John Ostrander: The Family of Sociopaths

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by John Ostrander Commercials are the point of commercial TV. I realize that, for those of you who do only streaming services, this concept may seem a bit foreign, but your monthly fees take the place of paid commercials, assuming the streaming service isn’t double-dipping. Advertisers buy time to pitch products and/or services and/or whatever […]


Found on the Interwebs

by David Perlis

And stick to it.

That’s the moral, and it’s what I’m trying to remind myself as I move forward on my new project. These things always sound easy, but without a Post-It on every surface of your abode, reminding you what your story’s heart is, you may find yourself with great plot and great characters, but they’re bound to fizzle out at some point. That’s what I think, anyway.

I like examining Breaking Bad. (By the way, my exhibits are almost always Breaking Bad. It just works, man.)

Breaking Bad sets you up with some pretty brilliant stakes: terminal cancer on one end, and the threat of prison on the other. Not a lot of wiggle room for good things to happen here. But how Vince Gilligan and his writers deal with the cancer part is what I find really interesting. Do they give Walt life scare after life scare with his diagnosis? Do they bring in his ex girlfriend whom he left at the altar to be his head doc? Accidentally give him an infected blood transfusion, or mix his chart up with someone else’s? Does Walt have an allergic reaction to the meds, which leaves him in a wheelchair? I admit, all of these things sound a bit “jump-the-sharky,” but they would definitely ratchet up the drama.

Nope. Instead, they hardly address the cancer at all. Sure, a few scenes in the early episodes, ’cause you can’t not talk about it, but the writers (being pros) knew what this show was—and more importantly, wasn’t—about.

It’s about reaching the breaking point. It’s about our ability to justify the unjustifiable. It’s about doing the wrong things for the right reasons. It’s about our need to be important. To be respected. To be good. It’s about every man being capable of absolute evil. It’s about “turning Mr. Chips into Scarface.” (Which was how Mr. G. always pitched it.) It’s not about overcoming cancer. Walt’s diagnosis in ep. 1 was a great catalyst for morphing him into Heisenberg, but that’s all it ever needed to be.

Now, if you were in Breaking Bad’s writer’s room, would you have intuitively left the cancer thread by the side of the road way back when? I know I wouldn’t have. Long story short: That, Mom, is is why I’ve got “Ignore the cancer” Post-Its papering my toilet tank.

David Perlis is a screenwriter and former People’s Pilot Finalist doing his best to break into the even Bigger Time. This post first appeared on his very helpful blog.

John Ostrander: Riding With The King

 by John Ostrander

Two Mondays ago was the 100th birthday of the King o’ Comics, Jack Kirby. The young’uns among you might not know the name (or maybe they do; I try not to be a fuddy-duddy most days) but Kirby was a force unparalleled in the comics medium. If you need a primer, Mike Gold wrote an excellent column about him.

Even if you know Marvel only from the movies, you owe him. Captain America? Jack. The X-Men? Jack. The Black Panther? Jack. The Avengers? Jack. And so on and so forth. And not just at Marvel; King Kirby seemed to be everywhere. And not just superheroes; he did Westerns, monsters, romance. And so on and so forth.

I met him in person exactly once.

The first thing I need to explain is that, before I became a professional writer in comics, I was a bonafide geek. Yeah, I still am.

One of the big thrills when I first started was that at conventions I could meet my heroes as a fellow professional. In theory. Not as a peer; that suggested I was an equal and that was not how I felt.

So – it’s early in my career and I’m working the First Comics booth at the Chicago Comicon along with my wife, Kim Yale. We were the only ones working the booth at that moment. It wasn’t in the main room and we weren’t getting much traffic.

Then this small group of people walk by, talking among themselves, and in the middle of it is Jack Kirby.


(Point of historical accuracy: Back some 30 or so years ago when this story takes place, we never said “OMG!,” at least not in the Midwest. I just wanted to convey the impact of the moment in modern terms.)

Kim later said she watched me turn into a 14-year old fanboy complete with zits. I can’t imagine that was pleasant.

In the group, I spotted Julie Schwartz, himself a legend and an icon. There’d be no Silver Age DC without Julie. Possibly no modern comics industry.

I knew Julie a little through Mike Gold so I hiss at him, “Julie! Hey, Julie! Hey!”

Julie spots me and ambles over. “Hey, kid, how ya doin’?”

“Julie! Introduce me to the King!” I plead.

Julie looks at me like I’m demented and maybe, at the moment, I am. “It’s Jack,” he tells me. “Just go over and say hi.”

“No no no no no! I can’t I can’t I can’t! Don’t you see?! He’s the King!” “Hey, Julie! Help a guy out!”

Julie gives me a pitying look and says, “C’mon, kid.”

I walk over to the group with Julie and he does a nice intro of me. The King shakes my hand, says “HiHowareya.” I babble something about what an honor gee you’re my hero blah blah blah. And it’s over. The King and his group move on.

I wish I could say that I never washed that hand again but Kim would have insisted.

I doubt very much that the moment would have stayed with Jack Kirby but it has stayed with me in vivid detail for a couple of decades. Over the past few years, I’ve met some fans who treat me sort of like I treated Jack. (Trust me, gang; I’m not that impressive and I can give you references.) There was only one Jack Kirby and there will ever be only one Jack Kirby and he just turned 100.

Happy 100th, Jack. Long live the King.

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

Gerry Conway Remembers Len Wein

Len Wein and some actor Len’s brainchild, Wolverine, helped make famous

NOTE FROM LB: Len Wein passed away Sunday. You may not know the name, but Len was an integral part of the Marvel Universe as well as humanity at large. On Twitter, Joss Whedon  set out the facts: “Co-created Wolverine & the new X-men. Co-kickstarted the modern comic book era with its most powerful metaphor. And more. RIP Len Wein.” But as far as I’m concerned, it’s the human side that counts. Here’s how Gerry Conway puts it:

by Gerry Conway

Mr. Wein & Mr. Conway

My friend Len Wein is gone.

I’m trying to process this. I’ve known Len since I was fourteen years old. More than half a century. He was as much a part of my life as my own family. He felt like a brother to me, and I loved him like a brother – with all the complicated emotions of brotherhood. We were friends, rivals, collaborators, roommates, cohorts in a generational changing of the guard, fanboys, old farts. At times we were very close, at other times we were almost enemies. We hurt each other, helped each other. We had ups and downs and we stood together and apart. But he was always there, someone I looked up to, someone I tried to emulate, a man I loved, admired, envied, and respected.

Now he’s gone. There’s a hole in my life. I knew it was coming – anyone who spent time with Len these last few years knew it was coming – but it’s still a shock. The world feels like an open wound. I’ve been fighting tears for the last hour. I understand what the word bereft means. I’m bereft.

My heart goes out to Christine. No man could have had a more loving and stronger partner than Len had in Christine. I marvel at her strength, her will, her love. She was a fierce fighter on his behalf. Len was lucky to have her with him for so many years, and especially these last few years.

My friend is gone.

I’m heartbroken.

Gerry Conway is one of the Kings of TV and film and comic book writing and also one of our Beloved Leader Larry Brody’s longest-lasting and closest friends. Everybody who comes to TVWriter™ should be reading his insightful blog, where this article first appeared. Learn more about Gerry HERE.

David Perlis: COVER LETTER TIME – Yikes!!!


Who needs a button when we have ourselves?

by David Perlis

Last week I applied for a position at BOOM! Studios. Here is my cover letter:

Dear F K,

Five months ago I moved to Los Angeles to pursue writing for comics/cartoons. It must be my Sagittarius good fortune, then, that not one hour after leaving my job selling T-Mobile plans (a profession with all the creativity and warmth of a North Korean glue factory), I stumbled upon your ad for the open assistant position.

Not only has my six-year-old love for comics continued well into my adult life, I have several years experience with database management, document design, and working with teams in project management. However, seeing that your ad was posted nearly three weeks ago, I know that I am behind in getting my application to you. To save time, the following has been pasted from my OkCupid profile, and adjusted as necessary:

Hello, ladiiiiiiiies esteemed managers and directors of BOOM! Studios,

I am looking for someone who is both down-to-earth and passionate fast-paced work in a creative environment. I studied creative writing in school, and now spend my days drinking coffee and thinking about plot structure calculating how to best use my expertise in proofreading and organization to further grow BOOM! I don’t eat meat office supplies, but if you do, that’s no problem. To each their own, I always say.

I believe the best book I ever read was Kafka on the Shore, and now I want to go to Japan.  bring the same flair for creativity and ingenuity to BOOM! that Murakami incorporates in his writing. I also loved Ed Catmull’s Creativity Inc. If you’ve not read it, I will bring my copy to my interview.

I’ve never lived in a quiet mountain town, but boy do I like the idea. been late to work.

For the past few years I’ve worked in administration at charter schools, while writing my own cartoons on the side. I also read math and economics textbooks. Yes—I’m serious, and yes—I’m that guy.

But I know what you’re thinking: Why should you date hire me? For starters, I always tuck my shirts in, and trim my nose hairs refill the paper when the copy machine runs out. This is just one example of my proactive attitude. Furthermore, I make great pies use of the Google drive system, which I believe strengthens communications, collaborations, and overall team workflow.

I begin my days with Renee Montagne, Steve Inskeep, and David Greene by asking not what BOOM! can do for me, but what I can do for BOOM!. I end them with bebop and new age Pandora stations a review of my day’s performance, and a plan for my next day. If you contact my references, I am certain they will support these claims. And if I had a million dollars, I’d spend my days driving across the country and blogging about every cafe or used book store I could find. I would also buy one of those things that lets you play your phone through your car speaker, so I could finally appreciate my This American Life app to its full extent. And I believe that sometimes there’s nothing better than eating a piece of pie in the middle of the night at Mels Diner, and contemplating the life and the universe, and wondering what the next cool Lego set will be.

I love peaches updating spreadsheets.

I loathe Donald Trump.

I look forward to speaking more with you soon, and learning how I can best contribute to the growth and success of your company.

Most sincerely,

David Perlis

BOOM! Studios has yet to contact me.

NOTE FROM MUNCHMAN: Keep up the great work, David. You’re an inspiration to TVWriter™ minions everywhere!

David Perlis is a screenwriter and former People’s Pilot Finalist doing his best to break into the even Bigger Time. This post first appeared on his very helpful blog.

John Ostrander: Should This Man Be Considered A Role Model?

by John Ostrander

“I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me.”

—Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1

Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is credited with writing strong female roles and espousing feminist ideals – but not by his ex-wife, Kai Cole, who on the blog The Wrap accused him of being a serial cheater during their marriage and was a “hypocrite preaching feminist ideals.” This has led to a number of (now ex) fans venting their anger and feelings of betrayal.

Is it true? I dunno. I don’t know Whedon and Cole personally. Could she be lying? Possibly. Could he be an asshole? Possibly. It’s not the point of this column, however. The question I want to consider is – should Whedon, or any artist or celebrity, be considered a role model?

A role model is someone who is held up as an example to be emulated. They can come from any walk of life; indeed, they don’t have to be living or real. Isn’t Superman a role model? Sherlock Holmes? Wonder Woman?

Barack Obama is a role model to many, although probably not to those who think of Donald Trump as a role model (shudder).

Charles Barkley once famously said, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” He caught a lot of flak for that at the time but I tend to agree. The work can and must exist apart from its creator. Edgar Allan Poe was a drug addict. Picasso had multiple mistresses. Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, lived with both his wife and a lover in the same house. Bill Cosby was a role model and look at how that turned out.

Who should be role models? Parents, siblings, family, teachers – anyone who has a direct and actual effect on the child’s life.

I once had my character GrimJack shoot a character in the back, an act that offended some fans including some that were my friends. My defense was that I never said Gaunt was a role model. He wasn’t; he was an anti-hero from the get-go.

Who the creator is goes into the work but, if it has substance, the work can and must stand apart from the creator. The two ultimately must be judged separately.

As Barkley’s quote above suggests, many who are called role models never sought that job. Perhaps it just comes with the territory. Barkley, like others, made his name into a “brand”; he made the Nike commercial where he gave that quote because it was perceived that he had influence with the buying public. Perhaps being a role model is part of the price for the individual.

Maybe the complaint with Whedon is that he sought to be seen as a feminist. He gave a speech to a women’s rights group, Equality Now, on receiving an award from them, and in it he noted that reporters would ask him why he insisted on writing “strong female characters”. He would reply, “Why aren’t you asking a hundred other guys why they don’t write strong women characters? I believe that what I’m doing should not be remarked upon, let alone honored.”

Given how he treated his wife, does that make him a hypocrite? Or could he be sincere in his feelings even while he is cheating? Isn’t what he said still true? Does it have to be all one thing or the other? In characters that I write, I look for opposites because that’s where I find true character lies.

As I said, I don’t know Whedon or Ms. Cole personally. Based on what she has said, will I stop going to see his films or enjoy Buffy or Firefly? No. The work is the work and stands on its own.

Even if the creator is a SOB

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

Peggy Bechko on What a Synopsis IS & What It ISN’T

  by Peggy Bechko

Found at WritersRelief.Com

I hear it all the time:
“Do I have to write a synopsis?”
“Why do I have to write a synopsis?”
“What the heck is a synopsis?”

“Yes you do.”
“You better do a little research – seriously.”

Okay, plainly a synopsis can be a very different animal for every writer. But who it is for doesn’t change. It’s for the reader whether a script reader or a novel reader. It has to be short, succinct and really hook ‘em.

Think about it. Script Readers and Editors are buried. Their workloads are tremendous. There are readers who actually tackle two or more scripts and many synopses each day. There are editors who plow through mountains of manuscripts. There are lots of producers out there as well who check out a logline and a synopsis before they decide if they want to read a script…or not. (It’s the ‘or not’ you want to avoid.)

If you’re writing to script or to novel the synopsis is a bit different, but not a lot. The fact is the synopsis could clearly lay down the main story from beginning to end. Yep, even to the ‘spoiler’ of an ending. You, as the writer, must compel the reader to read that script or that manuscript.

So, what your synopsis isn’t is what might be stuck inside a book jacket or a couple of sentence description that could be found in a TV Guide. It’s not just a tease, it’s an attention grabbing selling tool.

So, let’s focus on what we need in a synopsis for a script. You’re selling a story. The story is the main element. And character. The mixing of plot and character. Hit the plot right away. You don’t need flowery language and you can’t get across the meanderings of the characters’ minds. On the other hand you don’t want it to be so short and dry it could be something your newspaper types in with the channel listings for TV.

Focus on this. Script readers read a whole lot of scripts and because of that they’ve seen a lot. So you’re not going to be able to hook one with a bit of a teaser on the premise of your story. They’ve probably heard that before. Walk the reader through the story. The question is, can you, the writer, tie a whole story together, beginning, middle and end. You don’t’ stop in the middle. Readers of scripts (and yes manuscripts as well) want to know how a story unfolds.

You can tell a quick story with action verbs. You can set it up act by act in several paragraphs. There are lots of stories that begin with a bank robbery or a kidnapping or a suicide so the trick is to give the reader the meat. What happens next? What choices do the characters make? What’s behind it all? And yes, how does it all come together in the end?

Okay, so how long should this thing be? Generally about a page, tops. Sort of between 200 and 400 words, give or take a little.

So, the basics.

Establish the story’s characters, the story’s main conflict and the incident that triggers the story. Then comes the meat. Who’s the antagonist(s). What are the big plot twists? In other words save scene descriptions for your scripts and focus here on the main storyline. Then wrap it all up with how the main character has changed…or didn’t…and what the resolution is to the story.

This all applies to manuscripts as well though there’s a bit more room for some of that colorful language and maybe some thought exploration though the length constriction doesn’t allow for much.

So, go forth and create a stunning synopsis…and don’t forget the amazing logline as well.

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.