Kittygirl and I are quarter-finalists!

My unpublished short story, Kittygirl Vs. the Fiendish Brain Freezer, made the quarter-finals in ScreenCraft’s Cinematic Short Story 2017 Contest. They wanted a short story, not a script, with special cinematic potential. I guess Kittygirl has that. Yay!

Out of 1400 contestants, I am in the top 350 or so. I submitted my story in December. In February, they will pick the five finalists. The top prize is about $1000 and introductions to agents, publishers, and genies who can grant three wishes.

Will I be one of the finalists? 5 out of 350? I wish. But I got a prize already: by paying a little extra upon submission, I got professional feedback. I love that. Makes me feel like an author.

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Hyper Light, Giant Bug Farts, and Respecting the Audience

I have seen Star Wars VII twice, once with my good twin (I am the evil one). He asked me if there was anything that I picked up the second time. Yes, two things.

1: The light of the blaster shot that the newer, younger Darth stopped mid-air early in the flick. It was a cool effect.

2: First time I saw the bigger, new and improved Death Star’s laser, I wondered about those inconvenient laws of physics limiting the speed of light, and thus, making it a very long time before that laser hits anything in other star systems. Second time, I heard the line about hyper-light. See? Just one little bit of doubletalk, and the light beam goes faster than light.

Which made me remember that old movie, Starship Troopers (much as I’d prefer not to). In that flick, giant bugs in another star system threw an asteroid at Earth. In other words, they threw a big rock. At Earth. From another star system. The rock had no warp drive, no hyper-drive, no lightspeed drive, no nothing except rock.

I will pause here to let you think about that. (ONE SECOND PASSES!) Okay, you should have thought of this: A ROCK WILL TAKE A VERY LONG TIME TO TRAVEL SEVERAL LIGHT-YEARS!

Let’s say the bugs are at the closest star system, which is four light years away. One light year equals 5,878,499,810,000 miles. That’s a lot of miles. Assuming the bugs can get the rock to travel at near light speed, that will be a bit over four years. The energy to get a rock going that fast will be tremendous, as in turning lots of gas-giant planets entirely to energy (since I am not a physicist, I suspect that is a very conservative estimate). About four years later, the big nearly-light-speed rock will destroy the Earth, not just dig a crater. Remember this thing called kinetic energy? That rock would have LOTS of it. If the rock goes any slower, we Earth people will have thousands, or maybe millions of years before we bother to take our hyper-light spaceships to the rock and give it a little tap to knock it off course.

These bugs blasted the energy to move that rock from the ends of their abdomens. Yeah, out their butts. Not only is that incredible aim (hitting a moving target that far away when you are facing away from it), but that is an incredibly powerful fart. Do those bugs eat planet-size anti-matter burritos?

This is one of the many reasons why Star Wars VII works and Starship Troopers does not. Star Wars VII understood that the audience knows what a light-year is, and took a moment to write the screenplay around that. Starship Troopers, by not bothering to do that, insulted the audience’s intelligence.

Wizard World: Hollyweird directors and 12 ideas for a dime

happy-hobbit-sisters-and-meAt San Jose’s Wizard World Comic Con last week, I was lucky enough to have dinner with a bunch of fellow nerds and geeks. I had sliders (yum) and nice conversation (yes!). This was a dinner for the Happy Hobbit sisters. Check out their websiteYoutube, and Facebook. One of the sisters talked about working with a Hollywood director to get her screenplay produced. The guy got crazier and crazier during production, ending with him taking a rock with the word “trust” painted on it out of his pocket, stiff-arming it toward an actor, staring with eyes that showed a soul lost in a far-off alternate dimension, and yelling, “This is my trust! You’ve broken my trust!” I asked if I could steal that. I can imagine Super Holly taking the rock, “This isn’t broken,” and then crushing it an inch from the flaky director’s nose, “NOW it’s broken!”

happy-hobbit-dinnerThe guy across the table from me had concerns about the Marvel movies. He felt that the Civil War theme from the upcoming Captain America movie means that the franchise is running out of ideas.

I disagree. First, the Mavel movie machine is riffing off storylines from the comics: that is called respecting the source material. As I think was said on Adventure Time, that’s the opposite of a problem!

Second, ideas are a dime a dozen. At writer clubs, I have found a few (and fortunately rare) aspiring writers who think they have a great idea for a novel or screenplay. Hint: if you refuse to share when I ask, “What’s it about?”, your idea is not worth stealing. Ideas are cheap, it’s what you create from them that counts. After you aspire, you have to perspire!

Alfred Hitchcock said it best. He did not care about content, what his movies were about; he was only interested in how to use that content to evoke an emotional response. Listen to Hitchcock. You’ll write better.

 

Storyist 3 for iPad: here’s my plug.

I use Storyist to write my stories. I met Steve Shepard years ago at a MacWorld Expo, when those were around. Nowadays, I do most of my creative writing on my iPad with Storyist and an Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

The iPad Storyist app was just updated with some nice improvements. Like now you can back up to Dropbox AND to iCloud. I am sticking with Dropbox for now. Also, it has auto-sync if you wish to use it. And I do wish, it saves me the bother of syncing from my iPad.

If you use an iPad and a Macintosh, and you like to write novels, short stories, and/or screenplays, take a look at Storyist. It was great before, and it is better now.

P.S. I had a little bit of trouble with the Mac version converting to .doc Word files (my paragraph returns were changed to a non-searchable character). Easy fix: now I convert to .docx instead of .doc. Works perfectly. Mac Storyist converts to lots of formats, even ebook. Useful if you want to get an idea what it might look like on a mobile device, I converted a story to ebook and checked the cover art on my phone, my Kindle Paperwhite, and my iPad.

P.P.S. I still wish Steve would create an Android version of Storyist. I prefer Android for my phone.

 

Writing to a Musical Muse

I did an open mic reading at the Peninsula Writers Club. The chapter in my novel where Cal “The Intellectual” Critbert experiences a 5D movie preview. 5D is two better that 3D! But Cal is a movie critic, and does not like 3D (Roger Ebert reasons). Then the 5D preview makes him LIVE the heartbreaking climax of Holly’s story, The Last Super. Anyway, I played music during the reading: Unchained Melody from the movie Ghost. A section in this chapter fit the beats and the emotion from that song. The small gathering of club members liked it.

I love music. Music has inspired lots of chapters in my novel. Music plays like a movie scene in my head. Holly’s fight with Dan Mann: Battle of the Heroes from Star Wars III. Holly’s fight with the hundred or so super soldiers: Burly Brawl from The Matrix Reloaded. Holly and Cal watching a sunset: So Much In Love by The Tymes. An angry and heartbroken Holly trying and failing to sleep: Last Night I Didn’t Get to Sleep At All by The 5th Dimension. I write a chapter more easily when a song has helped me see it. I have bought a LOT of music off iTunes to help me write.

However, a lot of music is owned by big corporations who are not going to share. So do not expect me to use my iTunes music in a podcast, or in anything even remotely professional, or at any gathering other than a very very small circle of friends or fans. I do not need a business that zealously defends the copyright to the Happy Birthday song sending lawyers to beat down my door.

Music can be a crutch. My writing must be strong enough to stand on its own, without music or my DRAMATIC performances. I am not gonna tell my readers that they have to buy and then play John Williams’s theme to Superman as they read my story. (Um, probably I won’t.) My short stories have NO music in mind. So far.

And consider this: real time and reading time do not match. In Storyist (the Mac and iPad app I use for my creative writing), each double-spaced, 12-point-courier-text page takes one and a half minutes to read out loud. Do you see the problem? Actions you imagine in music are hard to fit in text. Maxwell Alexander Drake said that you can speed action up, or slow it down, but you cannot read action at the same speed it happens in the real world. Oh, maybe if Holly punches a bad guy, I can write, “Holly punched him.” That’s boring, and it STILL takes too long. I could write “POW!” Not much better. (I’ll write later about superpowered sound effect words.) An early version of Holly’s fight with Dan Mann fit in the 3 1/2 Battle of the Heroes song, and I would never use that early version now. Short, dry, very little flowing prose to draw the reader in, and when my barber read it, he said, “This character Holly. What does she look like?” I was told my chapters read like screenplays. You need more than dialog and bits of action. You need description, feelings, emotions, thoughts, in other words, PROSE! You can match a text passage to a song, but do NOT stuff too many actions into that song’s short timespan!

I will continue to be inspired by music. But I cannot rely on songs to help me write or open-mic-read. (Oh, but I remember a reading where I used music, and the chapter had Holly so very heartbroken, and the open mic audience was RAPT. Boy, that felt good.)

P.S. I still wonder what it would cost to use music. Probably too much for me to consider it. Even if I say, hey readers, this is a cool song, run to iTunes and buy it cuz it is only a dollar! Maybe if I found indie music where I know the people who own it? Or maybe I just need to finish my novel (sound effects: my voice changes to Stewie Griffin), that novel I been working on for about five years now, that nnnnnnnnnovel …

Going to Confession

miguel-ali-and-meConfessions of a Womanizer was rapid-fire funny, my kind of comedy. Had dozens upon dozens of funny ways to refer to sex, both the act and the body parts. Gary Busey was in this, and he is a HOOT. The lead actor plays another flawed guy (boy do I sense a pattern here, I am glad my superheroine Holly is flawed, Superboyscout, I mean Superman, can be a little boring). A flock of ladies  in the flick are great eye candy and turn in great performances, especially the cougar (RAWR!!!) and the Bella twins, twin sister pro wrestlers who do a GREAT acting job in this flick. There’s also a transgendered lady who provides laughs and some heartwarming.

That’s the director and writer next to me: Miguel Ali. Nice guy, and he writes well judging by this movie. During Q&A, I asked if the script was based on anything personal. He mentioned sex addiction therapy. Do writers need addictions? My Cousin Ben once asked me, “Dave. Do you drink?” Me: “No.” “Do you smoke?” “No.” “Do you do drugs?” “No.” “Dave, you’re a writer. Writers should have addictions.” I said, “I drink coffee.” Miguel has a nice wife (I know because I talked to her) and a sweet-natured 1.5 year old boy (I know because he smiled at me, and I think I got the boy’s age about right).

P.S. I STILL need to put my Holly story about her bad hair day on Amazon, but Cinequest is keeping me busy. Sometime next week. I really want that story out there so I can write more stories and finish that novel I been workin’ on, you know, that novel I been workin’ on for about, oh, five years now, that nnnnnnnnnovel? Okay, enough Stewie Griffin.