Roger Ebert Mindfuck

July 02, 2007 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

The Teen Movie Pitch Generator might give us some ideas while we slog through the finer points of pitching.

I want to re-do mine, but would like some feedback first, sir, when you have time. Until then, my Teen Movie Pitch is “Tomcats” meets “Ghandi” meets “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” with a little bit of “Erin Brockovich.”


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.

Silkwood

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[5]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

One note I just thought of. I’ll bet I threw you off by my blank meets blank statement, so I should describe it a bit. Of course, the need to do so totally negates the spirit of the statement, and shows probably how poor my choices were. But, as a first stab, I picked those two movies because each had elements I thought important to Time To Die.


Re[4]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

I always pictured her getting a call on Earth that her husband won’t be coming home. I find the story compelling because she needs to find a way to the prison and that seems like a huge hurdle to me. But, believe it or not, I don’t think we’re really speaking that different of a language here.

Are you saying the second act is mostly her journey there?

Not at all — this isn’t a road-trip movie in my mind either. The journey could be instantaneous, but it is a huge hurdle she needs to overcome to prove how fucking absolutely impossible-to-get-rid-of she’s going to be in getting her husband back in time for the regeneration (But we could make the trip back to Earth a balls-out, chased by the law and bad guys, running on fumes sort of thing. Or it could be the final break into the prison and pulling a big show to get the body out).

I mean, think about the Warden sitting on his lily white ass (figuratively, at least) up on a rock wondering how the hell he’s going to contain the massive prison riot he’s got, when suddenly the soon-to-be grieving widow that he thought he had contained with patronizing words over the space-phone shows up and taps him on the shoulder?


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.


Re: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

June 27, 2007 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, Time to Die, the screenplay

First things first: iPhone.

Okay, that satisfies our Union of Bloggers and Hipsters June 2007 requirement. Now back to your regularly scheduled Spitball!

Not a bad first pitch. One very interesting thing that I just noticed: you have September Rose going to the Prison Planet to meet her husband. So, the struggle all takes place there. I picture her on Earth, and a large part of the struggle is getting there. And then getting back.

Overall, I do like your pitch, but as you mentioned it’s too long, and doesn’t really snap yet in my opinion.


Burley's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

I have some things to say about yours, but I’ll post mine first and then we can cross-post about stuff. What worked, what didn’t, how to refine.

Oh, and for me? Think of this as Silkwood meets Speed. Doesn’t that jangle the WTF bone?

Here we go:


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:


RE: I challenge thee!

Dude -- it's like you're reading my mind. Like, trippy. I just picked up "Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read" from the library, for crying out loud.

I've been thinking about pitches for a couple weeks now, ever since the debut episode of On The Lot, that new reality show/director contest thingy. (Show's crap, btw; it started off well, but they kept changing the format and, incredibly, skipping stuff -- at the end of one episode, the contestants are given an hour to direct a one-page script, and then we never hear about it again. WTF?) Anyway, in the first episode, the contestants are given one of four loglines to build a one-minute pitch around, and after some remarkably embarrassing attempts, this one dude gets up and just throws one straight down the plate, 100 mph.


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: http://feeds.feedburner.com/hellbox/UTIU

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.


I challenge thee!

Mr. Shockah — I throw down the gauntlet. You must (as will I) come up with a Hollywood Elevator Pitch (H.E.P.) for Time to Die. It must not be more than one minute to recite out loud, and it must include a blank meets blank statement.

Such as: It’s Steel Magnolias meets Tootsie.

I think it will help frame how we see this movie we’re writing. What say ye, cad?


Time for Time To Die: Update Edition

For those of you who may be new here, and are too busy or lazy to read our archives (as I myself sometimes am), let’s get caught up.

Shockah and I came up with 50 story synopsis, and then whittled it down to a single idea that we are going to write. That idea was inspired by the kick-ass Charlotte Hatherley (who has just released a great new album, by the way) song called Kim Wilde. The original concept was this:

In a World where death itself is beaten by genetic regeneration, a guard is killed during a riot on the prison planet. One woman—his wife—faces sure death to retrieve his body in time to bring him back to life. It’s a race against time, with one nearly resourceless woman willfully fighting like a juggernaut against the prisoners who are holding his body hostage, and the powers that be that think she should just give up. All to simply save the man she loves from eternal death.

We talked about this idea a lot during intervening posts before it was picked the winner. A lot of that is meta-discussion, but here I’ll link to posts where we actually expand on the story ideas:


Bad Idea Jeans, er, I Mean, Screenwriting Books

June 20, 2007 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: Original Version, books

Here's the title of a screenwriting book aimed at young people:


Fictional

I’ve been writing a lot of short fiction lately. While we’ve read a million books on how to write screenplays, and worked a lot of drafts into one form or another, the fact remains that a good story is a good story. Some stories are right for certain mediums, and some are better for others.

Screenplays are not, in my opinion, the medium for ideas. They are the medium for experiences. I don’t like movies that try to make me think — not because I don’t like to think, but because movies that try to make you think usually have an agenda about how you should think. They are trying to teach you something.

Unless an audience comes to us and asks to be taught, who the hell are we to assign ourselves as teachers? What makes me think that a member of the audience who believes differently than me will change their mind because I manipulate them with images and sound?

Which is not to say that films can’t raise issues and deal with themes — but films should let you experience something and draw your own conclusions from it. I don’t like films that try to make me think — I like films that make me think. The films that do leave things open. They don’t tie off every plot line neatly, they don’t sacrifice ambiguity for resolution. They let people maintain some of their human failings.


Man vs. Wild -- No, Really

No, this isn't about the so-called three kinds of conflict. I'm literally talking about a new show on the Discovery channel, Man vs. Wild. There's this British guy with the wonderful name of Bear Grylls who is dropped into some harsh territory, like the Alaskan mountain range or the Costa Rican rainforest, and he attempts to survive and make it back to civilization, usually with no more than a water bottle, some flint, and the clothes on his back. Obviously, he (and his camera crew) make it every time, but it's always pretty gripping.


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.

Forward!

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


Look Ma, I'm Blogging

Sorry 'bout the lack of updates, folks -- we be busy. But that's the great thing about blogs -- why bother to write something original when you can just link to something else?

Check out some really great posts by screenwriter John August, at his blog:

How To Write A Scene

and

Scribble version, final version

(Admittedly, these are, like, weeks old, but good info and advice never goes out of date.)

I'll see if I can scare up a conversation about these posts with Burley.


Time to Die: The Treatment: Bare Bones Edition

So consider this the first shot across the bow of the U.S.S. Time To Die.

Note the First: Consider the following to be the equivalent of a four-track demo. Just a laying down of ideas that will get changed, fleshed-out, and more-or-less prettified by the time of their official debut. Despite the seeming completeness of the treatment (and the fact that I like it quite a bit), nothing here is sacred. If something isn't clicking with one of us, it will be replaced with something that clicks for both of us.

Note the Second: These aren't scenes. Something straightforward like "September finds a mass grave of charred bones" could take up fifteen seconds of screen time or ten minutes (assuming you are, in fact, Bela Tarr). It's just a "story unit", a piece of information that's required for the story to make some sort of sense. And, despite the number of story points provided here, I don't consider this complete.

Note the Third: The general approach here is looking at the story from the protagonist's POV, which particular emphasis on what makes achieving her goals difficult. The final story will present all the characters as independent movers, with goals, subplots, quirks, etc. However, this entry just isn't the place for those things. I expect that we will write different versions of this treatment from the POV of different characters later in the process.

Note the Fourth: More specifically, this story happens with a prison riot in the background. It's assumed that there is a back-and-forth power struggle between the guards and the prisoners that isn't resolved until the end. The treatment doesn't go into the specific actions by each party -- I figure that's for later. Related to this: Burley and I never decided the exact nature of the prison (an entire planet? Just a part? Enclosed? Or free-roaming prisoners?), and while the treatment is arranged around the vague idea of "this part is enclosed prison, this part is not", I'd like to think what's here is malleable enough to encompass whatever we decide the prison actually is.

Note the Final: Readers -- this is your chance to really have some say on the story. Don't like something I've suggested here? Think it's too obvious, too stupid, too something? Let us know.

Time to Die: A Bare Bones Treatment


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

...now 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.)


Get Real

Both Shockah and I use 37 Signals products, and found their book Getting Real inspirational. They just released the complete book for free on the web, and in addition to the original PDF version, you can now buy a printed copy.

The focus is software design, but a lot of their advice translates to writing as well.

Here’s the HTML version for all to read.


Behind the Music...er, '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?


Round 12, Part Four [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

The Scabs

In a world designed by engineers to be a self-sufficient, endlessly exploitable resource for the rest of the known galaxy, robots toil tirelessly in the fields, the forests and the mountains, providing food and raw materials for a rapidly expanding market. But when a series of accidents destroys some of the mining robots, the rest of the metal workforce decide to strike and power off, leaving the humans that depend on the planet in the lurch. A taskforce is assembled to get the planet up and running again while a negotiator tries to get the robots back online. While the taskforce tries to relearn the long-forgotten principles of farming and manufacturing, the negotiator accidentally reveals the existence of the taskforce… and the robots, realizing that their existence could be usurped by the humans, decide to go on the offensive.

Character Sketch: Camelot "Cam" Nkrumah

Relationship to story: The human negotiator (definitely a major character, probably the protagonist, but then again, maybe not)


links for 2006-10-13

October 12, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version

Re: [9] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

I think you're right. It is closer to suspense, and possibly does border on horror. But, then the questions are raised, what is the suspenseful situation, and what is horrible about it? I see it more as dramatic, but then the thing is less formed and more amorphous in my head. We'll work on that. I'm sure we can come to terms over this. So long as coming to terms means doing exactly what I want.

It's funny -- as I've been working on my latest character bios, I've made the switch: I can see La Commune Planet as a comedy and The Scabs as a drama. The key for me on the latter was to forget about the robots and look more deeply into the human character -- not to put too fine a point on it, but what's his angst? Maybe it has to do with the robots, but maybe it doesn't. The more I can think of this guy as the subject of a drama, the more I can take the situation/story seriously as a drama. (It's tough, admittedly -- the situation just sounds more comedic than dramatic to me, but I think I can do it.) I don't know if that quite dovetails with your approach, but I don't think it's contradictory, either. If that makes any sense.

To me, that's the _heart_ of collaboration, and my segue into mentioning that I'm working on a few posts about collaboration and how we work, which I think is kind of interesting.

How's that coming, btw? I'd like to read that. I might learn something :-P


Round 12, Part Three [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

La Commune Planet

In a world constructed for the pleasure of the ultra-rich, every vice can be had — for a price. But beneath the smiling exterior of the friendly staff, there lurks a growing resentment. When a group of ascetics destroy access to the planet’s hidden interdimensional gateway, the employees seize the chance to declare independence from the government and its backers. But as they take the profits and the pleasures for themselves, pressures and conflicting desires threaten to blow the planet to smithereens.

Character Sketch: Davis McExxon

Relationship to story: Also a primary character.


links for 2006-10-03

October 02, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version

Re: [8] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

…well, you’ve just birthed a whole new genre. Congratulations! What are you going to name it? :-)

I was thinking Laura Mae might be a nice name…

I think you’re right. It is closer to suspense, and possibly does border on horror. But, then the questions are raised, what is the suspenseful situation, and what is horrible about it? I see it more as dramatic, but then the thing is less formed and more amorphous in my head. We’ll work on that. I’m sure we can come to terms over this. So long as coming to terms means doing exactly what I want.

I kid. This story is one I feel that’s worth fighting for, and to me that means it’s one worth listening to your critiques of, and accepting your ideas for, and forming it into something stronger than just my vision through collaboration. To me, that’s the heart of collaboration, and my segue into mentioning that I’m working on a few posts about collaboration and how we work, which I think is kind of interesting.


McKee

“Hollywood is currently very much into story structure. Books, treatments and scripts are analyzed by readers in terms of plot points — points where the plot turns. Are there enough? Are they in the right place? Other important buzz words, if you’re planning to pitch, are backstory, inciting incident, progressive complications, setups and payoffs, subtext. These are courtesy of Robert McKee’s screenwriting seminar. Everyone, it seems, in the business who can’t write has taken McKee’s course to figure out what people who can write should be doing. McKee has never written a screenplay that anyone will actually produce. Back in 1988 he charged $600 for a weekend seminar, $350 of one of his staff to produce a reader’s report, $1,000 for a personal consultation on your script. So he makes quite a good living just for sounding off. There are lots of cute and ambitious young women in the audience, so presumably he gets laid a lot. And that, by almost everyone’s standards, is a pretty good definition of success.”

1993 Footnote in American Hero, by Larry Beinhart (the novel that the movie Wag the Dog was based on).


Re: [7] Round 12, Part Two [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

First, apologies to Grymz and everyone else for my recent silence. Several things have happened this week that have forced my attention elsewhere. The one most applicable here was that on Monday morning, the first day of a week off that I was planning to devote to Spitball! and other writing pursuits, my computer died.

One day after the warranty expired.

Luckily, the Apple guy up in Lynnwood, WA was a total mensch, and sent it off to be repaired free of charge. However, this means that I'm forced to use my wife's PC laptop, which, to me, is like trying to write on a loom. ("Hi Bart, I am weaving on a loom!")

The other thing: in case y'all out there in Spitball!land haven't heard, my wife is pregnant with our first child. And we just found out that it will be a girl! Laura Mae arrives sometime on or around February 5th -- be the first on your block to get one!

Oh yeah, and Spitball!: I'm not ready to totally dive into this (I will when my computer gets back from the shop), but YES, your explanation of The Scabs totally helps. If I were to slot it into a category, however, from what you've written, I'd call that suspense, bordering into horror. So when you say that it has comedy... well, you've just birthed a whole new genre. Congratulations! What are you going to name it? :-)

I'll be posting my characters soon. (I was actually working on them when I got the flashing screen of death.) I was actually trying to write them somewhat neutrally; that is, something that's applicable regardless of the genre. Is that possible? I think so, but maybe not. Anyway, we'll be back on track pretty soon.

I'll be back in two and two.


Clarke's Three Laws

Today I found myself quoting Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s a very well known quote, of course, used throughout science fiction and media.

But in referencing it online, I was reminded that it was actually one of Clarke’s Three Laws of prediction. Specifically, number three. The first two are good to think about in reference to the stories on the table now, where I think they can inform us:

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. 2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Read more at Wikipedia.


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.


links for 2006-09-19

September 18, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

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.)


links for 2006-09-12

September 11, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

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

Wherein Burley lays out why he did what he done and didn’t do what he didn’t do in his last two posts, containing therein the character bios for our two current battle concepts.

Okay. Well, first I have to say that I never considered La Commune Planet a comedy until I started writing the bio for Gertrude Faith, which quickly became comedy. My Exit to Eden warning bells ringing, I proceeded anyway. I guess I had a hard time looking at this one seriously for some reason. So, the idea of a haven for richie riches and a character who only desires to be there but can’t be because of her actions. The absurdity of the situation was more interesting to me in the moment.

But in looking back, I proclaimed my love for this previously. Why would I fawn all over it and then now come back with a flippant comedy? I mean, I ranked it #3 after all.


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

The Scabs

In a world designed by engineers to be a self-sufficient, endlessly exploitable resource for the rest of the known galaxy, robots toil tirelessly in the fields, the forests and the mountains, providing food and raw materials for a rapidly expanding market. But when a series of accidents destroys some of the mining robots, the rest of the metal workforce decide to strike and power off, leaving the humans that depend on the planet in the lurch. A taskforce is assembled to get the planet up and running again while a negotiator tries to get the robots back online. While the taskforce tries to relearn the long-forgotten principles of farming and manufacturing, the negotiator accidentally reveals the existence of the taskforce… and the robots, realizing that their existence could be usurped by the humans, decide to go on the offensive.


Round 12, Part One [La Commune Planet v. The Scabs]

La Commune Planet

In a world constructed for the pleasure of the ultra-rich, every vice can be had — for a price. But beneath the smiling exterior of the friendly staff, there lurks a growing resentment. When a group of ascetics destroy access to the planet’s hidden interdimensional gateway, the employees sieze the chance to declare independence from the government and its backers. But as they take the profits and the pleasures for themselves, pressures and conflicting desires threaten to blow the planet to smithereens.


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 Subtext of the World

In his book, The Culture Code, Clotaire Rapaille tells us that things and concepts, such as cheese, alcohol, love, and America, have a hidden code word that reveals their true meaning.


Escape Pod

Who the heck doesn't want good sci-fi stories read to them? I'm not raising my hand, that's for sure.

I've been involved lately in a series of long drives from Seattle to Coeur d'Alene, ID (about five hours each way) and our constant companion along the way have been CD's I burned from stories posted on Escape Pod, the best sci-fi podcast out there.

The stories are shortish, plot driven and "fun" (up to the definition of the editor, but so far his fun is pretty close to my fun too). Better yet, he pays his writers. Best of all, he released the whole shebang under a Creative Commons license.

When the day is long, posts to our blogs are short and inspiration is spread thin, nothing gets the mind crackin' like a good story. Go listen to a few today.


CUT TO:

We usually write screenplays formatted with a close approximation of the Cole & Haag style. Slugline, action, etc., but we skip the transitions unless they are absolutely necessary to the story, following the more modern method of using sluglines to break scenes. But, there is a problem with sluglines, and that is that they really can break up narrative action.

After reading some William Goldman screenplays, though, we became enamored with his simple method of getting rid of the sluglines altogether, and simply using a left-aligned CUT TO:


links for 2006-07-09

July 08, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

links for 2006-07-08

July 07, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Re: Round 11, Part Four [Terminal Connection v. Little Black Stray]

Despite the fact at being called out as an appreciator of happy endings, I am not at all adverse to Little Black Stray ending in tragedy. Shockah knows my measurement for these things: as long as it seems like it suits the story, and isn't being imposed for the sake of it, then I'm all good with it. I know he feels the same way, so bring on the tears!

I really liked the world presented by him, too. From the lingo to the idea of Big Mama all the way down, it feels like a well thought out world. I like the idea of the prison planet as a temporary shelter instead of a permanent place, and the idea that these jukes are forced labor clean up squads are all the better.


Round 11, Part Four [Terminal Connection v. Little Black Stray]

Little Black Stray
In a world where violent male offenders are sent to labor camps on the remote prison planet, one crew of hardened men finds something impossible: a young woman in tattered clothes, mute and frightened. A small group protect and feed her, keeping her out of sight of the guards and away from those who would use her mercilessly. As she gains in strength it seems that she has an agenda--and the truth of what she was doing on a world where no women stepped before might be a big enough secret to shatter the whole planet of forced labor.

Character Sketch: Kamra Judge
Relationship to Story: Protagonist / Antagonist / the stray


Round 11, Part Three [Terminal Connection v. Little Black Stray]

Terminal Connection
In a world where telepathy is a disease, and known telepaths are imprisoned, all laws are built by consensus over the internet via double-blind anonymous computer terminals to guard against undue psychic influence. One politician is called to jury duty, also conducted over computer terminals, but doesn't realize that the accused, whom she thinks should be dealt with harshly, is actually her husband. Nor does she realize that the crime of which he's accused, but hasn't committed yet, is murdering her. And what would she do if she knew that when she's deliberating, her husband could read her mind and was plotting to kill her precisely because she's about to send him back to the living hell of forced labor known as the Prison Planet?

Character Sketch: LionEye
Relationship to Story: Facilitator of screen-to-screen communication


Stupid Things That Pop Into My Head When Doing The Dishes

Katherine Hepburn's accent + James Mason's accent = Cary Grant's accent.

Boulder's Rule!

(an explanation: I had The Flintstones on the other night, not watching it, just background noise, and there was a character named Boulder who had the worst Cary Grant accent I've ever heard. It'd just go in and out, but then I got to thinking: it's kind of a hard accent. While Hepburn is clearly American, and Mason is definitely English, Grant's hovers somewhere between the two. But still -- every time I heard this dope say "Boulder's rule!" -- every three minutes, in other words -- I winced. Oh, and if you click the link above: No, I don't know why the New York Times has a plot summary of a Flintstones' episode.)


Weekly Wrap-Up -- Catch-Up Edition

Hey folks, things have been busy around both the Shockah and Grymz homesteads, which means things are gonna be real slow here at Spitball!. I'm pretty sure things are going to get more active here in the next few weeks, but until then, here's what's been happening:


links for 2006-06-28

June 27, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

links for 2006-06-27

June 26, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Re: [2] Round 11, Part Two [Terminal Connection v. Little Black Stray]

Yesterday, I went into some details about my vision for the Little Black Stray story idea. You can either scroll down, or click here.

Today, you'll find some notes for the characters and their milieu, as well as the terribly depressing ending I had in mind.


Re: Round 11, Part Two [Terminal Connection v. Little Black Stray]

Hey folks, this is Shockah. Burley's a busy little stubblebeard, and he's not going to be able to post for a little while, giving me the keys to run the place for the time being. This is not unlike needing a babysitter at the last minute, and turning to slacker Uncle Charlie, who asks the kids, "So, any of you know how to play dice?" But I'm sure we'll get through it okay. Right kids? Right? Kids?

So, until Burley comes back and we can have the usual discussion about the two character sketches, I'm gonna devote the time to... well, whatever comes to mind. And am willing to commit to blog.

First up: Notes on Little Black Stray.


Round 11, Part Two [Terminal Connection v. Little Black Stray]

Little Black Stray
In a world where violent male offenders are sent to labor camps on the remote prison planet, one crew of hardened men finds something impossible: a young woman in tattered clothes, mute and frightened. A small group protect and feed her, keeping her out of sight of the guards and away from those who would use her mercilessly. As she gains in strength it seems that she has an agenda--and the truth of what she was doing on a world where no women stepped before might be a big enough secret to shatter the whole planet of forced labor.

Character Sketch: John "Griff" Nakano
Relationship to Story: Protagonist


links for 2006-06-06

June 05, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Re: [4] Round 11.0004 [Terminal Connection]

Wow. They've really tightened the rules on netiquette breaches.

Surely you're familiar with the Southern California code of conduct: use-a-piece-of-polystyrene-foam-covered-with-fibreglass-and-float-on-a-wave-in-the-ocean or expire?

Same thing, bro.

If that piques your interest, then once again I offer human meat (with no synopsis).

Tom Noonan! Dude, that's all you had to say.


Let The Audience Do The Work

June 03, 2006 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: Original Version, technique

(Yep, it's another Signal vs. Noise-style missive. I'm not sure why these are coming to me; some kind of pent-up frustration, I guess. And it should be noted that, despite the philosophy I'm imparting here, I've done the opposite of what I'm saying time and again, and I continue to do so. In other words, this is just as much for me as anyone else.)


Round 11, Part One [Terminal Connection v. Little Black Stray]

Terminal Connection
In a world where telepathy is a disease, and known telepaths are imprisoned, all laws are built by consensus over the internet via double-blind anonymous computer terminals to guard against undue psychic influence. One politician is called to jury duty, also conducted over computer terminals, but doesn't realize that the accused, whom she thinks should be dealt with harshly, is actually her husband. Nor does she realize that the crime of which he's accused, but hasn't committed yet, is murdering her. And what would she do if she knew that when she's deliberating, her husband could read her mind and was plotting to kill her precisely because she's about to send him back to the living hell of forced labor known as the Prison Planet?

Character Sketch: Mary Harwood
Relationship to Story: Protagonist


Re: [3] Round 11.0004 [Terminal Connection]

Also: You provided a YouTube link entitled "human meat". No way am I clicking on that. Synopsize or die.

Or die? Wow. They've really tightened the rules on netiquette breaches. In any case, let me instead provide you with a link to a page that has the same content in a format with no graphics and only words. Safe for everybody:

"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"

If that piques your interest, then once again I offer human meat (with no synopsis). However, I will offer my promise: It's a no goatse zone. And, you'll like it.


Re: Round 11.0004 [Terminal Connection]

Good answer. Yeah, that does help, I think. This is a tough one, though, and it's kinda a shame that I'm the one to start it off -- I think you have a better feel for it. I'm finding it hard to juggle the telepathy, the precognition, the future world that contains both of these things, the future world that produces this kind of trial system, and then plug in an interesting character, while keeping in mind the complicated plot.

With that in mind, however, I think I'm almost there.

Also: You provided a YouTube link entitled "human meat". No way am I clicking on that. Synopsize or die.


Re: Round 11.0003 [Terminal Connection]

Do some people in this world have the ability to predict the future? Or is this a semantics problem, and what you meant to say was that the husband is accused of conspiracy to murder?

Good question. I think I originally saw it as a Minority Report sort of situation. But, I don't have a definitive vision (despite how strongly i seemed to feel about machines reading the future) What if it was a ghost in the machine that falsely accused the man? What if it was an anonymous tip after he was drunk in a bar--which then, I guess, would be the conspiracy to murder rap.

Or, what if the computers were big-brotherish in many ways with sensors in every home--to watch, of course, for telepaths who are acting badly. What if the computers used statistical analysis of behavior and samples of secreted human meat chemicals in the home to judge statistical probabilities for murder. If above 95%, it goes to a jury who look at the more human aspects of the case. Somehow, some records get crossed and the husband gets accused, and because the wires were crossed, the wife is added to the case. He is notified that he's under investigation and placed under house arrest, but he manages to hide this from her. He gets more paranoid, and as the case goes on, he realizes that his wife is investigating him and his paranoia takes over. He does start to plot her murder.

This raises other issues, but is interesting enough to explore, maybe. Of course, as you said, you should alter as you see fit. Anything sparked by these?


Round 11.0003 [Terminal Connection]

Question for Burley:

In all versions of this story so far, the following phrase is used:

...that the crime of which he's accused, but hasn't committed yet, is murdering her.

However, going back through the archives, you also said this:

...and I especially don't mean that computers can predict the future...

So, while knowing that I have the freedom to alter all this as I see fit, I'm still curious about your intention. Do some people in this world have the ability to predict the future? Or is this a semantics problem, and what you meant to say was that the husband is accused of conspiracy to murder?


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?


Loose Ends

(The following is an attempt at the kind of post they sometimes do over at Signal vs. Noise -- that is, a "statement of purpose" kind of deal that's both kind of controversial but also kind of vague. Is mine a homage or a parody? I'm thinking a little of both.)


links for 2006-05-30

May 29, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

links for 2006-05-17

May 16, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Note to self: remember the sounds

There was an amazing bit on NPR's Morning Edition earlier today about some of the sounds in the dense neighborhoods surrounding the Forbidden City in Bejing. I think it's worth a listen for the wild and varied things you hear.

I was thinking about those sounds, which stopped me dead in my tracks, and how as writers we need to shape the world of the characters. Especially in movies sound is important and omnipresent. Don't forget to put them into worlds with noises that can confuse, startle and interact with them. Sound can be character as much as visual. In official news:

Burley, you said you had some ideas about this you wanted to go over? Cuz I'm ready to jump in with character bios.

Go man go! I'm ready too.


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.


links for 2006-05-12

May 11, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Round 11.0002 [Terminal Connection]

Before we get started...

Terminal Connection
In a world where telepathy is a disease, and known telepaths are imprisoned, all laws are built by consensus over the internet via double-blind anonymous computer terminals to guard against undo psychic influence. One politician is called to jury duty, also conducted over computer terminals, but doesn't realize that the accused, whom she thinks should be dealt with harshly, is actually her husband. Nor does she realize that the crime of which he's accused, but hasn't committed yet, is murdering her. And what would she do if she knew that when she's deliberating, her husband could read her mind and was plotting to kill her precisely because she's about to send him back to the living hell of forced labor known as the Prison Planet?

My name is Urban Shockah and I approve this story idea.

Burley, you said you had some ideas about this you wanted to go over? Cuz I'm ready to jump in with character bios.


Inspiration in a lens

Inspiration: I take it anywhere I can get it, although as we've discussed before, our problem is not so much ideas but the time to express them. Maybe that's the basis of our philosophy that the real work is the execution. I'll bet there are diligent writers for whom the idea part is the hardest.

If you're one of them you might find inspiration at Big Happy Fun House, one of my favorite blogs. It's only vintage photos--new ones every day, cherry picked and edited by a guy with a great eye.

http://bighappyfunhouse.com/

His shadows series was particularly good, I thought.


links for 2006-05-09

May 09, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Round 11.0001 [Terminal Connection]

UPDATE: 5/10/06 -- I had to change the title from a ridiculous number of zeros down to only a few too many zeros because the post title was breaking the blog layout. We're always living on the edge for you, dear viewer.

To recap, for those of you who haven't been paying attention: There were two stories called The Infected and If It Pleases the Court. For some reason we decided to blend the two stories into one, which Shockah smartly titled Terminal Connection. But, we realized we haven't written a description of it yet. So, here's mine. After Shockah does his, I'll discuss a few ideas about this that I have, and see if we can't whip it into shape for the true Round 11, not so far away.

But first, the stories we're blending:


Re[2]: Round 10.6 - Discussion [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

...even though we had stories for The Infected & If It Pleases the Court, we've never had a log-line or pitch for Terminal Connection. Why don't we both come up with one, and then I say we toss some ideas about it around before really starting the round. What do you think?

I was ready to just jump in with both feet, but we might avoid a Round Nine-style quagmire if we figured it out ahead of time. I have a concept in my head about what Terminal Connection is like (that I already know you won't care much for), so next post, I'll probably talk about that -- but I'd better refresh my memory first. Telepathy? Double-blind juries? Cake? Something along those lines?


re: Round 10.6 - Discussion [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

Heh heh heh... Here's what I thought when I first read that bio: "Wow -- Cemile! Of course! Obviously she's the lynchpin of the entire story. I wonder what Burley's got planned for her..."'

Damn, I should learn to keep my mouth shut. I'm much more mysterious and interesting in your mind than in reality.

Meaning I have to write a bio for Terminal Connection, an idea that currently has less story than Rasputin. Can I claim Conscientious Objector status?

You bring up a very good point, which is that even though we had stories for The Infected & If It Pleases the Court, we've never had a log-line or pitch for Terminal Connection. Why don't we both come up with one, and then I say we toss some ideas about it around before really starting the round. What do you think?


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.


Round 10.6 - Discussion [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

It is funny--I did have to look it up...but, I actually never imagined her as a character that might need a background, but now that you mention it, I think she would be a great character with a background. Hmmmm. I can see her playing an important role in the film...

Heh heh heh... Here's what I thought when I first read that bio: "Wow -- Cemile! Of course! Obviously she's the lynchpin of the entire story. I wonder what Burley's got planned for her..."

Rasputin the Translator: YES
Time to Die: YES

My vote is as follows:

Rasputin the Translator: YES
Time to Die: YES

Both stories move on. Congratulations, stories.

This Round Goes To Eleven is next. Little Black Stray and Terminal Connection. I'm doing the starting bios. Meaning I have to write a bio for Terminal Connection, an idea that currently has less story than Rasputin. Can I claim Conscientious Objector status?

Bios coming soon.


Round 10.5 - Discussion [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

Ooops! I meant Cemile. Knew I shoulda looked that one up. Now, if you don't know who that is... that's gonna be funny.

It is funny--I did have to look it up...but, I actually never imagined her as a character that might need a background, but now that you mention it, I think she would be a great character with a background. Hmmmm. I can see her playing an important role in the film...

should we take a vote?

Hell yeah. I'm ready. My votes?

Rasputin the Translator: YES
Time to Die: YES


Round 10.4 - Discussion [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

Wait--who's Cecile again?

Ooops! I meant Cemile. Knew I shoulda looked that one up. Now, if you don't know who that is... that's gonna be funny.

In retrospect, I should have chosen something less open to...shall we say, interpretation?

Oh, I knew you had a reason for it (and it's a good reason, I think), but yeah, not sure how that would end up playing in Peoria, to coin a phrase.

Well, whaddya want to do now? We could keep talking about these stories, but since it's not an either/or game anymore, and I think we know how we feel about them... should we take a vote?


Round 10.3 - Discussion [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

1. We don't really seem to know what the actual story is for Rasputin the Translator. Should that be a factor in whether it advances or not?

That's a good question, but I say no. We both were excited about the character bios, and we're both excited by the possibilities of it. Besides, this heat was never about defining the story as much as it was about exploring it obliquely through extraneous characterization. Our work, while maybe not clarifying anything about the story, has certainly not made me doubt it at all.

2. There are a still a couple of bios that I'd like to see: Rasputin's Cecile, and Time to Die's unnamed warden character. Should those be written now, during this discussion, or wait until the stories have (potentially) moved on, or what?

Another good point. I would say it's in our hands -- if the bios would be handy, I say we divide them up and each take one on. I don't see it influencing the decision to move the stories forward, but it might help down the line. Wait--who's Cecile again?


Round 10 - Discussion [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

Well, I guess we now open the floor to discussion about the two stories. As Burley already knows, I'm feeling a little bit under the weather (but hopefully not the Boogie Woogie Burley Flu), so my thoughts aren't as coherent as I'd like them to be. So rather than pontificate in a woozy state, I'm just going to throw out some questions, and let Burley run with it where he may (which may or may not include answering the questions -- he's not like, under oath or anything).

1. We don't really seem to know what the actual story is for Rasputin the Translator. Should that be a factor in whether it advances or not?

2. There are a still a couple of bios that I'd like to see: Rasputin's Cecile, and Time to Die's unnamed warden character. Should those be written now, during this discussion, or wait until the stories have (potentially) moved on, or what?

3. What are we looking for when we decide whether to move these stories on? Is it simply a gut thing, or can it be stated in a quantitative way?

4. Did we ever decide what Time to Die's prison was like? Last time we talked about it, it seemed like we had different conceptions (I was thinking something more traditional, just on a different planet, but you seemed to be thinking about a more expansive, outdoorsy "prisoner reserve" kind of deal, if I'm not mistaken.) I got no preferences, I can go with the flow, but setting helps determine character, so it might be a good thing to figure out.

5. What exactly were your plans for September's stripper and dominatrix pals, anyway?


Re[4]: A Radical Idea

Assuming this is correct, I vote "yea" on this plan, with the caveat that I may want to Needlessly Complicate how the winner is generated in Step 3; but that idea's for another post.

It is correct, and I gleefully await your next addition to Needless Complexity.


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.


Re[3]: A Radical Idea

Okay, I think we've got it figured out.

I think.

Man, this just underlines how good you have to be when writing the rules for board games and role-playing games, even really simple ones. It doesn't take much to cause a misunderstanding.

So:


Re[2]: A Radical Idea

2. When ALL the bios are done, we THEN discuss the pros and cons of each story. But: we are no longer pitting them head-to-head anymore, but simply looking at each one individually and deciding if they are worthy of being turned into a screenplay.

I was thinking more that we still take the heats step by step, so present two stories, do a bio, talk about them, and then vote and move on to the next round. Only, when we would normally ("Normally." As if we did this all the time--yeah, on the last screenplay blog we did it this way....) go on to the next heat, this time we vote.


Re: A Radical Idea

Note: Some discussion of this post took place on iChat. I believe most of the points and issues will be restated here; if not, I'm sure Burley can help me out.

First, I'm glad you liked the last bio. I thought that what you wrote about Jones in the Jake bio gave us a good enough idea of Jones' physical circumstances, that focusing entirely on what I call his "interiority" seemed like a better tactic. I didn't expect the whole thing to be his dream though; that just kinda happened.

Next: As I told Burley in an email, this was The Right Post at the Right Time. I, too, felt very strongly about both story ideas, and wouldn't know which one to vote for. Well, I'd probably go with Time to Die, since I'm kinda conservative and always choose the one that seems "further along", whatever that might mean at the time. But the idea of losing Rasputin, especially when it seemed like it was on the right track, was pretty disheartening. So: what to do?


A Radical Idea

Brought to you by: Shower--a contained, temperature controlled indoor rain, promoting clarity of thought, cleanliness of body, and consumption of odiferous creams, jellies, soaps and scrubs. Shower--its repetitive beating on your head will stimulate deep thought. Shower--have one every morning.

I was thinking about these two ideas and how to move forward. First of all, though, I have to say that I totally dug your last post. Dreams are usually a bit boring to read, but you had great tension, suspension, and now I want to know more about the man who will become president. Really engaging and inspiring work, Mr. Shockah.

So--we have two character bios for each story, and I'm no closer to picking one. At first I thought that I would just call for a vote, and force myself to decide, but as I pitted these against each other, I just couldn't. I want them both to win for very different reasons. And maybe they both can.


Round 10.2, Part Two [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

And now, Part Two...

Rasputin the Translator
In a World contacted by a sentient and potentially violent alien race, one man--bearded and wild eyed--is the only person on earth who can translate between the languages of humans and the language of the aliens. But this strange man is not only hostile to both sides of the debate, he is also untrustworthy, and possibly manipulating the negotiations to his own ends. With all of Earth being turned into a prison as the stakes, one government has a very limited time to not only unravel the mysteries of the alien language, but also the history of the interpreter.

Character Sketch: Jones Alan Porter
Relationship to Story: Supporting


Trickster Raven Deserves a Movie

Northwest Coast Indians have an amazing visual art tradition--one of the most developed of any indigenous peoples in the world. Cultures like the Haida in British Columbia have an astounding history of a complex visual language. Bill Reid, the most famous Haida artist--and possibly the most famous native artist--of the 20th century said this:

Art can never be understood, but can only be seen as a kind of magic, the most profound and mysterious of all human activities. Within that magic, one of the deepest mysteries is the art of the Northwest Coast -- a unique expression of an illiterate people, resembling no other art form except perhaps the most sophisticated calligraphy.

Re: Jeeeeeeem!

Is it okay to say that I usually end up going over to RogerEbert.com for Mr. Emerson's Scanners rather than Mr. Ebert's reviews? (Well, the Answer Man, too.) I mean, he named his column after a David Cronenberg movie! How cool is that?

The new, "real" blog is looking pretty cool, too. Just wished he'd have comments enabled, although I can understand why he'd demur -- it's not a decision taken lightly. (Not everyone can be a Matt Zoller Seitz -- that is, be a journalist, but embrace the instant feedback, as well as give and take, that comments provide. Just ask the Washington Post.)


Re: Wednesdays with Cranky

Ironically (in light of my post last night), today in the Stranger, Brendan Kiley took local theater critics to task.

Tuesdays with Morrie is pap and the critics know it... But instead of indicting the play, the critics indict themselves. Why is this play tying them into knots?

I'm no reviewer or critic, and certainly not one of the ones he's talking about, but I couldn't help laugh when I read that. I did exactly what he said.

Although, my point ended up being more about the elitism of many critics, his is really about the nature of the play and why it incites such responses.

Still, it's a good point to make--I think I tempered my harshness because of my interest in not being an asshole critic, but strove instead to let people be who they are and make their own choices in what to like and what not to. That said, I should really just get with it and remember that my opinion will likely mean little to anybody, and those that might be insulted by it will: 1) not likely read this blog, and 2) it's goddamned egotistical of me to assume that I'm influencing anybody.

In the end, though, I guess I strive to at least be entertaining in my wrath--succeed or not. I'll name my next review The Punches Less Pulled. Oh, and just for the record: we were season ticket holders. Morrie was the last show of the season.


Jeeeeeeem!

I really like Roger Ebert. He may be a populist critic, but he's always unpredictable, and I think often has good insights.

So, around here, we were thrilled when the new RogerEbert.com launched, and especially because it was edited by the way-cool Jim Emerson (whom my better half worked with--or in the same building at least--at Microsoft). He wrote a lot of great stuff on the Roger Ebert site, but the page was a bit confusing in the outer shell of RogerEbert.com, and also felt more like a blog than a column, but looked like a column more than a blog--especially since there wasn't even an rss feed.

All that changes today--Jim has a full-on blog at the Chicago Sun Times, now totally separate from the RogerEbert.com domain. I'm thrilled, and immediately added him to my feed reader (the awesome NetNewsWire, created by Seattle man Brent Simmons ).

http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/

Jim has especially big internet street cred right now--even Kottke links to him. Go Jim go!


Wednesdays with Cranky

Let's just make it bitch night in general around here. I just got back from seeing the Seattle Rep staging of Tuesdays with Morrie. The acting was fine, the staging was impressive, the story just interesting enough. I spent the hours it was unfolding in front of me trying to figure out exactly how they were moving all the props around. Occasionally I'd remember there were people on stage too.

They say that movies are about emotions, books are about ideas, and plays are about conversations. So, here we have a conversation of aphorisms between a wayward student who is unhappy (but here's the rub: he doesn't know it yet) with his successful career and new bride, and a happy nub of a man who is all charm and joi d'vivre--oh, the irony, she is a cruel mistress--for this man who loves life is dying.

Let's watch him die, shall we? Gather around, ye in the expensive seats, and ye in the cheap sets--you shall all witness together. Did you remember your hankies ladies? The darkened room will be lifted by the sniffing of many noses--anonymous people shedding bodily fluids in amazingly close proximity--while on stage this man--a man who was a sociology professor for 30 some years, who published three books, who taught some of the Yippies before they got radical we are told, who influenced thousands of students over many years--this man seemingly quotes chicken-soup-for-the-soul for his student who -- maybe he never watched Hallmark theater? -- has never heard anything so profound as "Love always wins."

Am I a total asshole for even approaching it so cynically? I mean, here's a book that has moved millions of people, and tonight all of our friends that we went with were incredibly touched.


Air Vent Chastity

Over at his great blog, Go and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory screenwriter John August has proposed a Screenwriter's Vow of Air Vent Chastity:


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.


Getting Real

Both Shockah and I have been quite inspired by reading the book by 37 Signals titled Getting Real. It's about designing web applications, but really is good general advice as well for creatives and creative pursuits. This quote, from CD Baby founder Derek Sivers, particularly struck me, especially considering that the sentiment is similar to our Statement of Purpose:


Round 10.2.5, Part One [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

Great post--I'm totally digging your breakdown--it shows that this guy won't be a pure terror/evil type. He has some method to his madness, and the base of a loving relationship as a child. The self-righteous grandparents are great too. And Florida flooding, I laughed out loud. Sorry Florida--don't take it personally--I don't really want to see you drown. I mean, damn Florida, I love you. Don't be like that.

I think the vision of neon is great--and that story about the street kids is amazing. It's amazing how fast the adult fantasies of idealized childhood go out the the window, and we see kids become a microcosm of the paranoid adult world we build and shape around us.


Round 10.2, Part One [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

Hey folks,

Sorry for the turtle-esque crawl that this round is starting to resemble. My excuses are a) spending the last few days with a friend before she flies back to the U.K., and b) discovering, on Saturday morning, that our car up and fucking died. Just would not start.


Could 1024 Japanese Schoolchildren Be Wrong?

I would guess not:

Click for a larger view and check out the little uniforms!

Make your own at http://www.madin.jp/ouen/index.html


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.


Round 10 [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die]

Rasputin the Translator (Shockah rank: #1, Burley rank: #13)

v.

Time to Die (Shockah rank: #6, Burley rank: #10)

Don't mess with Texas. Unless--you know--you really wanna.


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.


Re:[6] Round 9: A big stick

It might end up being an excuse to indulge in some Grade A nonsense.

Hey--that's a great idea. I'm totally on board with that. It shall be treated like any other story, but it's our chance to really go outside.


Re:[5] Round 9: A big stick

Just FYI: I found your "consolidation synopsis" hilarious, and I do plan on treating The Atmospherist seriously as a contestant. It might end up being an excuse to indulge in some Grade A nonsense (something I haven't allowed myself to do in a long while), but, yes, I plan to put it through its paces, just like any other story idea.


Re:[4] Round 9: A big stick

The Atmospherist it is, as proxy. If you'd like to take a stab at combining them, I'd be open to it--maybe a different tack would help.

This round has raised interesting issues--one of which I'll voice here, although I will preface it by saying that I'm not suggesting we change anything--I think we should slog through the heat. But, I'm thinking this: the true issue is not one story vs. another, but a story vs. itself. Or, two views of one story that need to be reconciled.

So, when we have rounds between two stories going more in depth, it seems that we ended up butting heads on a few issues, any one of which could have been dealt with individually and not in relation to the story it's up against. The later rounds felt like we were arguing on multiple fronts, so the relationship between the two stories is kind of superfluous, save for their ability to skinny down the list. Maybe, as I've suggested, this point will be moot when we get into more interesting material, but I think this might be a point worth considering if we get bogged down much more. Focusing on one story at a time might help that.

But, we've got some great ideas coming up. Round 10 coming up soon.


Re:[3] Round 9: A big stick

But, if I had to vote for one of the two, I would say that I, Burley Grymz, vote for The Atheist.

Naturally -- I'd vote for Atmosphere.

The Atmospherist it is, unless you have another idea.

(I was thinking earlier, "Too bad we can't combine them". But of course, you can combine anything. It might not be pretty, it might not make sense, but yes, you can combine them.)


Re:[2] Round 9: A big stick

I say we move forward a proxy:

The Atmospherist
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.

But, if I had to vote for one of the two, I would say that I, Burley Grymz, vote for The Atheist.


Re: Round 9: A big stick

Both ideas get canned.

Generally, I'm not against the Gordian Knot rule. However, there is one problem: I'm incredibly anal-retentive it really screws up the competitive order of the Spitball! Tourney. I'd really feel better if something moved forward, even if we know it's gonna get canned in the next round.

You know, let's rise to vote and see where we stand. That could solve this thing with one fell swoop. If you had to choose one to move forward, which one would it be?

Oh, and:

I think that this [tabling procedures] might be interesting for the needlessly complex® rules futures

I'll start working on that, since we should have that in place.


Round 9: A big stick

c) Start writing a post on tabling procedures?

I think that this might be interesting for the needlessly complex® rules futures, but I don't think it's actually needed in this round. I propose instead something radical:

Both ideas get canned.

I'm not really feeling the love for either of these that strongly, and it seems that the things that interest and pull me in are nearly opposite of the things that interest you and pull you in. I'm taking our disagreements over these ideas as a sign that the ideas weren't that strong to begin with.

It's like our friends who have an organic subscription farm (brief plug: fresh veggies, delivered each week nearby your home? Great prices, and great people? If you're in Seattle, you could do much worse). In talking about farming with them, they said that a field that has sat fallow for many years is amazing to grow in. You have no problems with pests, and everything just goes well. Compare that with a field that has been planted where the soil is robbed of nutrition, and there are tons of problems with pests and the plants don't grown nearly as well. I think we're sitting in weak soil with these stories. I think we need a storyectomy. When we're in more fertile soil I'll bet we encounter none of the problems we're currently having. What say you?


Round 9.13 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

a. How do you end it? You can't kill the mitochondria, who--over billions of years--have formed a complex relationship with the human hosts. What's the end game? Is it just acceptance of the situation? Is that a dramatic enough story arc? Do the humans escape the Earth? Can they live without the tiny species?

Well, to be fair, I didn't get a chance to end it. To be more fair, I wasn't even sure myself (although I have an inkling), but I thought I'd get through it one way or another in the second post.

b. How do you visually represent the relationship with the tiny consciousness? Some might argue that this is what the Blob was doing in metaphor (actually, I may be the first person to suggest that, but I kind of am suggesting that), but I am thinking that this would be a big hurdle in the making of this movie. There can be tricks or representing the microscopic beings as a human that nobody else can see, but this would be a hurdle towards making this a reality.

Round 9.12 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

I'm back! After catching the flu and being laid up for over a week, I've finally regained enough presence of mind to make at least as little sense as I normally do. So, without further adieu, and to propel things forward, here is my response to the Shockah's last post on the screenplay.

I have two areas of response to your post on the Atheist


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.


Round 9.11 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

Okay, so the following is an attempt at sketching out a story for The Atheist that takes place on Earth, instead of an alien planet. As I'm writing this, I feel I should point out that I have absolutely no idea what's going to come out, which is why I used the word "sketch" -- this, in all likelihood, will not be using the sequence method, at least not in any kind of conscious, direct way. Hell, to be perfectly honest, I'm not even sure if the following will even be a story, in the usual sense, but more of a... "communication of a vision", if that makes any sense. Probably not. Maybe I should just start writing, huh?

The Atheist


links for 2006-03-28

March 27, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

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: Character Sketches: My Philosophy (I Think Very Deeply)

I've never really sat down and thought very hard about my philosophy in characters sketches, but reading your post I realized that my unthunk philosophy follows yours very closely. Which is why it took me a while to respond to this. I had to thunk about it for awhile.

Just a few points of interest or divergence:


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?


Round 9.10 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

I can't imagine walking into a movie about an autistic person and thinking, "This guy can't make an emotional connection to people, so I can't make an emotional connection with him." That doesn't make any sense. I literally don't understand or recognize what you're describing. It's totally contrary to everything I know about stories and films.

Two points on this:
1. To paraphrase Mamet, they call a confidence man a confidence man not because you give him your confidence, but because he gives his confidence to you. We fall in love with actors in love stories because they give their love to us by proxy of their screen love interest. We get scared in horror films because the character gives us their fear. The most successful actors are the clearest emotional conduits, that can effortlessly project the inner emotions of a character while seeming not to do so. Movies are, in one great sense, about the emotional states of people. This is one reason that film is such a powerful medium. Having a character who, by definition of his disorder, has trouble emotionally connecting to other people is an impediment to projecting his emotional state.
2. You keep speaking in grand terms, about "our jobs as artists" and "everything you know about stories and films." I'm talking about one instance of one character in one story. I'm making no statements that autism can't be used successfully, I'm simply saying that for the way I see this story, having the character be autistic is an artificial barrier to the points I would like to stress. Namely, as I've said, the emotional manipulation of the audience members. Having them like, then dislike, then sympathize with a nasty character. That's the point of entry and interest for me in this story.

But again, what I'm penultimately saying isn't that it has to be an autistic guy, simply that my version and your version are on the same level, imo -- that is, my "autism made me do it" and your "it was a mistake cuz I fell asleep" are more or less equivalent. I still think the culpability of the protagonist needs to be raised.

I don't think they are equal. One killed people because of something he could, but didn't, control. The other killed people because of a disorder that he has that is no fault of his own. The former makes him culpable. The latter gives, again, mitigating circumstances to his culpability.


Round 9.9 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

In this case the story rests on a fulcrum: the audiences ability to make an emotional connection with the protag. Making him autistic seems like an artificial barrier to doing that.

I totally disagree with this premise. I can't imagine walking into a movie about an autistic person and thinking, "This guy can't make an emotional connection to people, so I can't make an emotional connection with him." That doesn't make any sense. I literally don't understand or recognize what you're describing. It's totally contrary to everything I know about stories and films.

The question is whether this story will be enhanced or troubled by having the protag be autistic. I think the latter.

Round 9.8 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

Well, that's our job as artists: to find a way in to a specific viewpoint and express it to the best of our ability.

I can't speak to being an artist. My question is simply this: does the autism aid the story? In this case the story rests on a fulcrum: the audiences ability to make an emotional connection with the protag. Making him autistic seems like an artificial barrier to doing that.

The author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time found a way.

Yes he did. He had the autistic guy write the book in first person, because from the outside autistic people are much harder to relate to. You can't read their emotions. Unless you give them a Tom Cruise to bounce off of. I ask you: do you really want to re-write Rain Man?

But, the issue isn't whether or not we could make a story work with an autistic character. I'm sure we could. And, to put a fine point on it, I'm not objecting to an autistic protagonist specifically (being as I just wrote one into one of my descriptions). I'm objecting to a particular character in a particular situation. The question is whether this story will be enhanced or troubled by having the protag be autistic. I think the latter.

Additionally, autism gives him an excuse for his reprehensible actions. If he has a built in excuse, there is no reason to redeem him, so the emotional arc that I'm seeking in this character is unavailable from the word go because he's already forgiven or explained due to his disorder.

Hitchcock was always finding ways getting audiences to connect with characters whom they would otherwise despise.

Yes, and that's exactly what I'm saying I want to do: set up a character that the audiences has good reason to not like, and then help the audience relate to them. That's my goal plain and simple.


Re:[10] Sequence Method Question

I'll formalize a technique and form with my Blue Velvet post, and then you can tweak it and suggest changes as need be.

I'm on board for the Matrix. Let me just finish chewing what I've already bit off.

Maybe we can start a database of these.


Re:[9] Sequence Method Question

That's a little more detailed than I was planning, but it certainly couldn't hurt. I'll see how big my workload is, and start doing this.

Well, the time stamps are completely optional -- I like them for the info they provide, but also because I'm anal-retentive that way :-)

But I can't imagine doing a breakdown without a scene list. I mean, if you can do it, more power to ya, but that's out of my range.

Which reminds me, maybe we should start defining a format for breaking a film down. A form, if you will, that we could follow to aid in our dissections, analyzation and discussions.

Good idea. I'll be looking at your Blue Velvet post carefully.

Also, when I have a few of these under my belt, it might be interesting to pick a film--a non-obvious one, if possible--and each do a breakdown on it. Then, we can compare notes and see if we were both on the same page.

I had the same idea. I was going to save The Matrix for myself, but since I know we both own it, should we go with that? (Also, it's an "easy" one to start with.)


Re:[8] Sequence Method Question

a list of the scenes, in chronological order, and with time stamps

That's a little more detailed than I was planning, but it certainly couldn't hurt. I'll see how big my workload is, and start doing this.

Which reminds me, maybe we should start defining a format for breaking a film down. A form, if you will, that we could follow to aid in our dissections, analyzation and discussions.

Also, when I have a few of these under my belt, it might be interesting to pick a film--a non-obvious one, if possible--and each do a breakdown on it. Then, we can compare notes and see if we were both on the same page.


Re:[7] Sequence Method Question

What I would like to see (if you have it, but maybe this is exactly what you're working on!) is a list of the scenes, in chronological order, and with time stamps, if you got 'em. I don't think I'll be watching Blue Velvet anytime soon, but I'd love to get my hands dirty with this.

That said, I think I've settled on the PONR being the moment where Dorothy discovers him in the closet. This propels him from voyeur and passive (at least in this sequence) observer to active participant.

That sounds pretty good to me!


Round 9.7 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

I think you put your finger on something here: with him being autistic, he exists outside of the normal spectrum of emotions. So, how--as an audience--are we suppose to care about him at all? How can we connect with someone who emotionally is unable to connect?

Well, that's our job as artists: to find a way in to a specific viewpoint and express it to the best of our ability. The author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time found a way. Hitchcock was always finding ways getting audiences to connect with characters whom they would otherwise despise.

Or put another way: why should we care about any character, in any story? What tools do we have as artists that allow us to make an audience care for a character? And why should those tools suddenly not work because a character is autistic? I don't think any of this has anything to do with whether a character can emotionally connect to another character or not.


Re:[6] Sequence Method Question

Going by what info I have, it sounds like you're trying to slice it too thin.

That's very likely. In my quest for understanding and applying these techniques I tend towards the microscopic, and have to remember to zoom out and look at the big picture.

But, it would difficult to include all of my potential PONR into one broad PONR because then the entire 3rd sequence would be the PONR.

That said, I think I've settled on the PONR being the moment where Dorothy discovers him in the closet. This propels him from voyeur and passive (at least in this sequence) observer to active participant. The events that take place at her knife seduce him into desiring her, and it either answers or makes more ambiguous the question that seemingly innocent Sandy raises when she tells him:

"I can't tell if you're a detective or a pervert."

As I post my theories and break down of this, I'd be very curious for more feedback from you, of course, and from readers if there are any challenges to the logic of my breakdown.


Re:[5] Sequence Method Question

That's the rub, in a way, because four out of the five events I've described take place during the third sequence.

Ah -- if they're all in the same sequence, then the PONR is probably a sentence that takes them all into account (Jeffrey sneaks into Dorothy's closet but gets caught by Frank, or whatever.) Going by what info I have, it sounds like you're trying to slice it too thin.

But part of the confusion comes because later Jeffrey has the opportunity to leave the situation for good. If that opportunity is presented to the Protagonist, doesn't that sort of negate the PONR?

No, not necessarily. If the opportunity arises, and Jeffrey doesn't take it, then what's compelling him to stay? (I'm assuming something emotional.) That answer would probably be another kind of PONR.


Round 9.6 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

The Atheist

I don't get this. Why? If one particular religion is wrong, then X number of religions are wrong.

Well, the main reason I have the population believing in one god is to simplify. If you're really talking about setting it on Earth and taking on "real" religions, then which ones? The big three? What about smaller ones? If we're taking on Christianity, are we taking on the Catholics, the Episcopalians, the Congregationalists, the Anglicans, the Mormons, the Christian Scientists, or the Jehovah's Witnesses? And if you do take on one of those, then how is it taking on all of them? I could argue against the doctrine of virginal birth with a Catholic, but the Congregationalists don't literally believe in that. In other words, if we come up with a scathing indictment of Christianity, it could just be a scathing indictment of one sect and not even matter to another. We've learned that the Catholics really don't like the idea of a human christ--who is ultimately redeemed--dreaming on the cross of being married thanks the devil, but they love the idea of having his suffering brought to snuff film reality. How can you insult people who love the most violent film ever made?

And the same sub-divisions exist for Islam and for Judaism. What if they're based on multiple gods instead of one god? What about the ones that aren't connected to gods at all? How do we explain, or avoid, Wicca, or Rastafarianism? Is the version of God that is wrong the peaceful leftist-Christ, or the vengeful big-daddy Christ who is going to come and kill the mass of the population for not believing in him?

If we make one culture with one god, we can neatly avoid these issues. One god, one planet, one belief system that we define that, of course, metaphorically represents Earth religions--or more directly, the human need for religion.

But, mostly this is an issue of scope. You want to take on all religion and atheists? And you want to do this within 2 hours? Well, maybe this is all conjecture, because at this point I'm not arguing against anything but a belief of where to put the movie, and I don't know anything about the movie set on Earth except the history of the protag.

So, at this point, I say: show your hand. What's the story here of the guy on Earth? What happens and how does it play out in your view?

Atmosphere

I think you put your finger on something here: with him being autistic, he exists outside of the normal spectrum of emotions. So, how--as an audience--are we suppose to care about him at all? How can we connect with someone who emotionally is unable to connect?

But maybe unredeemable is too strong of a word. Let's just say that I'd like to protagonist to be at a severe disadvantage due to his actions, although this can be revealed a bit later in the story maybe, so that at first we think he is the guy we're going to root for, then we learn he isn't, then we start to root for him despite ourselves. If we could set up that dynamic, I would be very happy. The rest is window dressing, as far as I'm concerned.


Re:[4] Sequence Method Question

See, this is where I start to get confused over the (seemingly, to me) arbitrary rules placed around events in the narrative line. More to the point, I find the dividing line between sequences occasionally arbitrary. In Blue Velvet, some are very clear (fade to black, pause, fade up), while some are much less clear, but only exist in my head so that I can define the movie given the constraints of the model we're using.

You said:

the PONR is generally slotted in the third sequence (the very first sequence in the second act), that's the latest it can appear.

That's the rub, in a way, because four out of the five events I've described take place during the third sequence. However, only one (Jeffrey sneaking into her place) really propels him into the drama where he emotionally is trapped, and physically, at least for awhile, is trapped as well.

But part of the confusion comes because later Jeffrey has the opportunity to leave the situation for good. If that opportunity is presented to the Protagonist, doesn't that sort of negate the PONR?

In any case, your clarification did help me figure out a few things, so I'm forging on. Thanks also for clarifying the difference between the Predicament and the the PONR.


Re:[3] Sequence Method Question

Remember, although the PONR is generally slotted in the third sequence (the very first sequence in the second act), that's the latest it can appear. It can appear in the very first moment of the screenplay, if it makes sense. And there should always be moments throughout that "lock in" the protagonist further, a continuous tightening, like a giant python.

But the question is: when can Jeffrey simply not turn around and leave town? And I think either the answer can be either physical or emotional in nature (i.e., either Frank or Dorothy). Unfortunately, I haven't seen Blue Velvet in years, so I can't really offer anything past this. Except: assuming that, per David Howard, that Lynch's stories are only unusual in that they don't offer character motivation, I'd look around the 20 to 30 minute mark and see what scenes are there. That could answer your question.

One last thing: the PONR doesn't draw the action into the second act; the Predicament, and the protagonist's choice towards the Predicament, does.


Round 9.5 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

The Atheist

First off, we need the entire population believing in one god.

I don't get this. Why? If one particular religion is wrong, then X number of religions are wrong.

Secondly, in my view, we actually need to disprove that this god exists--or, at least, that the historical evidence for this god was made by their imprisoned forefathers.

How can we disprove a god that real people actually believe in (when some people can't even draw cartoons of one version of him)?

I guess this is where our visions of this completely differ, as I don't see how we can disprove an imaginary god either. To me, this is a story about faith and belief -- the character comes to believe, against all the believers of various religions and the atheists, that the planet is a giant prison for their ancestors -- and he turns out to be right. To put it another way, a planet with a made-up culture is too distancing to me, ultimately too watered-down. I guess what I'm saying is, the belief systems of aliens are completely uninteresting to me, especially when the ones we've got here on Earth are fascinating enough.

Maybe it's because the story of your protagonist just wasn't as compelling to me.

Re:[2] Sequence Method Question

If, however you're dealing with some Altman Short Cuts type shit, then you've got several stories on your hands, and you probably should chart out each one.

I don't think my ambiguity is really serving any purpose here but to guard me from potential failure and looking foolish, and that's not a very good reason. In fact, it might be more useful to myself and everybody if I reasoned this breakdown I'm doing out loud, since it's the first I've attempted.

The movie I picked is: Blue Velvet (I just watched it again for the first time in quite a while). So, the questions of PONR come up in conjunction with protagonist Jeffrey Beaumont. Here are a few of the PONR I've identified: (it goes without saying, but we're just the type to say things that might usually go without: SPOILERS AHEAD).


Round 9.4 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

Hmmm... I'm not entirely sure what we're supposed to do now.

Me neither...my god. Did we actually make too few rules?

Anyway, I agree with Shockah that the rabble should be rousing--if you have the slightest inkling of an opinion on this one, please do let us know.

So, without further adieu:


Re: Character Sketches: My Philosophy (I Think Very Deeply)

I doubt I could force him even if I wanted to, at least not without the use of a whip and cheese-covered apple pie


I'm replying properly to today's posts here, but I couldn't let this slide. Can a fella get anybody to testify to the greatness of hot apple pie with cheddar cheese for breakfast? Mr. Shockah's palate won't allow for such deliciosity, and I'm eager to prove to him that this is not an personal idiosyncrasy, but accepted culinary practice.


Character Sketches: My Philosophy (I Think Very Deeply)

Note: The following has absolutely nothing to do with Burley's excellent character bios, as seen below. It's just that, when I started my bios, I felt like I needed to definitively state what it was I was trying to accomplish, so I created a list of guidelines and "talking points", if you will, to guide me. While I certainly hope that I can engage Burley into a conversation about this topic, he's not honor-bound to share my philosophy or use my ideas. (I doubt I could force him even if I wanted to, at least not without the use of a whip and cheese-covered apple pie.) I share them with you now because... well, when it comes to grand theorizing about writing, I'm a Chatty Cathy.


Re: Sequence Method Question

Since I don't know what film you're doing, it's a little tough. I'll start with: where does the film fall on that McKee story triangle thingie? That is, if it's pretty much a standard, mainstream story, or even a "miniplot", you probably should only have one PONR and one Predicament. If, however you're dealing with some Altman Short Cuts type shit, then you've got several stories on your hands, and you probably should chart out each one. (Or I suppose, if you have a film that has one strong, but somewhat tangential subplot -- like an old Simpsons episode -- then that subplot should probably be charted out on its own.)

Then again, it's not like an exact science or anything, so make up new rules if you have to!

Does that help or hinder?


Sequence Method Question

Should each plot thread have its own Point of no return? I'm dissecting a movie right now, and I think I've identified five potential PONR, but each have different impact on the primary story (which is muddy to begin with, and cross pollinated with other issues). Any feedback on this? Should the PONR focus on the primary story line, or should each have its own?

And, if it does, should each also have its own predicament and main tension? How microscopic should one get with these things.


Round 9.3 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

Hmmm... I'm not entirely sure what we're supposed to do now. I suppose it's no different than before and we start talking about the pros and cons of the various stories and character bios, but for some reason this round feels different than the others. Maybe 'cause we're one step closer to the real thang?

To all the Forum posters out there, actual and potential: Now's the time to make your voice heard. I don't know about Burley, but I love all these ideas, so I could use some outside guidance, now that we're getting into specifics. What do you like? What don't you like? Why? Again, I can't speak for Burley, but what you say will have an effect on my decisions.

Anyway:


Round 9.2 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

The Atheist (Shockah rank: #4, Burley rank: #1)

v.

Atmosphere (neé Methane Madness) (Shockah rank: #7, Burley rank: #9)

Note that I've added the "relationship to story" line, just in case we start to diverge from the primary characters into minor, but influential ones. Also, your idea of The Atheist, which takes place on Earth, was very different than mine, so I was a bit confused at first. This line should help clarify things.

And now, without further adieu:


Round Nine [The Atheist v. Atmosphere]

The Atheist (Shockah rank: #4, Burley rank: #1)

v.

Atmosphere (neé Methane Madness) (Shockah rank: #7, Burley rank: #9)

ROPE A DOPE!

(Note: We've added a new requirement to the battles -- a character sketch of the protagonist, of about 600 words. "Character sketch" can be defined anyway that I or Burley choose to interpret it. Although the idea is to have two very different sketches for each story, if one of us thinks one of the other's sketches is top-notch, another option is to expand on that sketch for 600 more words.)


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.


links for 2006-03-17

March 16, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

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:[2] Round 8: Rise to Vote, Sir!

Wouldn't it be funny if I voted for Cop?

But, I'm not! I'm picking the Scabs (eeeewwwww). Ladies and Gentleman, this means that heat one of the first Spitball! plot dilution and expansion project has come to an end. To recap our winners:

1. Rasputin the Translator
2. La Commune Planet
3. Little Black Stray
4. The Atheist
5. Terminal Connection (formerly the Infected + If It Pleases The Court)
6. Time to Die
7. Atmosphere (formerly Methane Madness, named after Shockah's paternal grandfather Ian Curtis)
8. The Scabs

For those that don't remember the plots, we'll recap as we go. Which leaves us now with the question of procedure, so I will punt to the master of our arbitrary and needlessly complex® rules. Please sir, steer us into the next phase of Spitball!


Re: Round 8: Rise to Vote, Sir!

I'm Scabbin' it uptown, uptown!
I'm moving it uptown!
People goin', people goin'
I'm Scabbin' it uptown! Uptown!

You better Scab it up slowly...

You better Scab it up slowly...


Round 8: Rise to Vote, Sir!

I suspect we're both ready to put the hammer down on this one.


Round 8.2 [Cop On the Hunt v. The Scabs]

Cop on the Hunt (Shockah rank: #8, Burley rank: #20)

v.

The Scabs (Shockah rank: #19, Burley rank: #1)

404 ERROR -- PITHY QUIP NOT FOUND


Round Eight [Cop On the Hunt v. The Scabs]

Cop on the Hunt (Shockah rank: #8, Burley rank: #20)

v.

The Scabs (Shockah rank: #19, Burley rank: #1)

This is the end, my only friend, the end...


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.


Re: Structurally Speaking: Jaws (Part II)

(The example subplot given in David Howard's book is, during a story about Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic, about his wife worrying about him. Something like that. Maybe Burley can fill in the details here. Did I mention I don't have the books in front of me?)

Not only do I got your books, I got your back too. Howard, How to Build a Great Screenplay. pgs 328-329.

Main Subplot and Main Character

After the intensity of the midpoint, there is a tendency for a story to suffer what is known as the second-act sag. This is a sense of letdown we experience after a major emotional event. Our hero has made a concerted effort and it has not had the result he and we had hoped. He might have succeeded in what he was trying to do, but that merely turned the dilemma upside down. Or he might have failed and the failure has made the predicament even worse. Either way, we have just come from a major high or low contrasting moment -- the midpoint -- and there is a tendency to sink, lose energy, or lose focus. The best way to overcome second-act sag is to let the major subplot take over for a while. We haven't yet had any truly significant change or first culmination in that second most important story, so it can arrive energized, hopeful or fearful, and very tense.

The mention to Linbergh's wife is brief and in the next paragraph:

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

Structurally Speaking: Jaws (Part II)

Welcome back to my "sequence method" analysis of Jaws. For those just tuning in, an explanation of the sequence method can be found here (the first four points) and here (the last four points), but you may want to start with the "Why structure, anyway?" post. The first part of the Jaws analysis can be found here. Questions? Disagreements? Think I should be discussing the brilliance of Jaws 4? Go to the Forums, by clicking here. Finally, there's a discussion about casting a theoretical remake of Jaws that needs, nay, demands your input.

And now... Part II.


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.

However!

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?


Structurally Speaking: Jaws (Part I)

So now that we've gone through the sequence method (albeit in a brief, condensed form), let's apply that to some popular movies and see what happens.

I'm going to start with my favorite movie of all-time, bar none: Jaws. As you probably know, Jaws was the movie that, for better or worse, kick-started the concept of the "blockbuster summer movie". It's a pretty straightforward story (a clear protagonist, a clear antagonist, no flashbacks or other narrative tricks), and it seems like it should be a prime example of basic mainstream film structure.

Well... yes and no. Although for the most part it follows the sequence method mark for mark, there is a little twist, one that demonstrates the elasticity of the sequence method.

Let's take a gander (the length of each sequence is indicated in bold):


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.


Round 7.8 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

So, now I have to figure out how I could change Methane Madness to make it more attractive to me than Rachel, My Dear.

Well, as ironic as it sounds (since I usually start broad and get specific), I actually think we're too broad with Methane Madness. I realize that much of the information was back story, and not intended for the page, but I still feel the need to get myopic on our character. Let me start here by giving him a bio, and a name.

Dr. Zheng James McNab is a scientist doing research on atmosphere, specifically on a new brand of oxygen tank that is refillable through small fissile reactions with methane. These miniature, contained nuclear reactions take place in a pack the size of a hockey puck and fill 30 air tanks or so. This allows workers to stay in the vacuum of space for long periods of time with renewable oxygen. Same for underwater experiences. Zheng gives a talk in which he claims that this process can work on a large scale, terra forming entire planets. He is warned by his bosses to not attempt such a thing, since it is consider too dangerous. But, he knows great rewards would come to him if he could succeed.


Re:[2] Round Seven: Rise to Vote, sir!

I feel like these stories have both been described and laid out in great detail, and despite the fact that my preference is to move on to the last round of the first heat, I have to stay true to my desires. I reject Methane Madness. I vote for Rachel, My Dear. Going into the competition it was actually reversed, but the more I dug into the story the more intriguing it got. Creepy, psychological--I don't think the questions are all answered, but the questions that are being raised interest me far more than Methane Madness.

So, according to rules of play, each of us has to go and give a version of the story that we didn't vote for that would be acceptable to them, and then we can vote again. So, next up: Round 7.8, 7.9 and then we'll see where we are. Since you took 7.7, I'll take 7.8.


Re: Round Seven: Rise to Vote, sir!

Wow, so many mixed feelings about this, about a couple of things. First, we did pretty much reach the end on this one (or at least, I feel like we're holding back, because one of them is destined for more discussion anyway), but can I say I've really enjoyed this round? It felt like, because I didn't have very strong feelings about either story idea, I could stand back and be somewhat neutral and just enjoy looking at each plot from different angles. It really felt like spitballing, I guess because I felt like I didn't have to pimp one of the nominees.

(But that could easily change if we vote for different stories!)

And I came to really like both ideas, and it's a shame that they didn't lend themselves towards consolidation. I sorta don't want to vote, because my personal inclination is that I vote when I feel 70/30 about the two nominees, and I'm only at about 55/45 with these two.

But one has to win, and so I'm going to back the one that I feel is the furthest along the development path:

Methane Madness.


Round Seven: Rise to Vote, sir!

I feel like I've gone as far as I can with this one at this point. I move that we call a vote.


Round 7.7 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Rachel, My Dear
I can see your problem with Rachel-as-architect, but I'm not sure if I like Gabe-as-contractor. (Or maybe I don't know enough about the biz to know whether that scenario is likely or believable.) But I think what's clear is that Rachel, whatever she does, needs Tha Skillz to fight the house on an intellectual level as well as a physical one. Is there another job like "architect" that could do the same job?

Maybe when he looks at the house he sees the house Rachel designed, but when she sees the house she sees a nightmare.

Heh -- when I read that, it makes me wonder if Rachel isn't the crazy one. Is there room for that kind of ambiguity (not necessarily through the whole thing -- we can still find out at the end that Gabe's the crazy one) or should it be clear from the outset who's crazy?

Methane Madness

I'm kind of tired of the "corporation" being evil.


Round 7.6 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Rachel, My Dear

I'm going to get pedantic for a minute here. I really like the idea of Rachel as architect, but one thing bothers me about it: if Rachel were an architect, then she wouldn't just let her husband build a house for her, she would be involved in it. So, what I suggest to fix this issue is that we make Rachel the architect, and her husband a contractor. They have a deal on this house--she designs whatever she wants with his interference, and he builds it how he wants without her interference. But, her curiosity and his strange behavior drive her to seek out the site and see what's happening. It's not at all what she has expected....

I agree with you that Gabe is unaware of his madness. In his mind, he IS building Rachel's house, and doesn't understand her strong reaction to his work. Maybe when he looks at the house he sees the house Rachel designed, but when she sees the house she sees a nightmare. Like some of Sacks' patients, he is deluded without knowing he is deluded.


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.


Round 7.5 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Rachel, My Dear

Good job with that synopsis -- that's much more interesting than what I could come up with. One thing, though: I think that, if the house is representative of Gabe's madness both literally and figuratively, then Gabe himself needs to come across as rational and sane as possible -- even when (or especially when) dealing with the house. I don't think Gabe is aware of his madness, in the same way that that guy from the Sacks book isn't aware that he's blind. My point being, I don't want Gabe to be one of those Mu-wah-ha-ha! villains. He's sick, he's sad, he's messed up, but he's not Fu Manchu or some-frickin'-body. In fact, he probably tries to save her, but is tripped up and consumed by the house (i.e., his madness).

Oh, and great call by Spitball! reader Tippy Canoe: she suggested that Rachel also be an architect, and allow her to architect her way out of her situation. I'm not entirely sure how to implement the idea at this point, but that's probably because I don't really know what the house is like. But still, that's a wonderful idea.


Talkin' 'Bout Structure, Part III

Annnndddd... we're back. Thanks for joining us.

So again, we're talking about the sequence method of structuring a screenplay, as expounded by David Howard and Paul Joseph Gulino, in their books, How to Build a Great Screenplay and Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach, respectively . Back in Part II, I talked about the first four of eight important "qualities" (I couldn't think of a better word) that make up a screenplay using the sequence method: the Point of Attack, the Predicament, the Main Tension, and the Point of No Return. If you haven't read it (especially the part about not having the books in front of me), you may want to before continuing.


Round 7.4 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Rachel, My Dear

I think you're dead on talking about horror that is really not horror at the base. I see this one differently than you, at this point. I think that this is a story of a mentally disturbed man and his new bride who doesn't know about his illness until it almost kills her.

I would say something like this: Rachel and Gabe are engaged. Rachel is a partner in a small public relations firm. Gabe is a partner in a small architecture firm. They met, live in the city, but dream of a weekend house out on an island / in woods / nearby but far-enough away. Gabe has been working on a house for Rachel on a tract of land they bought together. Rachel knows this much, but she's never seen the house and Gabe won't let her near it. He's holding it as a surprise for their wedding night.


Re: I've Made A Terrible Mistake

If you're not confused, then you don't understand Tip Scum. I think that's my new motto. Basically, every screenwriting technique book I've ever read ends up with complex diagrams (McKee is particularly fond) to explain ideas that really don't need them. Everyone has you tracking threads of information that, if mapped on corkboard with string, would look like one of those airline diagrams that shows worldwide flights. Everyone is so complex that even people who understand it can't succinctly explain it, because if they could then they couldn't charge so much for seminars.

So, in retaliation, I think that it would be appropriate if Tip Scum is all about confusion, because if you're not confused than your plot isn't complex enough. If you're not confused, then you're not relating to your batter, er, protagonist enough, because if your protagonist isn't confused, then there is no drama in their life worth exploring and therefore no story.

In any case, the Sandshoe Crusher, if expressed in mathematical terms, would be: Sandshoe Crusher = (Inciting Incident + Predicament) / Point of Attack. Does that help confuse things better? Good! You're catching on.


Round 7.3 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Great post, dude -- you made me excited about both ideas. Of course, that just makes things harder, dudn't it?


I've Made A Terrible Mistake

D'oh! I got confused. For some reason (even though it's perfectly clear what you wrote), I thought the Sandshoe Crusher was the supposed to be the equivalent of the Point of Attack, not the Predicament -- I guess cuz it was the first definition you put up there, and I immediately thought of it in terms of the first part of the sequence method, the Point of Attack.

So, unless I'm still confused, Predicament = Sandshoe Crusher = Inciting Incident.

(I know, the audience is just swooning.)


Re: Talkin' Bout Structure, Part II

which, contrary to what Burley said below, I think is the equivalent to McKee's Inciting Incident, but then again, he's got the books, not me

So he got them out to look it up. I present you with:

THE INCITING INCIDENT VS. THE POINT OF ATTACK / PREDICAMENT (aren't you just juiced about this?)

First, the definitions.


From Story, by Robert McKee, pg 189:

The INCITING INCIDENT radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonists life.

pg. 190

...the Inciting Incident is a single event that either happens directly to the protagonist or is caused by the protagonist. Consequently, he's immediately aware that life is out of balance for better or worse.

So, to sum up, the Inciting Incident is the event that really kicks the story in. Everything before is for empathizing what life would be like without the event.


Talkin' 'Bout Structure, Part II

Now where was I? Oh right, the so-called sequence method.

(Again, as Burley mentioned, I don't have the books in front of me, so what follows is based on memory, along with stuff borrowed from other writers [like McKee] and my own additions. I probably won't delineate between what's from the book and my own crazed imaginings, so take all this stuff with an added pinch of salt.)


Round 7.2 [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Rachel, My Dear (Shockah rank: #15, Burley rank: #2)

v.

Methane Madness (Shockah rank: #7, Burley rank: #9)

54-40 OR FIGHT!


Round Seven [Rachel, My Dear v. Methane Madness]

Rachel, My Dear (Shockah rank: #15, Burley rank: #2)

v.

Methane Madness (Shockah rank: #7, Burley rank: #9)

AND THE ANCHORPERSON ON TV GOES LA DEE DA DEE DA...


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.


SimpsoBurley!

Because it had to happen...


I'll See Your Simpsomaker...

and raise you -- The SimpsoShockah!


links for 2006-02-21

February 20, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Tip Scum Is Here!

Shockah will be happy to learn that I've finally started reading the books he loaned me on the sequence method. This means two things: 1. He'll get his books back eventually (we have an ongoing thing, where we dump tons of books/dvd/comics/whatever on the other guy and then watch him squirm under the weight of the borrowed pile. Somethings are read/watched quickly and returned. Some are in a holding pattern for processing, and still others are being held in the quiet suspicion that one of us might turn out to be a rat and hold out on returning everything he has. In the interim, one of us will occasionally ask "So, have you read/watched blank yet?" and watch the other one guiltily come up with reasons why they've neglected our impossibly large duties. The asker will stand and nod and wait....), and 2. I'll be able to join this conversation while actually, you know, talking about what I'm talking about.

Since I'm beginning this, I thought I'd also start, little by little, to put together The Patented Spitball! Cricket Method (TPSCM, or tip-scum) of screenwriting.

All scripts begin when something happens to someone and starts the imbalance in their lives. The sequence method calls this the point of attack. The McKee method calls this the inciting incident. In TPSCM this is called the Sandshoe Crusher. This fine page about cricket has defined a Sandshoe Crusher as a ball that actually hits the batsman on a foot. In my mind, getting a hard ball thrown at your foot would certainly set you off your game. If you were playing a game, and the normal course of the game would be a boring life, but the game being thrown off would create drama, a Sandshoe Crusher would seem to do this. So, formally:

TPSCM Definition #1

Sandhoe Crusher: That event which causes the primary character's normal life to be unbalanced, and that they set to rebalancing.

(please note: I know nothing about cricket. I may have well made the curling method of screenwriting, but I worried about finding the proper place for the term "broom." If there are cricket fans out there who would like to correct me on proper usage of terms, I would be most appreciative, and will do my best to make sure the TPSCM does its best to respect the language of the game, in context of the game being used a metaphor for writing a screenplay).


links for 2006-02-20

February 19, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Re:[3] Round Six: Rise to Vote, sir

Also, I don't want to totally box us in with a treatment that is the final heat winner.

Ah, once again, I'm not clear. I don't necessarily see us using either treatment for the final winner. The final winner will have two treatments, and it will be up to us to find a compromise between the two (by either combining them or starting from scratch) to create the final treatment that will be the basis for the first Spitball! script.

But I do think that each treatment should be as detailed as we can make it, within a certain word limit. I think the more info we have, the better choices we can make when it comes to actually writing the screenplay.

But like you said, this is going to need more discussion, so when I get my thoughts together, I'll post something more comprehensive about how I see us dealing with the winning idea.

Coming up: Round Seven!


Re:[2] Round Six: Rise to Vote, sir

It cannot be said that Reminiscence did not get its fair trial. I also vote for Time to Die.

In the end, I'm suckered in by the clarity of the action lines, and even though I didn't totally connect with your version of Reminiscence, to tell the truth I didn't totally connect with mine either.

This might be scary, but I'm thinking the treatments in the final heat should be at least twice as long, if not longer

I'm open, but I don't see length as a necessarily great measurement of the expression of the idea. Sometimes, good treatments are dense and hit the high notes in short form. Also, I don't want to totally box us in with a treatment that is the final heat winner. What I suspect, is that things will become a mixture of both of our ideas. That is, after we pick the winner, I see us re-writing the treatment more than once.

But, we've talked a lot about what our process is to get our idea, but maybe now we need to begin the dialog about what happens after we have it? How are we going to approach writing it? What should our process be? I would like to hear if you have any of your so-called needless, but actually fun, rules to impose on us, and let's see if we can map the process out a bit. That might give me some more specific ideas of how I personally would like to approach the final heat and the treatments we write for it.


Re: Round Six: Rise to Vote, sir

Anyway, I didn't realize we were doing treatments during this heat!

Yeeeeahhh... Couple things about that:

1. I really had no intention of writing something so long. It was just an idea that I was trying hard to express, and in order to do it justice, it got longer and longer. I'm not particularly proud of the length, and I'm going to try not to do that again for the remainder of the heats. Well, until the last one that is...

2. And yet, I don't really consider what I wrote to be a treatment. This might be scary, but I'm thinking the treatments in the final heat should be at least twice as long, if not longer. I think they should be detailed enough that we could write a screenplay from them with little difficulty -- the only things, really, separating it from a screenplay would be dialogue and whatever "style" we bring to the storytelling. Since I'm sure we'll be discussing the final heat later on, I'll explain what I mean by that later.

I'm not totally connecting with yours.

Oh well, I tried! At the very least, the exercise was bracing.

And so, after spending four days laboriously trying to communicate a vision of Reminiscence that I think I could get behind, I rise to vote for....

Time to Die.


Round Six: Rise to Vote, sir

Clearwater Shockah?
"...and I gave so much more credence to the idea than clearwater Shockah here, that I feel a bit obligated to bring it up again. [i.e., revival]"

Okay--that last bit was a real stretch, but I'm practicing my conspiratorial and hidden word play in hopes we'll gain some of the Dan Brown market.

Anyway, I didn't realize we were doing treatments during this heat! A for effort. No, that sounds pejorative--A for achievement, Mr. Shockah. Very good ideas, clearly told. But, like my brief synopsis didn't bowl you over, I'm not totally connecting with yours. I think we should go to a vote and see what happens. All members rise!


Round 6.4 [Reminiscence v. Time to Die]

Reminiscence (Shockah rank: #13, Burley rank: #3)

v.

Time to Die (Shockah rank: #6, Burley rank: #10)

CATCH THE SPIT!


links for 2006-02-18

February 17, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

links for 2006-02-17

February 16, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

links for 2006-02-16

February 15, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Structure Doesn't Only Hold Up Buildings

I decided to pipe my own few cents on the structure questions, after Shockah's fine post on the matter.

I was reminded, reading his description of his college writing experiences, of the Mamet quote that "the Avant Garde is to the left what jingoism is to the right. Both are a refuge in nonsense." This is not to downplay abstraction or disregard completely avant material, but what I took from Shockah's point about his college experience is much that I took from nearly every writing class I've experienced: They don't teach you how to write.

Instead, they teach you to think as abstractly as possible. They try to get your mind into creative spaces. Often, there is flowery talk about personal self-expression, which millions of writers take to mean that the only craft in writing is just to express their feelings. Just ask the editors of any poetry magazine about how many unpublishable entries they receive every day (thus giving rise to the guaranteed-to-be-published poetry anthologized subsidized by the authors themselves).


links for 2006-02-15

February 14, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Talkin' 'Bout Structure, Part I

See, although we plan on writing a screenplay in front of the entire internet and his mom and everything, for me, this is the real screenwriting without a net. I'm going to expound on an issue of screenwriting technique -- structure -- without any sort of professional credit to my name. What's more, I'm going to be talking about a method of dealing with structure that's the focus of two pretty good books -- David Howard's How to Build a Great Screenplay and Paul Joseph Gulino's Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach -- without benefit of having the books on hand. Mistakes will be made, laughs will be had, cease-and-desists will be delivered.

But -- But! -- since, as mentioned earlier, we plan to use the sequence method in the writing of the Spitball! screenplay, some kind of introduction is necessary for those that don't know, won't show, or don't care what's going on in the hood.


Round 6.3 [Reminiscence v. Time To Die]

Reminiscence (Shockah rank: #13, Burley rank: #3)

v.

Time to Die (Shockah rank: #6, Burley rank: #10)

BEND DOWN AND TOUCH YOUR TOES!


Round 6.2 [Reminiscence v. Time To Die]

Reminiscence (Shockah rank: #13, Burley rank: #3)

v.

Time to Die (Shockah rank: #6, Burley rank: #10)

EN GARDE!


Re: [4] The Competition: Looking Toward The Future

Oh, that's right -- the cheese. Always with the cheese.

Yeah, all right, some sort of discussion about the sequence method is probably in order. I'll get on that ASAP. Of course, having the books as reference would keep me from making all sorts of blunders, but seeing as someone hasn't read them yet, I guess I'll have to make do.

(Seriously, tho, the Howard book is a pretty good read -- friendly and conversational where McKee is hectoring.)


Re: [3] The Competition: Looking Toward The Future

How ya like dem apples?

I like my apples baked into a pie, with a slice of cheddar cheese and all heated up first thing in the morning, thanks for asking.

Oh the ideas--sure, sounds good. For Heat #3 let's stick with Sequence Method--I should get to know it better. It certainly can't hurt, but I'll follow your lead. How about it, then, a post about the sequence method? Interested? I'll post my version when I read the books finally!


Re: [2] The Competition: Looking Toward The Future

Answers of Clarification (er, hopefully):

Heat #2

I imagined that we'd both write character studies for both competing ideas -- so there would be a total of four character studies per battle. I figure the more info to use and work with, the better.

Heat #3
We don't have to use the Sequence Method here; although I'm more comfortable with it than you, I'm game for anything. All I'm really looking for here is some idea (that will inevitably change) of how the piece is structured. And again, just to be clear, I'm not looking for more than a paragraph, total -- I just want a taste, maaaaan.

How ya like dem apples?


Round Six [Reminiscence v. Time to Die]

Reminiscence (Shokah rank: #13, Burley rank: #3)

v.

Time to Die (Shokah rank: #6, Burley rank: #10)

SET 'EM UP AND KNOCK 'EM DOWN!


Re: The Competition: Looking Toward The Future

I accept your joyfully needlessly complex rules, Shockah, but I have a few questions of clarification.


Re: Motion for Consolidation [The Infected v. If It Pleases The Court]

Yea, I second the motion. Motion passed.


Motion for Consolidation [The Infected v. If It Pleases The Court]

And now I'm thinking: why have drugs, when you can have hallucinatory telepathy? (And I'm also thinking of a world not unlike Bester's The Stars, My Destination -- super-privacy, not because of teleportation, but because of telepathy.)

I, Urban Shockah, move that we combine The Infected and If It Pleases The Court into a new story idea entitled Terminal Connection.

What say you, Burley -- yea or nay?


Round 5.4 [The Infected v. If it Pleases the Court]

Terminal Connection! Yeah! I'm on board with that. A great title, sir.

I like the idea of the drugs and the terrors of isolation. There's a lot of fertile ground there. And, just to be totally crazy--what if there was a little of The Infected thrown in? Terrorism would be one reason to retreat, but imagine terrorism combined with telepathy? How could you have a fair trial if everybody in the court could read your mind?

Maybe we don't stand to vote here, but stand to combine the two ideas to birth a new one. In title math: The Infected + If it Pleases the Court = Terminal Connection.


Round 5.3 [The Infected v. If It Pleases The Court]

Note: think of this as having been cut & pasted over the original entry for If It Pleases The Court.

First, thanks for clarifying IIPTC -- I think you pretty much swept my cons right over the edge, and now they're falling, forever falling, without end...


Round 5.2 [The Infected v. If it Pleases the Court]

The Infected (Shockah rank: #10, Burley rank: #4)

v.

If It Pleases The Court (Shockah rank: #5, Burley rank: #2)

GIVE ME ONE FOR THE GIPPER...


Round Five [The Infected v. If It Pleases the Court]

The Infected (Shockah rank: #10, Burley rank: #4)

v.

If It Pleases The Court (Shockah rank: #5, Burley rank: #2)

UP AND AT THEM!


Re:[5] Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrals

Did I call you out?

No, you didn't--I don't think you had a problem with it, but some readers did, and also I think some people made comments during a live reading we had, although I'd have to dig through my notes to remember. But since we're talking about this more, I thought I'd dig up the scene and put it out there, let people judge for themselves. It was longer originally, but got shortened when for the version that was actually submitted.


Re:[4] Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrels

Good post, and it reminds me of a discussion that happened between some professional screenwriters, a few months back. I'm pretty sure the order goes like this:

1. Alex Epstein

2. Craig Mazin

3. John August

And of course, there's plenty of interesting comments underneath each entry.

Also: You got called out on the hiphop/jazz scene? I don't remember that. Did I call you out? If I didn't like it, I suspect it had more to do with a digression in a script that was already full of digressions. But the content of it -- I remember it being solid, and no different than what, say, Robert Christgau or Charles Aaron might say. Huh.


Re:[3] Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrels

I wanted to post a few more notes about this short, but interesting, round. The way I see it, we had two very strong choices, and in the end we chose one over the other because it was much less daunting. We both agreed, I think, that Chimerica would have been dirt cool, but would have taken a level of cultural knowledge and sophistication that we either lack, or were daunted by the research.

I was thinking about that tonight, as I went to see a production of August Wilson's Radio Golf. Wilson was a Seattle writer who wrote a 10 play cycle, each one about the African American experience during a decade of the 20th century. Radio Golf--the play set in the '90s-- deals with a good man, trying to do the right thing in the face of moral odds. He's not caught by his own dirty pool, or caught trying to pull a fast one, but when circumstances he can't control make lemons, he turns on the juice press. Well, at least until somebody tries to cut the electricity.

This, of course, an amazing play (although tonight's performance was just off a notch--a great cast doing a great play on an okay night), that serendipitously speaks to exactly what we were facing. That is, writing racial identity authentically. August Wilson was a black man writing about black issues, but writing about histories he himself didn't live. He didn't live the black experience of the 1920s, but he wrote about them (ostensibly--I'm a bit shy to say that this is the first of his works I've seen) from a cultural understanding. Is it less authentic if he wrote about white characters? Is it less authentic if Shockah and I wrote about black characters?


Re:[2] Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrels

Yeah. The Atheist.

More on that later. 4 for 4 we are!


Re: Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrels

No need to apologize, sir. I was ready for this one before it began. (There's one coming up that's like that, too.)

I, Urban Shockah, the ever-lovin' mic rockah, vote for:

The Atheist.


Round Four: Rise and Vote, gentlemen and scoundrels

At the risk of feeling like when I'm leading we go to vote fast, I think we're ready to roll on this one. Urban Shockah--stand up and declare your intention. Rise to vote, sir.


The Competition: Looking Toward The Future

Seeing's how we're about half-way through the first heat of the competition, I thought it might be a good idea to look ahead and see if there's anything we want to change for the next three heats. I had a few ideas -- tell me whatcha think.


Round 4.2 [Chimerica v. The Atheist]

Chimerica (Shockah rank: #4, Burley rank: #5)

v.

The Atheist (Shockah rank: #4, Burley rank: #1)

C30, C60, C90, GO!


Round Four [Chimerica v. The Atheist]

Chimerica (Shockah rank: #5, Burley rank: #8)

v.

The Atheist (Shockah rank: #4, Burley rank: #1)

BATTLE!

n. A method of untying with the teeth of a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.
-Ambrose Bierce

Re: [3] Round Three: Rise to Vote, I Say!

I, Burley Grymz, also vote for:

Little Black Stray.

So far we're 3 for 3! Next round will start, most likely, tonight.


Re: [2] Round Three: Rise to Vote, I Say!

I, Urban Shockah, vote for

LIttle Black Stray.


Re: Round Three: Rise to Vote, I Say!

You had me at "round." I'm ready.


Round Three: Rise to Vote, I Say!

I think I have enough to info to move on.

What say you, sir?


Round 3.8 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

Okay, I get you. On Exodus, you need something solid to hang the plot on, and feel that this is the requirement for proceeding. I say that we either move forward under the assumption that we can do that, or go with Little Black Stray because that one already, as you said, has a strong enough plot that we will likely not run into the same problem there.

Obviously Little Black Stray isn't perfect yet, but I'm feeling much more confident about us being able to figure some of the things out that it needs.


Round 3.7 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

I would argue, as I am right this very second, that we don't need to decide on the plot exactly right now.

Ah, but I'm not at all talking about plot. I'm simply talking about a one- or two-word idea that would hold the concept of the space stations together. I don't need to know what it's about in terms of "what happens to the characters", I just would like to know what it's about in terms of theme. (And to contrast, I don't really know what that is for Little Black Stray either, and I don't feel I need to know, because I feel like the conflict will suggest something concrete soon enough.)

That assumption is that the event of the girl showing up is the (to speak McKee) is the inciting incident, and therefore the plot has to rise precipitously into some magical realm of genius that we may not possess.

Actually, I have been assuming that, to use the sequence method of structuring, that the girl is the predicament (the thing that happens on or around page 30), not the inciting incident, or, as I prefer, the point of attack, which is the thing that happens on or around page 15. So, that, yes, the bulk of the story (the second act) is about the girl. I think what I'm looking for is, what is this third act, and what makes it cool? Or in other words, I think I agree with everything you said, we're just using different terms.


Round 3.6 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

The horror. The horror.

The horror is on fire. We don't need no water let the mo....

Ahem. Yes, The Exodus

Upon which, I sir must raise an objection. Quoth you:

...I think one strong idea, theme if you will, needs to be selected for this one to move on.

Wrong, I say, wrong! I would argue, as I am right this very second, that we don't need to decide on the plot exactly right now. That there is potential for the plot is enough to know, for me, whether or not it is worthy of moving along to the next level. To be too selective about it at this stage would be to start practically writing the thing. I say we vote on the ideas on the table. I say we move it ahead, or leave it to the dogs of history, who may chew on its gristle or grab a keyboard and write the first great dog-in-space story. In other words, if you need to refine this story more in order to vote on it, then I say that such needs indicate weakness in the story itself.

And just to completely counter everything I've just said, let me offer an alternative for Little Black Stray


Round 3.5 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

Sorry for this half-assed entry -- I seem to have come down with a cold, which I can only assume is some kind symptom of post-Super Bowl depression, and my energy is pretty low. The smart thing would be to rise and vote, but I'm not ready to throw down just yet. Hell, I don't even know who I'd vote for right now. They're both pretty good if not quite great. (This is where a sizeable, rowdy forum would be very handy. *ahem* Come on, people!)

I'm going to pose the same question regarding both story ideas, and try to answer it, and I'm going to challenge Burley, in a half-assed, sickly kind of way, to do the same thing with the same question. (Unless he wants to vote. Or he just doesn't want to. What can I do? I'm bundled up on the couch.) Here we go:


Re:[2] Reading List: Alfred Bester

February 03, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · comment on this post in the forum · Category: Original Version, books

I am shocked that nobody has ever made these books that Shockah lent me into movies. But then again, neither was Neuromancer which always seemed like a shoe-in to me. The difference here is that Gibson wrote 20 years ago, and Bester was writing 60 years ago. Neuromancer, as prescient, important and influential as it was, will probably never be made now. The reality of the Internet trumps some of the concepts that were so mind blowing in the 1980s. By the same token, I suspect that books like Snow Crash will never be made for similar reasons (of technologies to come). But Bester's work is much less about specific technologies, and more about human conditions. Or, when there are technologies, they are either natural extensions of reasonable '50s technologies, or they are fantastical human technologies, such as teleportation (the conceit of this book), or telepathy (the conceit of The Demolished Man, and this book as well). Whether by plan or luck, Bester picked items that age gracefully.


Round 3.4 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

Exodus. Oooooh, movement of the people (in geosynchronous orbit around a charred earth...).

I agree that characters are where this is at. Here are some vague ones from my idea of it.

1. An older man who is resigned to the responsibility of life. He knows that an ounce of fuel can be stretched out for x amount of hours. Let's call him the accountant. He is by the books. The idea of an alien signal to him is anathema. He can't let himself be excited by it, for fear that the carefully considered and reasonably sustainable society they have created will crumble into utter chaos and selfishness. If people started consuming more because they were assured of salvation, they could overplay the short run and not live to the long run. If the aliens come, so be it, but until then we should toe the line.

2. The teenage boy who is wild. He sneaks into space suits and goes out of the air locks. He turns little broken parts of ships into mechanical beasts that threaten to puncture the thin skin of the island in space. He fixes things when they break, but more often than not breaks them first so they need to be fixed. He tries to snag satellites as they fly by to see what secrets they hold. He is in love with a girl who was his playmate when they were children, but has now decided that he is too annoying to deal with.

3. A devout woman who worships the alien signal. She is convinced that it is God coming home to take the saved to heaven, because God obviously saved them once already, and was keeping them alive for good reason. She mostly hides her religion in this secular society until the alien signal comes, and then she starts leading a church service, forming a political force to be reckoned with.


Round 3.3 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

You bring up some good ideas for The Exodus (the idea that there would be an unholy pressure to conform is astute, and intriguing), but I'm still not quite feeling it. You say it's ripe for characters (and it is, or at least, it has to be), but then what are those characters? (Obviously, that question is directed at me just as much, if not moreso, than you.) I put up some ideas in my first post, but I'll be the first to admit that they're uninspired at best. Let's brainstorm spitball a few characters for The Exodus:

(Did I really just write "brainstorm"? Shame on me!)


Round 3.2 [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

The Exodus (Shockah rank: #7, Burley rank: #6)

v.

Little Black Stray (Shockah rank: #3, Burley rank: #4)

GET IN THERE AND LET THEM SEE YOUR TEETH!


Round Three [The Exodus vs. Little Black Stray]

The Exodus (Shockah rank: #7, Burley rank: #6)

v.

Little Black Stray (Shockah rank: #3, Burley rank: #4)

DROP IT LIKE IT'S HOT!


State of the Blog: January

Tomorrow we have our one-month Anniversary. Spitball! was officially launched on January 1, 2006. How do we feel about that? What have we been doing?

We started by feeling around in the dark. Shockah's process is much different than mine, appropriately, because I think our talents and weaknesses conveniently dovetail. As he plans to elaborate in a post on the subject, his process is very much from the inside out--from a small picture to the big one. I tend to work in the opposite way, thinking about the big picture and then zeroing in on the topic from outer space.

But, he stumbled on a great way to break through my initial meaderings about the two words we had picked to define or spark our mission: Prison Planet. Shockah penned a post about some ideas for Prison Planet movies based on the cheesy ubiquitous announcer saying "In a World...". This started an all out plot bonanza, with each of us giving 25 to the cause, from which we picked 8 each that we're arguing pros and cons for. In the end, we'll have one plot to rule the blog, and focus our energy rays of writing on.


Re:[3] Round Two: Rise to Vote, Sir

I know -- y'all thought I was gonna post Round Three. Sorry, not yet. Definitely tomorrow.

But a few notes about that last round:


Re:[2] Round Two: Rise to Vote, Sir

Once again, we are in agreement where the rubber meets the road.

I, Burley Grymyz, also vote for La Commune Planet.

I hand the gavel over, sir, and will eagerly await Round Three (subtitle: the tertiarier).


Re: Round Two: Rise to Vote, Sir

I, Urban Shockah, will rise from my seat and vote as well.

And in a rare, double-whammy decision, I'll also name my choice:

Rasputin the Translator

wait, I mean:

La Commune Planet


Round Two: Rise to Vote, Sir

I could write more, but I decided to keep this one clipped. If we disagree, then we'll see how we can bend and twist them.

Burley Grymz has made his choice.


Round 2.2 [La Commune Planet v. Robots in Love]

La Commune Planet (Shockah rank: #3, Burley rank: #7)

v.

Robots in Love (Shockah rank: #2, Burley rank: #11)

FIGHT! AGAIN!


links for 2006-01-30

January 29, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Round Two: [La Commune Planet v. Robots in Love]

La Commune Planet (Shokah rank: #3, Burley rank: #7)

v.

Robots in Love (Shokah rank: #2, Burley rank: #11)

FIGHT!


Re:[4] Round One: Rise To Vote, Sir

January 27, 2006 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: Original Version, the screenplay

Yep, your turn to go first. I'll probably think about the next two ideas then compose and post my Pro/Con without looking at yours first, and that'll probably happen Monday. Just a heads up.

Rasputin's got a tough road ahead of it; I'm curious to see how it fares.


Re: [3] Round One: Rise to Vote, Sir

January 27, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, the screenplay

I, Burley Grymz, vote for...

Rasputin the Translator.

It has been settled, this first battle. I found it a difficult one, but in the end I'm drawn to the megalomanic (or, whatever he will turn out to be).

So--for this next round, do I go first?


Re:[2] Round One: Rise To Vote, Sir

January 27, 2006 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: Original Version, the screenplay

I, Urban Shockah, vote for...


Rasputin the Translator.


Re: Round One: Rise To Vote, Sir

Burley Grymz, present and ready with a choice.


Round One: Rise To Vote, Sir

I've (somewhat reluctantly) made my choice. What say you?


Round 1.6 [Liber XII v. Rasputin the Translator]

Rasputin
I'm all for finding the way into the story through our bearded man, but it should be said up front that we have very different ideas of what he's like. I see him more as a deliberate man taking advantage of a political situation, and in so doing making Machiavellian plays at power (which, is why I named him Rasputin to begin with, the bearded look that Roky rocks was just a second convenient parallel--for more reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rasputin, although the mis-(dis, whatever) information on this page is more like the pop-culture image of the man I raise: http://www.disinfo.com/archive/pages/dossier/id291/pg1/). I also think the pseudo-religious vibe is important with him. Basically, I see him as a 21st century Rasputin in many, many ways.

One option for him, in my view, might be that he's not actually the one with the power, but he's fronting. Maybe he's holding somebody hostage who is the one with the power. In this view (and incorporating some of your ideas): Aliens land > Misunderstanding, bad things happen > tensions rise > Raspy appears out of nowhere and things get calm > Negotiations are tense > Raspy demands mucho somethingo > nation's conservatives dig their heels in > Nation's liberals want to give him everything > Raspy over plays his hand > smart agent finds that Raspy is a charlatan covering for a truly talented young person > Rescues young person in daring event > Raspy falters, having lost his powers > truly talented young person wins the day for the good guys.

I don't see him as evil, per se, but I see him as taking advantage of a situation to his own benefit, and possibly screwing quite a few people in the process. Well, I guess some would call that evil.

I think your plot with a Clarice-like agent tracking him is very clearly laid out and direct, but it's not hitting my excitement nerve for some reason. I know what it is: I want Raspy to take an active role in his accomplishments. So, I can't see him being a reluctant hero-cum-villian, but being a manipulator from day one. Is he evil and doing this really for his own good, or is there some deeper truth? That solution could lead to a: Raspy is asking for something evil > People refuse to give in > one plucky agent realizes great truth > politicians, on her evidence, give in > It turns out Raspy was bluffing and really is an okay guy! Everyone is safe!

So, all of this is to say: yes. I think the key to this story is the Rasputin character, and finding the character that gets us both jazzed about him.


Round 1.5 [Liber XII v. Rasputin the Translator]

POINT OF ODOR!

Lisa stinks.

POINT OF ORDER!

I should let Burley and eveyone else know that, right now at least, I don't plan on Spitball!ing on the weekends. As Burley knows, there are other projects that need my attention as well, and I haven't been able to give them the attention they need. Hopefully, I'll be able to give them the same kind of momentum that this has, and then I'll be able to weave working on them with working on this. But right now, they need their own days. Feed me! Feed me! they say.

AND NOW...


links for 2006-01-27

January 26, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Round 1.4 [Liber XII v. Rasputin the Translator]

Ah questions. Do I need them?

Hell yeah! Working, as you said, from the outside in I'm having trouble seeing the plot line continuum in Liber XII story--but, I also think it's funny that you're not seeing it as much in Rasputin--I say funny because it doesn't surprise me that we're having trouble seeing the other person's plot, which tells me that I think there is more imagining going on in our heads that isn't making it to the page here. But, that's okay--that's what this process is for, after all...

Liber XII: In relation to your story, I guess I see it as a more smarty-pants film than you, and maybe that's holding me up. Although I can see that it's man-against-nature, in a sense--a hostile environment, but I guess I don't know why the computer is evil, and that's also holding up the plot for me. I also want to know if its actually possible for a computer to be evil. I mean, some computers can be pretty badass, but are they evil?

Joking aside (Oh wait, was that a joke? I guess they have to be funny to be considered so...), the real deal is this: computers are logic circuits, and if they had a personality it would be an artificial one. Sure, we can get all Star Trek and talk about sentient artificial lives such as Data, but I don't think that's appropriate to the story at hand here. Your plot point is planet goes bad, but how and why? To me, this raises tremendous issues that have to be dealt with before we can figure out plot.


Round 1.3 [Liber XII v. Rasputin the Translator]

Ah, there's nothing like a heartfelt apology first thing in the morning! Gets the blood moving!

I'm not quite ready to put this round to bed just yet. I'm definitely leaning one way, but I want to talk it out some more. Due to the weird circumstances, I feel the need to defend both ideas like they're both gonna get the axe if I don't try hard.


Re[2]: Burley's Ready to Vote

January 26, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, the screenplay

To the board, the readers, the judges, and most importantly--my compatriot Urban Shockah. I would like to sincerely apologize for my breech of rules and--if appropriate--ethics. Though no words can excuse my actions, I do humbly ask for leniency in the face of our important needlessly complex rules, and will do my best in the future to follow them to the T.

Mr. Shockah, I eagerly await your next post, and will continue as specified in the rules. Thank you for your time, consideration, and--of course--your patience.


Re: Burley's Ready to Vote

January 26, 2006 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: Original Version, the screenplay

POINT OF ORDER!

You've gone out of turn, mister. I get to either post or make a choice, then you get to go.

Go back three spaces!


Re: Reading List: Alfred Bester (The Demolished Man)


In 1951 The Catcher in the Rye was published. James Stewart, Spencer Tracey, William Holden and Louis Calhern lost out on the Best Actor Oscar to Jose Ferrer, winning for Cyarno de Bergerac [note: a story in the public domain]. Seoul fell to communists. The Rosenbergs were sentenced to death for treason. The first color television was introduced into the states, and the UNIVAC I mainframe computer was announced--the next year it became famous for successfully predicting the outcome of the US presidential election. Johnnie Ray released "Cry," possibly the first rock n' roll record. Leo Fender patented his Fender Esquire (later Telecaster) guitar, and Alfred Bester's novel The Demolished Man was published.

Why the history lesson? Whenever I look at a historical event--like the publishing of a book--I like to put it into context. All of the events I mentioned, when I think about them, firmly place me in the beginning of the 50s. You can see the decade unfurling in front of you--cold war, literature, music. But Bester kind of existed outside of time, it would seem. Reading this novel gives you very few clues to it's publishing date.


links for 2006-01-26

January 25, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version
  • Vegan donuts? Sounds awful, doesn't it? Well, in the case of Mighty O, you'd be dead wrong. These are incredibly moist and delicious, and compared to most donuts, relatively healthy (no trans fat!) They're also absolutely gorgeous -- the pictures on the website aint lyin. Cool off-the-wall flavors as well: French Toast, Mocha, and Chocolate Peppermint, to name a few.

Software Beat: Between The Lines

In my previous griping about the state of screenwriting software, I said I wanted a native Mac OS X program that was cheap, and saved in an open-sourced, or at least human readable format. Today I stumbled across an obscure program called Between the Lines, currently at version 1.0, that seems to fit the bill. Does it? I hope to answer that, and more, on the first installment of SOFTWARE BEAT.

BETWEEN THE LINES

Icons I found a reference to the program somewhere online--hey--screenwriting software I'd never heard of! And for OS X alone! Whoo-hoo!

I downloaded the demo, which seems to be created by http://www.storymind.com/, which has the distinction of being one of the worst designed websites I've ever visited. The graphics are illegible, the layout and feel cheesy, and the overall effect busy and hard to find what you're looking for. If they were a client of mine, I'd remind them of the golden rule of websites: user experience is your brand. I'll bet they could quadruple their business by hiring a good design team.

But I digress. Somewhere on their site, you can download Between the Lines, an awkwardly named OS X application. At least, ostensibly you can. Despite the fact that the "purchase this software" link in BTL links to storymind.com, I couldn't actually find anywhere on the site to buy and/or download the software. A Google search reveals this spot, which is where I grabbed it.

First impressions: Oh man, you guys need a new icon! OS X (and, now Windows and Linux as well) apps are often judged by the coolness of your icon. Yours: fugly. And not in the cool way. But, I'm game. I click on it and open the program.


Round One: Burley's Ready to Vote

January 25, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, the screenplay

And that's all he has to say about it.


Round 1.2 [Liber XII v. Rasputin the Translator]

Liber XII (Shockah rank: #1, Burley rank: #8)

v.

Rasputin the Translator (Shockah rank: #1, Burley rank: #13)

DING DING DING! ROUND ONE-POINT-TWO! FIGHT!


Lies, Damn Lies...

and the Spitball! General Enthusiasm Meter.

As Burley knows, I have a fondness for statistics, even though I don't know what most of them mean and I can barely add. But that doesn't stop me. (Nothing stops the Shockah, man.) Below, using a really stupid formula I invented (that I'm sure anyone can figure out if they tried), I've listed the Top 16 story ideas in order of General Enthusiasm, which is based on a 1-100 point scale. It may be a predictor of future success; it could be pure and utter wank; it could be both.


Round One [Liber XII v. Rasputin the Translator]

Liber XII (Shockah rank: #1, Burley rank: #8)

v.

Rasputin the Translator (Shockah rank: #1, Burley rank: #13)

FIGHT!

(Note: As fate would have it, for the very first battle, something that doesn't have any set format and something I've never done before, I have to pit my two favorite story ideas against each other. What I'm saying is, expect this first entry, especially the "con" section, to be a little light.)


Re:[2] The Playoffs! -- Rules of Engagement

Motion passes!

So, barring any other communications or crazy ideas, my next post should be the first salvo.

To those about to rock... we salute you!


Re: The Playoffs! -- Rules of Engagement

I have to confess, needlessly complex rules are intriguing to me as well, despite the fact that I'm not much of a gamer because I tend to get confused by the needlessly complex rules and would rather just read a book. But, I think I'll be able to track these just fine.

I like what you have proposed such far, but have one modification and one suggestion.

Modification: (referring to #4/#5): I want to keep as much as possible online, so I think we should post when we have made choices and not. Let's communicate through the blog alone--otherwise, this turn-based posting is good.

Suggestion: If we come to a stalemate, I propose that the each has to write up an overview of the idea that they don't like as much, and what changes they would make to it to make it better than the post they are arguing for. This can, of course, include adding the plot of the post they are arguing for to the one they don't like as much, so long as it includes or is strongly based on the idea they are modifying--so this may become a compromise, or may spark an idea that draws from one or either, but is superior. Then, we vote again on these hybrid-wildcard versions. If this yields no clear favorite, then I suggest we declare stalemate on this round and move on to the next. We will come back and revisit the stalemate when we are through the next series of rounds.


The Playoffs! -- Rules of Engagement

Again, because I'm a geeky gamer at heart and am stimulated by needlessly complex rules, I present the following guidelines for determining the results of the playoffs:


Re: In A World -- Thoughts on the Process

January 24, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, the screenplay

Idea length: I agree with you that longer is not necessarily better, but it sure is clearer. I think that, despite the strength of our ideas, what the other person is really reacting to is their own interpretation of the idea. I would guess that we're going to encounter situations where your understanding of my ideas is much different than my original concept, and vice-versa. So, the process becomes one of re-pitching the idea--which might speak to the gap in some of the stories between your ranking and mine. Which leads me to:

The Scabs: I'll defend this one more later, but I loved the encapsulation of class issues recast as android-human issues, starring the robots as the socialists and the humans as the capitalists. That's just damn brilliant. It answers the age-old-question: how can you talk about political issues without activating political triggers?

Rachel My Dear: This one was a bit of a wild card, I'll confess, but it's a psychological thriller that would make Fincher wring his hands. I definitely see something there, that I'll hopefully elucidate well when it goes up against Methane Madness (which, I'm not all that excited about. I'm gonna fight hard...).

Music: Out of your music, I knew: the Burrito's song, Galaxie 500, and (surprise surprise) Stevie & Tom. I'm gonna make some links to all these songs in iTunes later, so we can all hear them, especially the ones we don't know. I feel like I totally scored with my iTunes picks--they were all interesting, and with the exception of Black Little Stray (which is more evocative and less definitive in message) and Because, I had no trouble coming up with stories from the music. Even when Roky threw me a loop, when I thought the line "Will he leave Moscow?" was "Will he eat my scalp?" but then that was just a shoe-in for sci-fi, eh? The interpreter is gonna eat your scalp? That's a motherfucking BADASS interpreter. He rules whatever he interprets. Thus Rasputin....

As for The Angry Youth: you know, that vaguely rings a bell, but I can't say it's more than that. I'll stick with Poochie!

And the playoffs: I'm glad we're starting out with a tough match. I think it will make the whole process more interesting. In the spirit of this, I think we should allow a rule: after the initial defense of the stories, we should be allowed to add detail to them. So, we start out arguing the germ of an idea, but if no clear winner emerges we can offer bargaining chips, such as "What if Poochie! was voiced by Homer?" (which reminds me, if you Google "homer voice", Google is smart enough to say "See reults for Dan Castelleneta"), then we can avoid stalemates, and enhance the stories at the same time. Whattya think?

Personally, I'm ready. Let the games of Spitball! begin!


In A World -- Thoughts on the Process

January 23, 2006 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: Original Version, technique

Some random thoughts on what we just did....


The Playoffs!

Okay--now that all the answers are in, we have the first round drafts ready to go head to head. I've taken the liberty of matching them up. Burley won the coin toss, so his picks are listed 1-8 against mine, listed 8-1.

ROUND ONE
Liber XII v. Rasputin the Translator

ROUND TWO
La Commune Planet v. Robots in Love


The Envelope, Please... (Burley's Picks)

Okay--a crazy time picking, but it was much like yours in that my highest ranked came out to 8. I think we have some good concepts on the table, and arguing them is going to be difficult. I'll play along and argue my ground, but I also truthfully can see working on any of these.

So, without further adieu:

8. Liber XII (Shockah rank: #1)
In a world built to hold the accumulated knowledge of the universe, the monks of Liber XII tend to the databases from birth to death. But when an alien computer virus finds its way into the memory banks, the monks are imprisoned on a sentient planet that knows every way to control -- every way to punish -- and every way to kill ever invented. Can the monks stop Liber XII from destroying the universe?

7. La Commune Planet (Shockah rank: #3)
In a world constructed for the pleasure of the ultra-rich, every vice can be had -- for a price. But beneath the smiling exterior of the friendly staff, there lurks a growing resentment. When a group of ascetics destroy access to the planet's hidden interdimensional gateway, the employees sieze the chance to declare independence from the governement and its backers. But as they take the profits and the pleasures for themselves, pressures and conflicting desires threaten to blow the planet to smithereens


Re: In A World -- Google Image Challenge!

I think it's really interesting how we started with these 50 doing simple evocative wisps of ideas, and then ended up writing nearly complete log-lines. These are among your strongest, I think--but also the deepest and best explained--so maybe I'm reacting to that. We'll have to poll my picks and see if I'm weighted towards these.

I particularly like that you broke the time barrier (the past! What a concept!), and broadened the scope into more human concerns. Our struggle, if doing sci-fi, will be in finding that human balance.

One note about The Angry Youth--I'm not sure which MTV program you were referring to, but it made me think about something else entirely.


And The Nominees Are... (Shockah's Envelope)

This is kinda like when Siskel & Ebert used to have thier own awards show, where they'd each open an envelope and announce their best movies of the year, etc.

So I took Burley's 25 ideas and gave them a ranking of 1-3: 1 if I just wasn't interested in the idea, 2 for ideas that had something interesting to them but were lacking some kind of "hook" to really draw me in, and 3 for the ideas I'm ready to jump into. I had plans for what to do if there were too many or too few 3s, but as fate would have it, I came up with exactly eight 3s.

And it's an interesting list -- I think Burley will be surprised. The 3s run the gamut of his Top 25, not really from one particular area, and just because it was in his Top 5, for example, doesn't mean it'll have the same ranking in my Top 8.

As you'll see now. And the nominees are, from least favorite (comparatively; I truly dig all these ideas) to most favorite:


List of Worlds, Shockah Stylee

Here's my 25 contributions, ranked in the order of preference. The criteria: how excited I'd be to just jump in and start writing based on the premise. Please note that the rankings probably contradict previous rankings of favorites. Them's the breaks.

Also, as Burley could (should) tell you, I shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the titling of a piece, nor naming characters. I really suck at that. (Or I hate it, I haven't figured out which.)

The 25:


In A World -- Google Image Challenge!

For my last seven ideas for Ze Prison Planét, Burley challenged me to use, instead of randomly chosen songs, random images from the Google Image search for inspiration. To generate the images, I entered my birthday as a six digit number, and made my choices from the first page of results.

This is freakin' hard. I thought Stevie Nicks was bad. I'm feeling like an all-day sucker :-)

(Actually, one of them is so incredibly perfect for the Prison Planet concept as to be ridiculous. Don't know if I can do justice to it, tho.)

But anyway, here we go yo, here we go yo, so what so what so what's the scenario?:


Reading List: The Real Prison Planet

We make jokes of the ethical and philosophical implications of a prison planet, but this today on Morning Edition I heard Renee Montagne interview author John Tayman (audio of program available at link) about his book "The Colony" in which he describes the real history of lepers on the Hawaiian Islands, and how they were banished to Molokai during the 19th Century.

It also raises the issues of plot that I hadn't thought about: in this case, lepers who wanted to avoid banishment would act out, murdering doctors, or hiding somehow. If they were caught, they were sent to Molokai where they were banished on a volcanic beach with a hoe and told to make a life of it. This makes me think of our screenplay with a more human aspect--plot ideas about the person being banished, and the fear that this must strike. We are, after all, social animals. What's a stronger punishment than banishment? Isn't that essentially what prison's are?

For these new arrivals on leper Molokai, previous colonists would often work to scare and intimidate them. The buying and trading of women and children were common. Interestingly, though, the colony grew into a very tight cooperative community, and when it was broken up, some chose to stay behind and continue to live there.

I'm putting this one on my reading list--it will likely be most informative to our cause. Depending, of course, on what plot we decide.


The List of World's, Burley Style

Okay--here are my 25 In a World's, in order of favorite and with new lovable, easy to use titles. Ordering was a little tricky--some I like more than the order might suggest, and some I dislike more than it might suggest. Some I like the potential for more than the order might suggest. But, we have to start somewhere--so this is where I'm leaving it. Go at it, Urban!

1. The Atheist
In a world devout to an all powerful god, one man uncovers exposes an unspeakable truth: their planet wasn't carved by a deity, it was created to hold the most dangerous prisoners in the galaxy: their ancestors. What crime is so unspeakable that not only you will be punished for committing it, but all of your heirs will as well? And what happens when you find out that your captors are still watching your every move?

2. If it pleases the Court
In a World where crimes are judged and juried by encrypted, anonymous computer terminals, one jury foreman doesn't realize that the man she's arguing so strongly should be committed to the Prison Planet for life is actually her husband--and the crime he's accused of--but hasn't committed yet--is murdering her.

3. Hell on Earth
In a world where your DNA is patented and you are born in debt, one woman's refusal to pay off her birth-deficit lands her in the largest and most violent debtors prison that ever existed: THE PLANET EARTH.

4. Little Black Stray
In a World where violent male offenders are sent to labor camps on the remote prison planet, one crew of hardened men finds something impossible: a young woman in tattered clothes, mute and frightened. A small group protect and feed her, keeping her out of site of the guards and away from those who would use her mercilessly. As she gains in strength it seems that she has an agenda--and the truth of what she was doing on a world where no women stepped before might be a big enough secret to shatter the whole planet of forced labor.

5. The Ancient Word Revenge
In a World where convicted murderers are banished to a planet instead of being put to death, one couple--the parents of a murder victim--want revenge. They plan a trip to the Prison Planet where they will track down the monster that killed their child, and destroy him in the exact same way that he destroyed their lives.


links for 2006-01-22

January 21, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Random Worlds, Karaoke Killer

I love this concept. It's great to get some creative input from a random source. John Cage would approve.

My songs were picked by making a smart playlist in iTunes that randomly picked 5 songs rated 4 stars or better. I hereby authenticate that there was no picking, second-guessing, or non-acceptance of the choices that my Apple Audio overlord delivered. Well, originally #5 was "You'll Have To Go Sideways" by the Soft Boys off of the perfect album Underwater Moonlight, but it's an instrumental, so I dumped that and accepted the randomly picked replacement.

I also looked up the lyrics for better absorption (just like the Brawny man!), so I put a link in to them for those who might be curious.

1. In a World where death itself is beaten by genetic regeneration, a guard is killed during a riot on the prison planet. One woman--his wife--faces sure death to retrieve his body in time to bring him back to life. It's a race against time, with one nearly resourceless woman willfully fighting like a juggernaut against the prisoners who are holding his body hostage, and the powers that be that think she should just give up. All to simply save the man she loves from eternal death.
(Inspired by "Kim Wilde", by Charlotte Hatherly | lyrics)

2. In a World where robots are immature, but can easily pass the Turing Test, one young android idolizes a slightly older movie star, and tries everything in his power to become like his idol. As part of his transformation, the robot works at becoming quite the ladies man, but his game is called when he meets a girl who actually likes him and who he doesn't have to chase. She would certainly never sleep with him if she knew he was an android, but being an android he is physically incapable of sleeping with her. Will truth ruin love, or can the technology-crossed-lovers find a way to remain together?
(Inspired by "Big Boys", by Elvis Costello | lyrics)


Re:[3] Choosing the Final Seed: A Proposal

Okay! Rules set, gloves thrown. I'm posting my final six shortly, and then I'll gather my list for the grinding.


Re:[2] Choosing The Final Seed: A Proposal

Motion passes.

When we're done with our 25, we'll each have a post with our 25 contributions listed, in our preferential order. I also think we should give each one some kind of temporary title -- the use of numbers is kind of bland and abstract, not to mention we'll have two different sets of 25.

How does that sound?


Re: Choosing The Final Seed: A Proposal

I accept, with one small alteration. I think when we're done with our 25, we should put up a single post listing them all of our own in preferred order--#1 being our favorite, #25 our least favorite. This may--or may not--influence the first draft from the opposite writer, but it will give us a chance to filter our own work, and potentially communicate something.

Do you accept this change?


Choosing The Final Seed: A Proposal

So anyway, I'm assuming that what we're eventually going to do is choose one of these ideas to be our "seed" that will eventually blossom into a brilliant screenplay that all peoples of the Earth will love and cherish for always. Although I suspect we could easily just pick one (or a group and narrow it down) very quickly, I have an idea, spurred by my love of competitions and needlessly complex rules.

Here's how it would work: You pick 8 of my ideas that you like the best, and I pick 8 of yours, in order of preference. Your first choice will be matched up against my eighth choice, so on up the line, with my first choice against your eighth choice. There will be a series of "battles", so that the original 16 are narrowed down to 8, then to 4, then to 2, until we finally have a winner. (Ideally, the Seahawks.)

These battles will carried out in the following manner: We will both write, as passionately as we can, what is great about both ideas, and we will both write as passionately as we can as to why each idea isn't as good as the other. Once we have 2 pros and 2 cons for each idea, we'll then simply choose the one we like best. If we can't agree, then we continue to argue the merits of our favorite until one of us concedes, or someone in the forum changes the balance of the argument.

And that's it. It would definitely stretch this Spitball! process out a little longer than it normally would've lasted, but I think that's okay -- I don't think we need to hurry here. It would also give us a chance to expand on these skeletal sketches a little further, and give them more flesh and background than they already have.

Or maybe we should just pick one. What say you? Like it? Dislike it? Proposed rule changes?


In A World -- Karaoke Edition!

Another nice set of five, Burley. #2 is really fascinating -- the moral issues are front and center, which is a new one for us. And the specifics of it are really unusual -- I like it. #3 (the creation and aftermath of a Prison Planet) is so obvious I'm kicking myself that I never thought of it. And #5: Prison Planet as Rollerball! Awesome!

And now, in this very special edition of "In A World", I've decided to play a little game, and I hope Burley will join me. The rules are simple: Write five "In A World" story ideas as usual, but the inspiration must come from a different song, randomly chosen by iTunes. (I only let it pick songs that are rated 4 stars or better, cuz I didn't want to be stuck with a song I didn't really like; Burley may be a braver soul.) I'm not necessarily going to try and turn the song into a narrative per se (although some lend themselves to that kind of thing better than others), but there should be some kind of link, however obscure, from the song to the story idea. My criteria is this: if I come up with an idea that I normally wouldn't have, then I've succeeded. Ready? I'm not, but here I go anyway:


Re:[2] When Worlds Collide

Funny, I was totally thinking of Borges, but I'm mostly ignorant when it comes to Rush. However, I think I was listening to Coheed & Cambria when I wrote it -- does that count? Or does that ruin it? :-)

Weird you should mention the Kurzweil book... I had it over Christmas and managed to get through the first 150-200 pages or so before I had to return it to the library. Seems like a great resource for SF. In that vein, I'm reading Oliver Sacks' An Anthropologist on Mars right now.

Coming tomorrow: comments on Burley's last five, plus the debut of In A World -- Karaoke Edition!


Re: When World's Collide

Damn! I'm digging it. Now how the hell are we gonna pick just one? And, still more to go?

Okay--anyway--I have to say this thing right now. #3? Yeah. Like, if somebody told me "Oh, I casually want to write a sentence or two that will both evoke Borges, the most brilliant writer that ever existed, and Rush, the most rockin' Canadian power trio that ever existed." I would have told them to get lost, but you, my friend, have done it. I applaud you.

I applaud all of these ideas, and I want to take a whack at your bonus idea, because it reminds me that I really want to read the new Ray Kurzweil book.

In a World where nanobots cleanse the blood of disease, and people live indefinite lives, a man waiting for the subway in New York explodes, contaminating a large crowd with an aggressive virus--a mechanical virus of microscopic robots. We might stand a chance to fight them, if only they weren't completely sentient, smarter than us, and designed by the only man in the world who we might have trusted to stop them.

Now--everybody sing along with me from the book of Rush, chapter 2112:
We are the priests of the temples of Syrinx.
And our great computers fill the hallowed halls...


Kick out the Worlds

To paraphrase Tom Robbins: In a world where there are two kinds of people, one kind of person will realize that there really are two kinds of people: the kinds of people who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those that know better.

1. In a World where convicted murderers are banished to a planet instead of being put to death, one couple--the parents of a murder victim--want revenge. They plan a trip to the Prison Planet where they will track down the monster that killed their child, and destroy him in the exact same way that he destroyed their lives.


When Worlds Collide

I'm a curmudgeon about donuts, so it all evens out.

Holy shit, Burley, those are all fucking awesome. I'm particularly taken with #1 (I could jump into that one right now and hit it running) and #5, even if it is similar to Minority Report. [That's okay, cuz a) Minority Report wasn't as great as it could've been, and b) I never get tired of those kind of stories.]

Oh, and dude, let's only go to 25 apiece. Even steven down the middle. 11 more for you; 12 more for me, after these five:


The War of the Worlds

A few ticks off the old goal. Also, just a point of trivia: I consider most Alcatraz movies Prison Planet movies.

1. In a World where stranded humans must guard themselves from a poisonous atmosphere, one scientist finds a process for rendering the air on the planet breathable. The only problem is, the planet is a prison and the guards will kill them all if they found out about the experiments.

2. In a World where humanoids live mostly underwater, and are equipped with gills, an aquatic princess falls for a mysterious air-breather who appears suddenly in their land without warning. He's kind, intelligent and handsome, but will she find out that he's been banished to their planet for an unspeakable crime?

3. In a World where politicians are devastatingly corrupt, and the uncaring populace is consumed with instant feedback news cycles, one pundit goes off her script and screams out a warning live on the air, before being cut off and mysteriously disappearing. Was this part of their plan, or could it be that somebody broke from the ranks of the elite in an attempt to save humanity?

4. In a world where people trust one another and crimes are extremely low, one event threatens to eradicate the long-admired peace: there's been a prison break on Half Moon, where society disposes of all of its criminals. They're coming back for revenge, and they're armed.

5. In a World where crimes are judged and juried by encrypted, anonymous computer terminals, one jury foreman doesn't realize that the man she's arguing so strongly should be committed to the Prison Planet for life is actually her husband--and the crime he's accused of--but hasn't committed yet--is murdering her.


Re:[2] The State of the Software

Okay--let's go with Celtx as our engine. Hear that Celtx? We pick you!

I have to confess I'm rather curmudgeonly about software. I wish I was a true hacker so that I could craft these marvelous things out of thin air, typed commands and lots of { } brackets. A good piece of software is an amazing thing to behold, and a marvelous thing to use.


Re: The State of the Software

Actually, I don't have any problem with using Celtx for Spitball!, and I think it might be fun to try. Regardless, tho, the next thing I write, I'm gonna take a shot and try and write the whole thing in Celtx. There are still some issues that make it weaker than FD (the "stay at the bottom of the page" thing, and the Tabbing isn't as intuitive as FD), but I like where they're going with the latest release (the character and scene notes section is nifty).

I am curious about this Montage thing, however. What does "create your script as a live outline" mean, exactly?

(If you know Burley and me, you know that we salivate like huskies with a gland condition at the mention of "outline" and "software" in the same sentence.)


links for 2006-01-18

January 17, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

The State of the Software

A few months ago I was so mad at Final Draft, that I started writing a spec for a screenwriting software for Macintosh. In my mind, it would by a Carbon or Cocoa app, and write to an open, human readable format that--should someone stop using the software--they could open with another program. Ideally, that format would be open sourced, and any other program that wanted to write to it could. The program would retail around $30-$40, in the range of a lot of other cool software that I use almost daily.

I was sparked on this quest by an exchange with the Final Draft tech support. I asked them about how I could go about exchanging my disk. I use Final Draft 6, not having found in the newest version any compelling--or, really any--reason to upgrade. I bought Final Draft with version 5, and updated to six only to get OS X support (Both Urban and I are Mac users), since it really lacked any other revolutionary feature additions. When I bought my upgrade it came on a CD-R, which, as anybody can tell you, is a cheaper and softer substrate. Much more prone to scratches than a manufactured CD.

And see, I have this problem that I have to haul the disk everywhere. I have a desktop and a laptop, but I do most of my writing on my desktop. Final Draft kindly allows you to install the program on two computers, but not-so-kindly insists that you boot the program on the second computer with the CD in the drive. This, after the serial number, and having the program "authenticated" by remote connection to the Final Draft headquarters. So, I had to chose: either put the disk in every damn time I start the program on my desktop, which is quite often when we're deep at work and authenticate my laptop which I rarely use, or do the opposite and carry the stupid disk with me. Which I do. Everywhere. So, if I'm inspired, I won't have to open the program in "demo" mode. Which has happened to me. More than once. And I couldn't write.


It's a World World World World World

Did you know if you Google (in quotes) "In a world" the first response is the Beastie Boys website? Now that's another world for pirate treasure.

Anyway--As much as I liked your original 8 "In a World" scenarios (forever now known as IAWS), I think pumping out a big old slew of them is a great idea. Here's the ones I could come up with as quick as possible (I made it to 9--33 to go!):


Brief Moment of Inspiration

January 16, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, inspiration

I was flipping through an online book on the programming language Python, and came across this great quote. It may be about computer programming, but it applies to writing, plots and other logics:

There are two ways of constructing a software design: one way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies; the other is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies.
--C. A. R. Hoar

Re:[2] In a World...

The funny thing about the In A World... post was that, by the end, I didn't really care about the specifics of each story. What was useful for me was taking the idea (Prison Planet) and seeing what kind of "movement" each kind of story could give it. For example, when Richard Garfield was designing "Magic: The Gathering" (and presumably when he designed other games) was he would sit down with blank cards and before he even really knew what the rules were, he would play with them. What is it like when I turn a card ninety degrees? What's it like if I lay out cards in a pattern on the table? What's it like to draw cards from a deck? Is there a difference in feel between drawing three cards or seven?

So I ended up thinking about that post in a similar way. When I think of "Prison Planet" as a concept, I think of prisoners on a planet that want to get off. But what else can be done with the concept? For me the breakthrough of #5 is that the character finds the hidden Prison Planet and goes there. In #6, the character wants to break into the Prison Planet, which sounded fun and cool. The idea behind #7 is that escape is impossible, and maybe not even desired by the end. In #4, the idea that the Prison Planet is kind of a front for something else (the "ancient secret underneath") was what was most interesting to me.

So while I do like some of the small specifics of each idea, I'm not married to any of them, and seeing how skeletal they are, I think some cannibalism from the other ideas will be necessary :-)

But here are my favorites:


Re: In A World...

An echoing voice in my head, visions of fast-cut explosions and action set to pounding, pulsing, throbbing music. I have heard your narrator.

So on a quick reaction, here are my top three that I'd like to see (and therefore, write), with a few of my own notes:

#3 Telepathy as a disease? Keeping a secret when everybody can read your mind? Genius. Awesome. Bravo. Tricky, I'd imagine, and complex, but a concept worthy of the challenges.
#5 Ideas like diseases--much like commercial jingles and memes. Also, because I've always loved the Inferno. What about a twist that posits Dante himself visited this land with aliens, and wrote the Inferno as code to the world? Talk about ideas as disease--the Inferno of Dante became the modern hell of the Christians, after all.
#7 We can already figure the market value for a human life, no matter how despicable this might be, but imagine if robotics had advanced to the point where you could transfer consciousness to another being? Then suddenly, the soul would have a value outside of life itself. What if the rebellion was remaining human?

Honorable mention: Robots fighting to help us fight for our humanity? My hat is off, sir.

A question: can we combine some of these ideas? I'll see if you like any of my feedback first, but imagine that only humans who have transferred their souls (#7) to advanced robots have the telepathy (#3).


In A World...

In an attempt to get this ball rolling a little faster, and as the Designated Inside Man digging my way up from the center toward the outside (I'll explain that later), I present to you eight (8) premises for a Prison Planet movie, written in the style of a cheesy trailer voiceover, composed as quickly as I can. I'm not promising quality here, mind you, merely quantity. Enjoy!


Re:[2] Sci Fi?

A. Unless we were seriously going to explore the idea of "Prison Planet" as a metaphor, of course its going to be SF in some sense.

Maybe I should have tagged it with the "humor" category. I posted that because it was a blatantly stupid thing to think, and therefore funny that I caught myself thinking it. Kind of like thinking "Hmmm. Ford is really pushing the F-150 into that truck genre." Or, "Wow. This dialogue is really pushing itself into the webpage genre."

B. Genre isn't for marketers. Genre is legitimate framework or window through which to view a story. Every genre has its conventions, and you can play them straight or subvert them.

I would argue that genre is to movies was genus is to animals. The animal doesn't care if it's a grizzly bear, but the biologist cares that it belongs to the genus Ursinae. By the same token, I don't really care what genre we're in, and see it as a construct of critics, analytics and marketers. I've never once met a musician who said "I'm going for AOR mid-tempo with an alternative edge," and I've never met a story that said "I need to be seen as a love story to be appreciated." Quite the opposite, I think the best of any creative categories are the ones that seem to be within one genre or another, and then transcend it.


links for 2006-01-14

January 13, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Re: Sci Fi?

A. Unless we were seriously going to explore the idea of "Prison Planet" as a metaphor, of course its going to be SF in some sense.

B. Genre isn't for marketers. Genre is legitimate framework or window through which to view a story. Every genre has its conventions, and you can play them straight or subvert them. I like subversion myself (or maybe I'm just saying subversion is easier, since playing it straight and doing it well seems much harder to me), but that's also why The Corrections came up so early in this discussion -- one way to avoid the "same ol' same ol" is to start mixing DNA and create mutants.

C. Yet: SF can mean Star Wars, Star Trek. It can mean Terminator or Alien(s). It can mean Primer or Solaris. It can also mean Videodrome, The Brood, or even Crash (1996). (It's both cool and kinda sad that those last three are by the same guy.) SF, to me, is about taking an idea or premise that simply doesn't exist at all in the real world and extrapolating something (usually a story) out of it.

D. Anyway, the point is, when you think "SF" you think of limited boundaries; when I think of "SF", I think of a lack of them. Therefore, SF, to me, really isn't a genre.

E. Five Days of Continuous Blogging -- I did it!


Genre is for Marketers

Prison planet as a banishment planet--interesting idea. Although, it doesn't make so much sense to me that an advanced culture would use a single planet, and all of its resources, for one single crime. Or, let me restate that--I don't see an advanced society using multiple planets for one crime each (if that's what you were saying). I could imagine enclaves on that planet, or a larger population of one type than another. Or, were you saying that the only event that sparks banishment is telepathy? That's the only "crime" that is deemed extreme enough to banish people? In any case, the telepathy idea is great. I think we should play with that and see if we can get any traction.

But what if the telepathy people were having to live on the same planet with murderers and rapists? (by the way--by sexual offenses I wasn't thinking of sexual orientation, although I like that interpretation, but I meant more like molesters of children). What if the telepaths had to defend their turf, what would their society look like? Would they form alliances? What would the politics look like? Would there be rapist nations? Murderer countries? Boy, does that raise issues of intolerance and old-world cultural bigotry.


Sci Fi?

January 12, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, the screenplay

In reading Mr. Shockah's recent posts I actually caught myself thinking: "Interesting--he wants to take Prison Planet to the sci-fi genre..."

Longer commentary coming when my mind is actually operating the way it should.


Reading List: Alfred Bester


"Reading List" is a new feature I just made up because I need to get my Spitball! quota out of the way. Whether or not it's a continuing feature is up to time and tide. Also, the link to the forum will take you to the "Books" section of the forum, because, well, that makes sense.

Alfred Bester (1913 - 1987) was a SF writer, best known for two seminal novels, The Demolished Man and The Stars, My Destination. Check out the Wikipedia entry for more info cuz the Shockah aint about no biographical sketches. Instead, Reading List is about how these books might inform The Screenplay.


Brass Tacks

Like probably a lot of people, my best ideas seem to come to me at the worst possible times: in the shower, trying to fall asleep, oral sex. (I kid on one of those.) Last night, while watching The Simpsons Season 7, Disc 4 for the umpteenth time (The Simpsons is a sleep-aid around my house), I began to think about how to contribute directly to this Prison Planet idea. I came up with some good ideas. And then I fell asleep.

So now I'm going to try and reconstruct those good thoughts and see if there's soup in 'em. Unfortunately, I probably won't be able to reconstruct the witticisms they were couched in. (I'll probably recapitulate a lot of what Grymz said already in the first post about the Prison Planet, but I think it's a good idea to go over stuff continuously -- I find it's difficult to find something truly new unless the old is as familiar as your own body.)


What is a meta for?

Two interesting points in your last post about Prison Planet (which, I hereby propose is our working title. If voted down, I am happy to consider others, but I'm kind of excited about the fact that if we keep writing about this, anybody searching for the term "prison planet" on Google is gonna get inundated with Spitball! posts about it. Currently, they are drawn to political statement websites).

1. Ultimate point of finding a character.
Yes. Of course, and good point. That is our goal, I'd say. Not, as has been our habit in the past, to entwine ourselves in overly complex plot points and lose site of the character within. I would go so far as to say that one of the metrics we should judge Prison Planet by is the emotional resonance of the characters, whatever their state happens to be.

2. Metaphor
Well, yes--the Prison Planet is kind of obvious as one, but I think we should be careful about how we play with metaphor. I would propose that we define a few rules about the world, and then start a search for our protagonist. We find them and their story, and not worry about potential metaphors until we have the script better plotted out. Then we can tighten things to reinforce subtext if needed, but I'll bet it worms it's own way into our story through our interests.

To that end, I propose that we both spend some time ruminating on what is exciting or cool to us about the idea of a Prison Planet? We can mesh our ideas and come up with a landscape that might suggest a character. Are you game?


Re: what's a Spitball?

January 10, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: About, Original Version

I too learned this term from William Goldman, but I didn't think the term originated with him. After a handy search of the online OED (thanks SPL!), my suspicions were confirmed.

And actually, the use of the term to mean a transfer of information pre-date use as a baseball term by quite a few years. In 1888, the OED attributes the following to Judge 10 Nov. 68/1 "All statements to the opposite are spit-balls at the moon." The baseball use starts in 1905, in J.J. McGraw's Official Baseball Guide.

The OED winds up the definition page with our current use: Spitball: "To throw out suggestions for discussion"

The first reference to the movie industry is from 1955, attributed to H. Kurnitz, from his Invasion of Privacy. "I'm just thinking out loud... Spitballing we call it in the movie business." So, it sounds as if it's an old Hollywood term.

Other good quotes included C. Larson, in 1976's Muir's Blood "'Are you serious?' Blixen asked. 'I'm spitballing,' Schreiber replied.'" Most curiously, though, we find a quote in the New Yorker from May 1977: "The spitballer won't grow into his father's jacket."

Please note that none of the following have included a mandatory exclamation point with the term, thus leaving us to break what small new ground we can.


What's a Spitball?

January 10, 2006 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: About, Original Version

Just realized there might be people out there unfamiliar with the term "spitball", which makes a lot of our in-jokes (well, maybe only the funny names) incomprehensible.

"Spitballing" is a term invented by William Goldman (author and screenwriter of such classics as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President's Men) as kind of synonym for brainstorming. If you've read any of his books (particularly "Which Lie Did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade"), then you know that Goldman loooves to spitball -- sit around with other writers and throw out ideas for plots and characters, and, most importantly, taking them to their logical conclusions.

I'd like to think the relevance to our little project goes without saying.


Previously, on "Prison Planet"

This is my first post on The Screenplay, and I'm not sure where to start. So I'm going to start everywhere at once, and just throw this shit at the wall and see what sticks.


The Suggestive Title Inn

January 10, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, inspiration

Picture of Motel Oral

Oh please, oh please, Mr. Shockah--can we write a scene that takes place here?
(found on Motel Hell)


links for 2006-01-10

January 09, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

How To Use This Site

(The following is intended for those new to the site as well as co-administrators who are still trying to wrap their feeble minds around the vast, intimidating thing they've helped birth.)

Welcome to Spitball! (Exclamation point is mandatory.)

The point of the site is to write a screenplay, from start to finish, from germinal ideas to 120 pages of dramatic goodness. Although the authors of this site, Burley Grymz and Urban Shockah, are ultimately the authors of the screenplay, we invite everyone on the Blog-o-Web to contribute. That creates some sticky conundrums, so, before you do that, you may want to peruse this and this.

Okay, so you've decided to contribute -- what now?


Are we Open Source?

This is to clarify--or at least talk about--the idea that we are open source. Are we?

The open source movement started in an effort to develop free software, at a time when commercial software, with proprietary code, was becoming commonplace. The commonly heard refrain is that the software should be free-as-in-speech, not free-as-in-free-beer. That is, the code itself should always be open, even if the software is commercial in nature.

An impressive infrastructure has been grown to promote, grow and release free software. The concept is usually that somebody gets an idea, does some coding and then puts the code into a repository where others can download it and work on it, if they're interested. Those other coders can submit their code back to the originators, and if the originators like the work done by the submitters, they'll commit it to the code base.

I've often thought that writers could learn a lot about organization from software developers--especially using version control, but that said, we're not really open source. We're not writing a screenplay for you to work on and contribute scenes to, which will get added if we like them.

Most free software is released under a number of licenses (GNU, Berkely, etc) with the intention that the creators are retaining the copyright to the works, but that you are free to take that work and modify it for your needs, or to modify it and submit it back to the community.

So, how are we different?


links for 2006-01-09

January 08, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Contemplating the contemplation

Mr. Shockah and I have more ideas than time to flesh them out. That's just the nature of writing--the fullest screenplays start with a singular query--something that captures your attention. For me, it's usually a question--in this case, what would a prison planet be like?

Now that we have to answer that question--have to, mind you--I'm trying to think about it from a different angle. Could you tell a love story on a Prison Planet (a: yes). Could you tell a comedy on a Prison Planet (a: yes). Could you make an action-adventure / horror / gory mess on a prison planet (a: yes). Political movie, chick flick--it could be all be done there--the setting suggests a plot, but doesn't have to be the plot. Of course, if it's not important to what happens, then there is no sense but pure whimsy to put the thing on the damn planet to begin with, so the plot will have to revolve somehow with the fact that the setting is a prison planet.

But, that caveat aside, we could really do anything we want. So, where do we start? Maybe we start with a character. Maybe that character is a prisoner just being sent to the planet. So, if that is indeed where we're going to start (I'll wait for Mr. Shockah to opine before I start spinning too far), then a bunch of questions pop up. Why is he there? What did she do? How did he get there? How is she put on the planet's surface? Where on the planet is he put down? Are their guards on the planet surface? Are their guards in space? Do they monitor technology on the surface? What is the weather on the planet?

Suddenly, these questions start getting answered and a hazy picture starts being drawn:


links for 2006-01-06

January 05, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Just What The Hell Do We Think We're Doing? (And How Do You Fit In?)

Good question. I'm not entirely sure, either.

Again, the Big Idea, as Burley posted below in "Statement of Purpose" is to write a screenplay completely through this newfangled medium called the InterWeb. Every idea, every outline, every piece of communication between the Mic Rockah and B-to-the-G, will be posted here.

(This will be slightly harder than it seems, since we've been known to talk on the phone and hang out every once in a while. I believe we decided that if -- horrorz! -- we should accidentally talk about the screenplay in a non-Spitball!-approved medium, we'll post the contents of said dialogue here. That should be interesting.)

So far, so good. But what about you, Dear Reader? It would be fine and dandy if this site was just a collection tank for our Bob Loblaw, but would anyone care? If we built a screenplay on the Web and no one read it, would it exist?


links for 2006-01-04

January 03, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Contemplating the Engine

What does a prison planet look like? Does a culture that has a prison planet pick a planet bereft of resources? What if the Prison Planet is old--centuries old? Does it become a viable culture and government (hello Australia!)?

What kind of prisoners does this culture send there? What kind of crime is so subversive that you must abandon the people that commit them? Rape? Murder? Sexual Offenses? If so, what level of offense? What if the government could legally, and culturally acceptably, get rid of their political opponents, would they do so?

How does the culture get their prisoners there? Prison planets could only exist in a culture that has very inexpensive space travel. Does that mean that there are aliens there? How does the alien government feel about this culture banishing their citizens?

The cliche of Prison Planet seems to be the Mad Max landscape--post-apocalyptic--but Prison Planet isn't post-anything, it's pre-something. Also, it seems to me that it wouldn't resemble prison movies or shows that we have seen--the engine of those being the following recipe: 1. Take violent and unpredictable men, 2. Put them in an incredibly confined space.


links for 2006-01-03

January 02, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

links for 2006-01-02

January 01, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version

Statement of Purpose

To listen to the stereotype, all that one needs to break into the exciting and lucrative world of Hollywood screenwriting is an idea. After all, you'll only get that one chance to wheedle up to some cigar-puffing exec and say in your midwestern white-boy (Screenwriting is still tragically overrun by white guys. Like us.) voice-just-breaking drawl "It's a sci-fi story about time travel starring Martin Luther transported to the American Revolution—he pins the Declaration of Independence on Hitler's ass!" Or, maybe you'll squeal through the studio gates in your 1970s beat-to-shit Range Rover, with a day pass won by seducing a secretary with your manly Testeszterhaus swagger. You'll slap the big guy on the back—already looking ahead to that weekend in Acapulco with him and some hookers—and say "Rejected teenage fat chick turns into Femme Fatale and seeks revenge by detonating a nuclear suitcase bomb at her class reunion. Only, she didn't know that little Jimmy Parson, who was always nice to her ungrateful ass, grew up to be the fucking head of the F.B.I. Bamm! Bitch gets what's coming—but not without three acts and lots of tits." Rube and Joe here get contracts, big pads in the Hollywood Hills, and more blow than they can snort.


In the beginning were two words

Kent and I have had a lot of conversations about the project that you're looking at here. We've talked about the forums and the blog, what each post needs, what each post doesn't need, should we have a blogroll or not, and a myriad of other subjects under the sun.

There's one topic we have not broached at all, save for two words. That's about the screenplay we're going to write here. After all, the idea is that every conversation we have; every attempt at outlining, writing and arguing about what parts should be in and what should be kept out--all of those conversations are going to take place here on the blog. In public. With you watching and commenting, hopefully.


Bio - Kent M. Beeson

January 01, 2006 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: About, Original Version

Kent M. Beeson (aka Urban Shockah the Mic Rocka) Urban ShockerHow many aliases does a non-rhyming white boy from Modesto need? According to Kent M. Beeson (a.k.a. Urban Shockah, a.k.a. Kza), a minimum of two. Kent graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in Theater Arts, and then proceeded to walk away from theater forever for the "life" of a cinephile. He spends most of his time locked away in his apartment with his wife and cat, looking out the window and idly wondering if that Flexcar that was in the church parking lot across the street is ever coming back.

His credits include writing the short film The Somnambulist (2004, Mary Agnes Krell), Saint Callistus (2002, 2nd place, The Underexposed Screenwriting Contest) and Yellow (Project Greenlight Top 100, 2003) and appearing in Kent Beeson is a Classic and an Absolutely New Thing (2001, Tim Etchells) and Untitled Ty Huffer Project a.k.a. Douglas (2005, Ty Huffer). You can sometimes catch him writing film reviews over at his other blog, he loved him some movies.


Bio - Martin McClellan

January 01, 2006 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: About, Original Version

Martin McClellan (aka Burley Grymz) Urban Shocker Martin was born on April 1st, and takes his birthright as a fool very seriously. He’s a graphic designer living in Seattle, with a BFA in graphic design from Cornish College of the Arts. He studied writing at Seattle Central Community College, where he was co-editor of the Ark, the school’s yearly literary magazine, and holds a certificate in creative fiction writing from the University of Washington extension.

His screenwriting credits include the short Lost in Time (1999), YELLOW (Project Greenlight top 100, 2003), and the soon to be filmed sci-fi short Q-DASH-1. He journals about movies at http://www.hellbox.org/movies, and about lots of other things at http://www.hellbox.org/.


links for 2005-12-14

December 13, 2005 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Links, Original Version