Why You Should Care About Commas

Speaking of grammar, as we were just a minute ago, Arika Okrent, the world’s pithiest grammarian, is back with one minute and 42 seconds of knowledge every writer should have.

On your mark, get set, GO!

More about Arika, YouTube’s Patron Saint of Wordsmiths

Writing Stronger Sentences

That’s what you want to do, isn’t it? Build up your word muscles and write strong sentences? Ah, we knew it! Here’s a short article that addresses the situation. Or to put it more clearly: Here’s how to write sentence that work:

Write Stronger Sentences With the 2-3-1 Trick
by Nick Douglas

In my six semesters as an English major, this is the best thing I learned: When in doubt, put the best bit of a sentence at the end, the next-best bit at the beginning, and the rest in the middle. So in order of bestness, that’s 2, then 3, then 1.

What’s the “best bit”? It might be the bit that sounds prettiest. It might be the bit that gets at your larger point. It might be the most specific or surprising word.

It might only be the “best bit” in the context of the rest of the sentence. In his book How to Write a Sentence, Stanley Fish praises this opening line, from a student’s essay:

I was already on the second floor when I heard about the box.

On its own, “the box” is a mundane phrase, but that’s what gives it so much power here. By the time you read “when I heard about,” you’re more ready for an ending like “Mother’s death” or “the explosion.” No, it’s a box! The box! What’s in that box!?

Most sentences you write, you won’t bother parsing out like this. The 2-3-1 structure does its best work in opening lines. Like the opening line of One Hundred Years of Solitude….

Read it all at Lifehacker

Diana Vacc sees “The Alienist”

Nothing is happening here, which doesn’t change the fact that this could be the most exciting image in the series!

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

This winter TNT premiered The Alienist, a 10 episode series that showing what police work was like before the turn of the 20th Century

Set in 1896, this psychological thriller centers around the murder of a young prostitute boy. The event brings together an Alienist (at the time the term for certain experts on mental illness), a newspaper illustrator, a secretary, and Theodore Roosevelt in the job he actually had at the time, New York City Police Commissioner, all working to solve this brutal crime.

THE GOOD:

  • I always find something good about what I view. But while I was attracted to the show after learning of its historical premise and use of real people like Teddy Roosevelt as character, once I started watching I could not find one single thing to enjoy.

THE BAD:

  • First, the way the show is shot is ugly, murky, and so difficult to see that it seems deliberate.
  • Much of the “action” is similarly ugly but, unfortunately, not murky enough to keep me from seeing it.
  • The performances are very disappointing.  With a cast led by Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning, I was anticipating fascinating characters with meaningful development arcs. At the very least, I hoped to find something about each character to I care about. But that was not to be. The acting is dry, dull, and monotonous, with none of the actors exhibiting the slightest hint of emotion, or eliciting any emotion in me.
  • Based on a best selling series of books by Caleb Carr, and billed as an “Event Series, The Alienist is probably the most uneventful TV series since The Arthur Godfry Show” back in television’s infancy. Writers Hossein Amini, Caleb Carr, E. Max Frye, Cary Joji Fukunaga, and Gina Gionfriddo wrote scripts that are dull, boring, and did not move the story along. Watching The Alienist was like watching a caterpillar making its away across a leaf in slow motion, except that caterpillars are at least fuzzy and cute. These episodes drag on and on and on. It got so that I gave up on wanting anything exciting to happen and just hope that something would happen, period. And no, that too wasn’t to be.
  • Gina Gionfriddo produced Law & Order, one of my all time favorite shows.  Having her on board was truly exciting for me, however, the show fell short of any expectations I had.

THE REST:

With a heavy heart I find it hard to recommend that anyone watch this show. The Alienist has left me totally alienated.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and TVWriter™ University grad. Find out more about her HERE

How to Get a Pitch Meeting When You’re New & Unknown

Who among us hasn’t asked the question that is the headline of this post? And who among us has found a good answer?

Maybe, just maybe, you have. Right here and now, courtesy of this instructive video from Scott Kirkpatrick found on Film Courage’s YouTube Channel:

Scott’s book, Writing for the Green Light: How to Make Your Script the One Hollywood Notices is HERE

In This Corner, TV. In That Corner…The Working Class?

What’s that you said? “Why won’t TV show people who aren’t rich?” It’s a good question, especially for this aging TVWriter™ minion who as a proud Gen Xer can uncategorically state, “Because was ever thus.”

Luckily for all of us, here’s an article that explains it much better:

by Joanna Weiss

[The year 2017 marked] the final season of what might be the most underappreciated sitcom on TV, ABC’s “The Middle.” It’s a single-camera show about an Indiana family—the title refers to its characters’ Middle-American, middle-class existence—and unlike the edgy comedies and tear-jerker dramas that dominate awards time, its humor is unapologetically middlebrow. But “The Middle” is charming, appealing and funny, in no small part because it has another distinction: It’s one of a precious few shows on TV today that focuses, consistently and honestly, on economic anxiety.

If there were ever a time to double down on stories of the American middle-class struggle, this is it. We’re in the midst of a new Gilded Age, with soaring inequality and stagnant wages—the phenomena that helped make Donald Trump president. We’re also enjoying a golden age of TV, with more networks and platforms creating more scripted shows than ever.

Plenty of smart, acclaimed series have tackled complex social themes with sophistication and sensitivity—think “The Wire” for the urban drug war; “Mad Men” for gender; “Atlanta,” “Black-ish” and “Insecure” for race; “Master of None” for the Muslim-American experience. Even “Game of Thrones” teaches real-world lessons about politics and power. At its best, television holds up a mirror to society and helps us better understand who we are. So the dearth of shows that focus on financial insecurity feels especially glaring.

That’s especially true given the power of the medium, with its intimacy and its leisurely, unfolding storylines, to reshape perceptions of our culture. Socially conscious television producers have long used their scripts to powerful effect. Norman Lear explored America’s racial and social turmoil in “All in the Family,” which set up Archie Bunker, in his armchair throne, as a ’70s-era avatar of the MAGA spirit.

A few years later, Lear produced “Good Times,” the first sitcom that featured an African-American family. It was set in a Chicago housing project, and its theme song was a tart, ironic ode to economic struggle: “Temporary layoffs (Good Times!) Easy credit rip-offs (Good Times!)” In 1998, well before gay marriage became the norm, “Will & Grace” used comedy to pave the way for acceptance.

But Will and Grace were a corporate lawyer and an interior decorator, highlighting this dissonance: Often, on TV, social issues get a full exploration while economic issues are brushed aside. For every Al Bundy selling shoes or Roseanne Conner on a factory line, there have been dozens of shows that peddle material aspiration and the pleasures of real estate porn.

This is the cultural soup we grow up in: As a kid in the ’80s, I spent too many evenings glued to “Diff’rent Strokes,” the cross-racial adoption fantasy that plunked two boys from Harlem on Park Avenue, and “Silver Spoons,” about a father and son who traversed their family mansion on a life-sized toy train. Little had changed by the aughts, when my daughter was binge-watching Disney Channel sitcoms set in penthouses and on yachts—along with a show called “Good Luck Charlie,” about an exterminator, a nurse and their family, who lived in Denver in a house that seemed only a wee bit smaller than Buckingham Palace….

Read it all at Politico

Web Series: ‘A Tell Tale Vlog’

What can we say after we’ve said this:

“Edgar Allan Poe attempts to keep a writing vlog while Lenore the Lady Ghost haunts his study.”

And if that logline isn’t enough in itself, here’s the first episode (which will take less time to watch than it took this TVWriter™ minion’s ex to read that very same logline:

Actually, that’s all the episodes because loops, know what I’m saying? A Tell Tale Vlog just keeps on churning episode after episode, strong and steady and funny. And all you’ve got to do is sit back and laugh.

To put it another way:

Another reason we love web series!

Munchman: The Best Place on the Web to Learn about TV Writing – Even If You Can’t Read!

How about that headline? Clickbait or fact, what do you think?

Take a look and then let me know:

Truth to tell, el munchero found Gray Jones’ YouTube channel a very helpful site indeed, and – maybe more importantly – its very existence in this way, shape and form points out something every writer needs to know:

The most important thing you can learn about making it as a television writer is HOW TO SELL!

Damn, I wish I had a voice like Gray Jones.

That’s it, kids, yer friendly neighborhood munchman’s gotta go before I completely, helplessly, hopelessly, superlatively crack up.

Seeya,

munchman!