Peggy Bechko: Resuscitating Your Draft

by Peggy Bechko

As writers, we’ve all written screenplays or novels that sit around in our drawers for years. Something’s wrong, but what? Being a pro, you’ve already decided that script or novel needs major rehab, and you sure aren’t clinging to a story that just doesn’t work. BUT, what to do? How to approach the rewrite and the rehab?

Since you’re ready to do some major revisions I’m glad you asked. Let’s think about this and ponder a couple of radical methods for that revision.

First thoughts…

Have you considered that maybe your script or novel is focused on the wrong protagonist? You know, the guy/gal who gets all the action. For example, in animated world, were you aware that Frozen’s main character, Elsa, started out being a villain? If you’ve see it you know she ain’t a villain no more, she morphed into a ‘Disney Princess’. That was one major overhaul.

Another example: remember reading Ripley in Alien was originally written for a male lead? Could you see anyone else in that part now? Another new direction, another major rewrite.

So, is there someone in your story that could do the same? Some character you may have misunderstood? A character who could change from villain to hero? One that could move up from supporting character to main protagonist?

Take another hard look at that novel or script. Think about the motives behind the actions of your protagonist, supporting characters and villain. If those motives aren’t clear and your character’s desire to move forward strong, then your focus might be misplaced when it comes to your ‘hero’. Maybe reconsider? Perhaps a shuffle of your characters?

Will this take a lot of work?

Yep.

Is it worth it?

You better believe it.

Another idea. Have you considered the genre you’ve written the script or novel? Did you label it from the get-go, then trap yourself inside?

Is it a Romance, a thriller, a SciFi action flick? Whatever it is now, you might consider changing it. Could that romance become a thriller? Should your thriller morph to SciFi? Maybe your SciFi is actually Horror. Take a little ‘what-if’ trip and consider all the angles.

It’s possible that you’ve locked your story into a genre where it doesn’t fit. It’s possible that you, as writer, were uncertain as to what your genre could be and cubbyholed it before it was ready. If the story is ‘misplaced’ it’s very possible that you, as the writer, are trying to be funny when you shouldn’t. Or maybe whatever stakes you’ve chosen for your hero just aren’t powerful enough and great humor could result if you pulled that string.

You probably didn’t think much about the genre as you wrote the first draft unless you were writing ‘to genre’. That’s good. Great even, but once you have the basics laid down for your story you need to make sure your work is in the right genre. If that element is wobbly it’s just not going to fly.

What’s the take-away? If you have a story that’s been languishing somewhere, now is the time to get it out, dust it off and reread with a clear eye toward what the problem might be. And one last tip. Think about where the story belongs. Is it a novel? Is it a feature script? Maybe it should be a TV series or a mini-series. Don’t close your mind to any possibilities.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Rejection: A Wilderness Guide for Writers

Mark Evanier, a fan favorite writer of – and about – television, film, comics, theater, news and – yikes! – politics, is one of the brightest lights of the interweb. He’s been writing about the trials, tribulations, and joys faced by writers, actors, and other living creatures for years. This is the most recent of a series on dealing with rejection:


Rejection, Part 20
by Mark Evanier

If you want to have a career as a writer, it is very important that you not look desperate. If you are, do what you can to conceal it…and yes, I know that might not be easy, especially if you’re really, really desperate.

This applies to the wanna-be writer who hasn’t sold much, if anything. It also applies to the once-established writer who’s hit a career lull and hasn’t sold anything in a while. It’s probably more important for the latter. If you’re new in the business, you have more of an excuse for appearing desperate. People who might hire you or buy your work can think, “No one’s given this kid a chance.” If you have some credits then what they’re going to think is: “Gee, people have given this guy a chance and if he’s now this desperate, maybe his work isn’t that good lately.”

Desperate people make others uncomfortable. We try to avoid them for the same reason we sometimes give money to homeless people on the street so they’ll go away. But in The Arts, we don’t usually give jobs to desperate people to lessen their desperation because they may not be able to do those jobs. In fact, we often suspect the reason they’re desperate might be because they just don’t have it in them to do those jobs. And if we give them those jobs and it turns out they can’t do them, that creates bigger problems for us.

And unlike the homeless guy outside the CVS Pharmacy who went away after you gave him a buck, these people tend not to go away. They come back again and again begging for another chance.

So you don’t want to look desperate and one good way to achieve that is to not be desperate, at least financially. We’ve discussed that in previous installments of this column.

The story I’m about to tell you is is not about a writer. It’s about a guy who was doing (or trying to do) cartoon voices but it’s the same situation. Because I was casting voices for a cartoon show I was writing and producing, he came after me seeking work. He came after me at conventions, via e-mail, and then when that didn’t work, he started phoning me.

He was not without talent. He had enough that he’d landed an agent…but there are agents and there are AGENTS. He had an all lower-case agent, one of those who has limited clout or connections to sell anything. There are agents like that who represent writers, too. They’ll take on almost anyone who looks competent enough to maybe someday get a job, then they do almost nothing to make that happen. If the client somehow manages to get a gig through his or her own contacts and campaigning, the agent will step in, close the deal and take their commission.

(What kind of agent do you want? The one who is in touch with the people who do the hiring, be they producers, directors, casting people or whatever. You want the agent who can and will get those people on the horn and say, “Trust me. You’ve got to meet with [YOUR NAME HERE] because this kid has really got something!” And then the hiring person thinks, “Gee, that agent represents some really good people. It probably won’t waste my time to take a meeting with that client!” If it’s an agent of the “anyone who looks competent” criteria…well, that agent probably can’t get that buyer on the phone and if they do, their recommendation means very little.)

In the world of voiceover in Hollywood, there are about fifty-five agencies. About nine of them represent about 90% of all the actors who work a lot. They’re the top agencies that represent the top people. I won’t list these agencies but if you go to voicebank.net, you can browse the demos of most voice actors and find out who their agents are. There, you can easily look up the superstar cartoon voice actors and see which agencies represent a significant number of them. You can also hear the demos….

Read it all at Mark’s blog, NewsFromMe

Dennis O’Neil: Après View Wonder Woman

Looking at Wonder Woman from a new angle

by Dennis O’Neil

So all hail, Princess Diana! For the second week in a row, she has conquered the all mighty Box Office!

You commerce-and-finance majors might consider declaring a holiday. Liberal arts dweebs like me will be satisfied with being grateful for a genuinely satisfying movie-going experience.

There’s a lot to be said for the film and no doubt a lot of it is already being said, with, again no doubt, more to come. It’s the kind of flick that prompts après theater discussion, which is kind of rare these days, especially among those of us who have logged a load of birthdays. We were so happy with the afternoon’s entertainment that we didn’t mind not remembering where we left the car.

I’d like to focus on only one aspect of it and maybe get in some opinions about superhero movies in general. And it affords a chance to blather about something that’s been bothering me for years.

Somewhere in the mists, when I was first creeping into the writing dodge, someone must have told me about the storytelling virtues of clarity. In order for the story, whether you’re experiencing it on a page or on a screen or by hearing it on a recording device, to be fully effective you must know what’s going on: who’s doing what to whom and if we’re pushing our luck, why. Where are the characters? How did they get there? Where are they in relation to one another? How did they get whatever props they’re using? How did they get the information they’re acting on?

Et cetera.

I’m particularly annoyed at lame fights. Surely, way out west, the movie crowd is aware that there’s entertainment value in well-choreographed kickass. If there’s any doubt, let them unspool some Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee, the patron saint of cinematic brawling. Many modern action movies – or maybe most of them – render action in quick cuts, blurs, blaring sound effects. Not my idea of amusement, at least not in mega-doses.

Back to Wonder Woman (and maybe we can, please, have an end to complaining?) None of what I’ve bitched about applies to WW. While in the darkness, I never found myself wondering what was happening on the screen. This, the director was kind enough to show me and thus allow me to relax into her work.

A word about the lead actress Gal Gadot: she’s extraordinarily beautiful (duh!), but her face is not only gorgeous, it is expressive – it seemed to change from shot to shot. And that quality is a blessing for a performer.

So, yeah, all hail to Wonder Woman, I don’t expect to see a better movie this year.


Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated on a series created for the BBC, without ever knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.

Diana Vacc sees ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

On May 26, 2017, Disney released the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. This volume of the franchise follows Jack Sparrow as he searches for the trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact with the power to break all curses of the sea. 

THE GOOD:

  • Writer Jeff Nathanson brings back the magic that made the original so successful.  The humor, the chemistry, and the story.  I loved the return of the romance of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly).  I enjoyed finally learning the back story of Jack and how he became Captain.
  • The newest love story of Henry and Carina (Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario) is reminiscent of Will and Elizabeth and you know what? I was cool with it. The chemistry of both actors was breathtaking, and who would want to get in the way of that powerful an attraction to each other?
  • The motivation of Will son’s Henry to break the Curse of the Dutchman over his father tugs at the audience’s heartstrings. Thwaites performs with sure determination, as if Bloom is his actual father.
  • The performance of Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar was creepy and gross but in a good way.  The black goo that comes out of his mouth is disgusting but it works for the character.

THE BAD:

  • Not enough Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann.  I wish they were in the film more. I have loved these characters and their romance since the first film of the series.


THE REST:

  • I realize that I’m in disagreement with a majority of critics, but this film is pure fun. It brings back the magic that the last Pirates lost.  I definitely recommend you go see it.

Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

John Ostrander: On Writers and the ‘N word’

by John Ostrander

So, Bill Maher crossed the line and got himself into hot water. Given the nature of his HBO show, Real Time, and his own proclivities as a satirist, maybe he should just have a hot tub on stage instead of a desk. It would suit him in many ways.

Recently, as part of an interview, Maher jokingly referred to himself as a “house ‘N’ word.” No, I’m not repeating the actual word here for a few reasons. A) I don’t want to pull a Maher; B) I don’t like the word. I won’t pretend I’ve never used it; I threw it around a bit as a kid in 1950s Chicago along with the “c” word, the “f” word, the “mf” and others of that ilk because I knew they were bad words, naughty words, and I was trying at those moments to pass myself off to my self and my friends as a naughty boy, as a bad boy. Didn’t use those words around my family, my parents, or the nuns; I would have been a dead boy if I had. I haven’t used the “n” word as an adult; not since I learned the history of the word, the harm in it.

I know that the “n” word is used by African-Americans and I know that’s different; there’s a cultural aspect to the use that doesn’t work with someone who is white. There’s a menace when that happens; a whole history of racism and bigotry packed into it.

However, I do have a question. Can I, as a white male writer, ever use it in the context of a story? When I was writing The Kents (my historical Western featuring the ancestors of Clark Kent’s adoptive family), I had characters who could have and perhaps should have used that word. I couldn’t bring myself to do it so I adopted a similar word as a replacement only to learn later that this word was perhaps more offensive.

I ran up against the same problem with Kros: Hallowed Ground. It’s set during the Civil War and the word would have been used. At first, I was inclined to use it but I had long talks with my partners, Tom Mandrake and Jan Duursema. They made the point that the word was jarring when you came across it and that it might well offend some of our backers, black and white. In the end, I agreed we shouldn’t use that word and didn’t.

The question still remains for me; can I as a white male writer justifiably use such a loaded word?

There’s the Mark Twain example who made prolific use of the “n” word; one of his great characters in Huck Finn is “N” Jim. I know there are versions of the book in which all the “N” words have been removed. I’m not nuts about that. There is a term “Bowdlerize” which denotes going through a text, especially a classic, and removing words and/or terms deemed offensive or not suitable for children and people easily offended. That raises my writerly hackles.

Still, the question persists – can a white male writer legitimately use the “n” word or the “c” word or any other words of that ilk? I don’t know. I’m still searching for that answer and I suspect I won’t find a definitive one.

Maher, for his part, realizes he went too far and did apologize for it. He devoted a considerable part of his show this week in a discussion of the term, repeating his apology. Ice Cube, among others, explained why the word is objectionable in ways that might expand our understanding of the situation.

However, there have been those who have called for him to be fired. I understand that Sen. Al Franken canceled a scheduled appearance on Real Time this week. Franken was formerly a comic, sometimes an edgy one, but he’s cutting no slack here.

Both Maher and Kathy Griffin (who got herself in trouble with a photo holding up a severed head of Trump) make edginess part of their routines. The edge, however, is not well marked and at times the only way you know where it is is when you’ve gone over it. And, at times, you’ll go past it at 100 mph.

To say the “N,” if you’re white, is never right. As a writer, as a white male writer, can I ever write it? I don’t know and until I have a clearer answer, I won’t. I may never get that.

Life would be simpler if it just came with a clearer book of instructions. Something simple and easy, in clear black and white.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE

Diana Vacc sees the Last 2 Episodes of ‘Prison Break’ Season 5

by Diana Vaccarelli

NOTE FROM LB: TVWriter™ critic-at-large Diana Vaccarelli has been covering Prison Break all season, but events conspired against her most recent observations getting up and running here in a timely fashion, i.e., before Prison Break’s short season ended.

So here are her last two reviews of the show,  along with our apologies to Diana for dropping the ball:

Diana Vacc sees Prison Break Episode 7 “Wine Dark Seas”

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT–

On May 16, 2017, Prison Break “Wine Dark Seas” aired.  This episode is one of the most pivotal of the season as it reunites Michael with his long lost wife Sara.

THE GOOD:

  • The emotional tension that actors Wentworth Miller and Sarah Wayne Callies bring to the reunion scene is breathtaking.  Watching it solidified why I remain a Prison Break fan despite its various lapses.
  • The tears Michael (Miller) sheds while Sara shows him pictures of his son are excruciating painful, especially for any viewer who also has missed having time with a child…or parent.
  • Loved – absolutely loved – that Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) returned. He was and remains one of my favorites in the series.

THE BAD:

  • The predictability that Jacob, Sara’a new husband is our main villain Poseidon.  Nothing new here because this fact was revealed a few episodes ago when T-Bag caught him.  And even then, well, of course the new hubby is the Big Bad. Sheesh.
  • I do believe and agree with certain people in the my life (you know who you are) who also watch Prison Break that it would have been a lot more interesting if the villain was someone from the past and Jacob was working with them, or if Sara’s friend Heather was really Poseidon. Either of those events would have given us the missing twist and shock.

THE REST:

  • Prison Break will and still remains one of my all time favs even though this season continues to lack a major strength of seasons past – the shock factor.

EDITED TO ADD: Just as I finished typing this review I learned that Prison Break is not yet renewed or cancelled for another season. Hopefully it ends on a high and returns stronger and better.


Diana Vacc sees Prison Break Finale “Behind the Eyes”

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT–

On May 31, 2017, Prison Break Season 5 Finale “Behind the Eyes” aired.  The finale follows the continued threat of Poseidon aka Jacob Ness to Michael and Lincoln as they fight to save Sara and young Mike.

THE GOOD:

  • Gut-wrenching surprises kept me on my toes.  The opening of the episode has one of the CIA Agents who is after Michael defend him, and as a result his partner shoots and kills him. My mouth literally gaped in shock.
  • My favorite moment was Michael standing in front of a security camera, holding up his hands to reveal his tattoo is the face of his enemy Jacob Ness. It was cool and original.
  • I loved the change in our original villain T-Bag (Robert Knepper). His character has evolved and grown throughout the season.  In this ep he learns that he has a son, and because of that he decides to help Michael bring down Ness.
  • The greatest moment of the series is the end, when Ness is in our original prison, Fox River, and his cellmate is T-Bag.  After the death of his son, T-Bag is out for vengeance, and all you hear as the shot fades away is Ness’ scream. Perfect ending with tribute to the first season.
  • The conclusion of the show was exactly what it should be. Michael Scofield watching his family in the park, reflecting on his life and how finally is free.

THE BAD:

  • What bad? I never thought I would say this, but this was one of my favorite television finales of all time. Why isn’t it the favorite? Because nothing, absolutely nothing, will beat the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sorry, Prison Break producers.

THE REST:

  • Just as I finished typing the above I learned that Prison Break is not being renewed. Sad day for me and fellow fans. I do have hope, however, since series creator Paul Scheuring has said that if there is another story to tell about the Prison Break family, they will be back.  IMHO, there will always be more to tell, so my fingers are crossed.

Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

Peggy Bechko on What Writers Eat – or Should

by Peggy Bechko

Okay, writers. I know I usually write about writing but today I’m going to write about food – food that’s good for your brain in particular. We’re all writers – we love our brains and want to take good care of them, right?

I thought so.

So I’m dedicating this week’s blog post to the foods that can do you great good in that area.

Don’t think this is silly, it’s for real stuff, backed up by research and everything. I do my share of writing and I do my share of eating, so follow along and think about how you might alter your diet to pep up that brain so it’ll come up with even better new ideas!

Memory!

Pomegranates. Yep, those things with all the seeds. The juice provides a potent antioxidant boost. And that means it’s great to eat to give your brain health a boost. Some studies even believe all those antioxidants are beneficial in treating animals with Alzheimer’s disease (we’re animals, right?).

And, if that’s not enough for you, eating pomegranates regularly can protect kidneys and liver not to mention boost your immune system (who has time to be sick when writing or when writing AND holding down a full-time job?). Then just for fun toss in they help reduce allergic reactions, balance your blood sugar, fight infections and aid in the protection against several cancers. All that in addition to your brain boost.

Sage is an herb, not a ‘food’, don’t leave it out of your seasonings. It also supplies a powerful brain boost. Hey, I’m not a chef here, but I sautee it in olive oil and toss it on pasta dishes. Yay fresh sage! Then there’s Rosemary with the proven ability to improve blood flow to the brain. Ahh, new blood, that’s a good thing.

Now here’s a great one – a least for me. I’m a blueberry lover. Used to pick ‘em in Michigan and sit under the bushes and eat them when I was a kid. These little guys are brain-healing powerhouses and recent research show blueberries can prevent or reverse age-related memory loss. That’s good news for writers for sure.

And to top it off, if you eat blueberries regularly (recommended at least ½ cup daily, five days a week) they boost the body’s production of Dopamine, the feel good chemical that helps us keep going.

Now I want to take a moment to mention celery. Bet you wouldn’t have thought of that. And here I’ve been snacking on the stuff for years. Turns out it’s a brain superfood. James Duke, who’s a world-renowned botanist, discovered celery and celery seeds contain more than 20 natural anti-inflammatory compounds including an extremely potent one.

The compounds help reduce brain inflammation that can occur as you get older which can result in memory lapses and brain decline. (Isn’t memory lapse a brain decline? Well, whatever, eat your celery.)

I know this could be sacrilege but writers, for the sake of your brain, you might consider replacing a little of that coffee with tea – yes, black, green and white tea all can contribute to a healthy brain.

Since we, as writers, are talking about brain health here, I can’t skip over walnuts. They’ just plain all around healthy for you. But did you notice the little guys look sorta like brains? Here’s the thing, eating only 1 to 1.5 oz of walnuts each day improves memory and learning ability – and at the same time stress levels are reduced (and writers can certainly benefit from stress reduction).

Research is additionally showing walnuts are possibly a preventive against Alzheimer’s. No doubt we’ll hear more on that. But for the moment improving memory and learning abilities is good for me.

Grab some grapes, spinach and olives too. Don’t forget the broccoli and avocado.

Did I mention fruit with stones in the? You know, like peaches, apricots, cherries and plums? Flavonoids protect and heal your brain and those babies have lots of them.

Then there’s salmon. I hate it. You might love it. For the writer’s brain it’s a real boost. The omega-3 fatty acids keep your brain running smoothly and brain fog at bay. Just 4 ounces does the trick. I still hate it.

On the other hand I love dark chocolate. A minimum of 70% cocoa is no problem for me. Love the stuff and the benefits are helping to keep blood pressure down and increasing the amount of blood that flows to brain and heart. Sounds good to me!

And lastly I’m going to mention beets here. Many people feel about them like I feel about salmon, but here it is. Beets reduce inflammation and cut your odds of getting cancer. They clean toxins from your blood and at the same time increase blood flow to your brain. They increase mental abilities and raise energy levels. Seriously, time to find ways to eat these things that taste really good.

So I guess the take-away here is improve your diet, improve your brain…and all the rest of you too.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.