made to come up with some kind of structure, some kind of skeleton that gave me an idea as to what actually happened in the story (i.e. the second act), was met with defeat. While I could've simply went with one of my lesser attempts, anyone who knows me knows I'm loathe to put up anything I consider shoddy or uninspired work -- especially when the whole point was to give a version of the story that I could get behind. If I put up a version that, ultimately, I think is crap, then that's a kind of cheating, I think.

The only way to resolve this, as I see it, is to simply move Rachel, My Dear forward, since I failed to adhere to the rules of the game. What say you?

Weekly Wrap-Up (2/24/06 - 3/3/06)

Stealing an idea straight from the Stranger's Slog, we're going to do a weekly wrap-up, covering every Friday to Friday. Although we don't post as often as other blogs (nor should we, when there's only two of us and the posts are part of a conversation, and not celebrity gossip or something stupid like that), there's usually a lot going on nonetheless. To wit:

The Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas rolls on, as this week Burley and Shockah discussed Round Seven, which pitted Rachel, My Dear (a woman trapped in a crazy house designed by her mad fiancé) against Methane Madness (an inmate on a prison planet surrounded by a toxic atmosphere tries to escape by inventing, underneath the guards' noses, a process to make the atmosphere breathable). After 7 posts of back and forth, we went to vote... and for the first time in the history of the contest, we voted for different stories. We're now dealing with the post-tied-vote process, which means that each person has to spell out a version they like of the story they didn't vote for. Burley has already put up a character bio for the imprisoned scientist of Methane Madness, while Shockah is preparing a post that will pitch a story outline for Rachel, My Dear.

Another continuing series is Shockah's posts about the sequence method, a theory of screenplay structure that will probably be used to help shape the winner of the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. ("[H]e can give you a succinct overview of points of the sequence method better than the guys who write books about it" -- Burley Grymz, Spitball!) Right now, there's three posts about the subject: an intro, an explanation of the first four points of what I call "the story core", and an explanation about the last four points. (Burley has a couple responses to these posts, here and here.) Coming up, Shockah will take an arty, little-known indie from 30 years ago called Jaws and break it down using the sequence method. Should be good for a few laughs; stay tuned.

(Oh, and in the Forum, Shockah and Burley posted their ideas for recasting a remake of Jaws and it's totally awesome. Check it out and add your two cents!)

Finally, Burley is inventing his own theory of structure based around the game of cricket (which he knows nothing about), which goes by the name of... *sigh*... Tip Scum. See Shockah's reaction here; and Burley's reaction to the reaction here.

The State of the Blog: February

Friends, Romans, lovers of monospaced courier 12pt typefaces. Welcome to the state of the blog for the end of February.

Spitball! is now officially two months old. If you search "spitball" on Google, we make the front page. This month there have been over 60 posts, mostly dealing with the ongoing plot battle. It started last month when Shockah suggested that we come up with 25 each "in a world" scenarios that revolved around the idea of the Prison Planet, which we decided would be our jumping off point.

After picking our personal 8 favorites, we paired them together to have blowouts. Currently, we're on round 7 of 8, which has taken up most of the month. Although the going is slow, I think it's very fruitful, with lots of good ideas being thrown around and lots of ideas being challenged. When this round is done, there will be four heats to pair the 8 down to 4, then 4 to 2. Then, the battle for the plot of the screenplay that we will write in full on the blog.

Hear ye, Hear ye!

Let it be known that on this day, the 21st of February 2006, our humble blog has broken the front page barrier on Google. We are currently 8th on the page for a search on spitball--one above the Wikipedia entry for Spitball!

Thanks to all of you that made it possible, and I'm a little shocked it happened so fast. The Google gods are good, indeed.

Oh, and tomorrow (February 22) is Shockah's b'day. Make him feel good. Sign on to the forums and wish him a happy b'day in the comments for this post, which is here.