Have You Read Captain Picard’s Autobiography Yet?

Did you know that everybody’s ideal father, Jean-Luc Picard himself, has written an autobiography? We’re guessing not because let’s be real. Anybody who did know would have read it already, right? Here’s the skinny about Picard and a host of other TV legends, straight from the mouth of the captain’s ghostwriter, David A. Goodman, himself:

David A. Goodman, the man behind The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard

by Adam Dileo

David A. Goodman is, among other things, a Star Trek TV writer and a lifelong fan. He’s also written for shows like The Golden Girls, Futurama (he wrote the great Star Trek episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”), and Family Guy, where he was also the head writer for years. But now he has a new book out, The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard, which serves as a follow-up to his James T. Kirk “autobiography” from a couple of years ago.

I jumped on the phone to speak to Goodman about the Picard book, and along the way we discussed the parts of Picard’s life not depicted in the show and movies, the captain’s greatest achievements and biggest regrets, and even the merits of the latest descendants of Trek on TV — The Orville versus Star Trek: Discovery.

IGN: You’ve written for Star Trek: Enterprise in the past and now you’re working on The Orville as an executive producer and writer. Have you been watching Star Trek: Discovery?

David Goodman: Yes, I think it’s great. They clearly have a reverence for the canon and Star Trek has gone through a lot of iterations and I appreciate what these writers are doing. I think this is interesting; these are really smart, talented writers and a great cast doing something really interesting. I’m enjoying it.

IGN: Some fans who are not thrilled with Discovery so far have been saying things on the internet like “The Orville is the closest thing to Star Trek on TV right now, not Discovery.”

DG: The older Star Treks, The Original Series and Next Generation, were obviously enormously popular with Star Trek fans but they were also television for general audiences. You could turn on those shows with no knowledge of Star Trek and jump in and understand what was going on and enjoy it. And that’s what The Orville has in common with those shows. Fans are actually picking up on something but it’s not the idea that it’s just like Star Trek. It’s that it’s a show in this vein on a spaceship, which has some similarities, but that is also meant for a general audience.

IGN: You’ve written three Star Trek historical fiction books: Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years, The Autobiography of James T. Kirk and now The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard. What’s your approach to creating these stories?

DG: In the Kirk book it was about his father and being a father. And in the Picard book it was his relationship with his father and brother and then his longing for Beverly Crusher, which was only mentioned in a seventh season episode, that he was in love with her….

Read it all at IGN.Com

Peggy Bechko: Writers vs. The Demon Named Negativity

by Peggy Bechko

There’s a whole lot of psychological stuff associated with being a writer. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not being good enough and a host of other self-defeating head games we might play with ourselves. But of them all, probably the worst is some kind of self-sabotage. And self-sabotage can be hiding in a lot of places. It’s kinda tricky to pin down.

One time where it gets drawn out of hiding is when the intrepid writer decides to offer his or her work to the world. First of all, that’s a big step. There are many writers who hide their work away. Some never let it see the light of day. But, for those who do, they’re frequently confronted with the “I’m not good enough” syndrome.

Part of that writer, and I think we’ve all been there, knows darn well he’s possessed with the skills and talent to create amazing worlds. To tell stories in a powerful way. And yet, there’s that other part of the born storyteller, the part that tries to convince her she can’t possibly succeed. Not really. She’s not worthy, not a good writer of novels or scripts or whatever, not really.

It’s a bummer. And, the inner critic who just won’t shut up can eventually paralyze the unwary writer.

It’s up to the determined and talented writer to put a stop to all that. When that inner critic attacks, it’s time to pause and consider. What if (we all love ‘what if’ don’t we?) that inner critic is full of it you, the writer, can retort. What if what you’ve written is bestseller material or a movie blockbuster script? Hmmm. That ‘what if’ is just as plausible as the one that tries to make you think you’re not worthy. Talk back to that inner fear-monger and tell him/her/it to shut up.

And here’s another thing. Are you selfish? Yeah, I know, our mothers taught us to share, to give of ourselves, our time, our money, whatever, and to put others ahead of ourselves. Women are even more restrained by this idea of a ‘good girl’ than a man is hindered by being unselfish.  Now, here’s another aspect. Writers, generally are intuitive, sensitive, and very conscious of the world around them. As writers, we frequently find ourselves in situations where we just naturally give. And all that is good.

But, we need to be a little selfish, to preserve chunks of ourselves to allow for great writing. We need to teach ourselves that it’s okay to say no and to set boundaries. It’s not possible for a person to always put themselves last and to have something left over to actually pursue things important to them.

The “everybody comes first” attitude means that the writer is left with the very least. There’s little writing time allowed. Errands not really our own consume energy needed for great thinking. If, as a writer, you’re not being selfish enough to let others around you know your inner resources are limited and you must put a stop to those many demands that sap all energy, creativity and time, then you’ll be left with nothing.

The solution is both difficult and simple. Difficult because of our little inner voices that complain when we decide to do something hard like saying no, but as simple as just saying that no. Keep in mind that tending to your own needs isn’t a negative thing. You’re not a ‘bad’ person because you say no and speak up for what you need.

Work at becoming conscious of what you’re doing and directly fend off psychological traps. Nurture your creativity and yourself.

Finally, I’ll give a little wave and a nod toward that all-time favorite of writers – procrastination. Come on now, we’ve all been guilty of it. Nothing eats up writing time like it. I’m not going into a long definition and all the details of self-help. You know what you’re doing when you’re doing it. So stop it. Focus. Write.

My advice after all this? Take a few moments to really analyze what you do, then take definite action to fend those psychological demons off.

You can do it and your writing will soar because you did.

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.

The Ultimate Writing Mixtape

Never let is be said that TVWriter™ doesn’t give you all the important stuff when it comes to writing, creativity, and all those other great hashtaggy things:

by Robert Lee Brewer

Recently, I had iTunes on random and a couple songs played back-to-back that had lines about writing. It didn’t take long for me to wonder, “What are the best songs for writers and about writing?” So I started making my own list, and I put out a call on Facebook and Twitter (find my handles below if you love being part of such conversations).

Anyway, this post puts together my ultimate writing mixtape of the best 20 songs for and about writers and the process of writing. Sure, there are many other great songs about the subject, and please share them in the comments below. But this is the mix I’m going to start rocking on my way to and from writer conferences, open mics, and writing retreats.

20 Best Songs for Writers and About Writing Mixtape

Track 1: “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” by Fats Waller

This is the perfect intro track with a bit of an instrumental opening before getting into the lyrics, which include, “I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter and make believe it came from you.” The song was composed by Fred E. Ahlert and Joe Young in 1935 and made popular by Waller. But it’s been covered by a range of artists, including Billy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat “King” Cole, Willie Nelson, Anne Murray, Linda Scott, and Paul McCartney–just to name a few.

Track 2: “I Could Write a Book,” by Dinah Washington

There are two ways to make a transition on a mixtape: smooth or jarring. Both are effective, but I prefer smooth early on in a mix. Enter this wonderful version of “I Could Write a Book,” which was a tune in the Rodgers & Hart 1940 musical Pal Joey. I first heard Harry Connick’s version from When Harry Met Sally…, but a range of artists have performed this song as well, including Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, and Miles Davis.

Track 3: “Dancing in the Dark,” by Bruce Springsteen

According to the Boss, “you can’t start a fire without a spark.” So here we go. The biggest hit off the bestselling album (Born in the U.S.A.) of Bruce Springsteen’s career, “Dancing in the Dark” includes the line that he’s “sick of sitting around here trying to write this book.” Musically, this song jump starts the mix with synths, quick beats, and that fade out sax.

Track 4: “Write About Love,” by Belle and Sebastian

Anyone who has participated in either my April or November poem-a-day challenges knows how I feel about love poems. So of course, Belle and Sebastian’s song “Write About Love” from the album titled Write About Love had to make the cut. In addition to the writing theme, it keeps the upbeat momentum of the early mixtape.

Read it all – complete with videos of all the songs – at WritersDigest.Com

Peggy Bechko: Storytelling for Fun, Profit & More

by Peggy Bechko

With the holidays coming I’m thinking more in terms of curiosity and wonder than instruction. So I thought I’d write a bit about storytelling – it’s origins – what it all means. Uh, oh, I don’t think I’ll get philosophical, but well, you never know.

Storytelling comes in many forms. The written word (you know novels, articles, ‘fake’ news, short stories, all that) pictures (paintings, movies, photos, drawings, etc.) music, religion…they all tell stories.

But there is a beginning to it all. And in my view it’s a bit of a circle. We kinda went from pictures on the walls and grunts to printed books via the printing press and now back to pictures on the walls (movies) and grunts!

Truly it seems remarkable to me.

Nobody really knows who told the first story and when. After all, there was no one who could record the event so the mists of time have swallowed it up like it has so many things.

My personal opinion is that it probably started when a bunch of cave people were huddled around a fire inside a cave after an unsuccessful hunt and the guys were spinning stories within earshot of the women to explain away the absence of a mammoth for the pot.

Or maybe Ugh got himself bored by a tusk of something and somebody spun a tale about how brave he’d been, how close he’d gotten in his determination to fell the beast.

So they told stories – you know, just verbally. After all, they couldn’t write. But then along came the talented one who could create pictures of sorts on walls.

Ha! Now that’s storytelling! Think about the Lascaux Caves in southern France. The painting found in the cave go back to a time between 15,000 and 13,000 BC. Human and animals are represented and the pictures tell a story of hunting. Cool!

Okay, so here we are, a big-brained animal with this kind of scrawny body, especially compared to the large animals us skinny little folk want to bring down. Not to mention the big predators were pretty determined to get us. Survival was a great idea so people continued to work together and tell stories.

And I’ve discovered that stories were originally the key to our survival. Stories were intrinsic to how people formed tribes, and evolutionary biologist say stories and our ability to tell stories developed about the same time as grunts began to turn into words.

Before man began writing memory was all he had so he better be a good listener and keep things fairly straight in his retelling.

So who were the storytellers? People like priests, shamans, revered warriors, anyone who could pass along information in their stories that benefited the listener. Remember Gilgamesh? Written down now, but at first a story passed from the lips of one to the ears of others.

And, can you guess the earliest known record as to the origins of storytelling (besides cave paintings I mean)? It was the sons of Egyptian king Cheops who entertained their father with stories.

Myths, legends, fairy tales, the hero’s journey and epic adventures. All stories told and retold, then making their way to the printed page, they passed on wisdom and knowledge from early people, from one generation to the next. It appears humans are the only animals that create and tell stories, at least for now.

How we tell stories has changed drastically from the beginning. We’ve gone from cave painting to Shakespeare’s plays to novels and now to movies and YouTube clips. Today, people want stories because stories allow the reader or the moviegoer to sympathize with and relate to characters. To experience things outside of their everyday life. To imagine new worlds.

It’s amazing how the deeply ingrained desire to tell and absorb stories continues today and grows stronger, continuing its powerful impact on the way we live and how we see life.

So, who’s the storyteller now? You?

Time to get busy and write. Show us life. Give us hope.

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.

Time to Play ‘Taps’ for American Media?

A think piece that’s actually doing its job, AKA, the “vast wasteland” returns?

Tap Tap Tap
by John Bigs

We are now walking through a media desert.

While access to content is astronomically high, the content that we read is dead, lifeless, and derivative. Yes, I see the irony in posting my criticism of the state of online media on, well, online media, but I want to explore how we got here and what we can do about it.

We begin in about 1983.

The education necessary to interact with media of that era was at once very high – it took decades to learn to read some books and understand the context and importance – and wildly low. Hollywood, after decades of aiming at Baby Boomers who preferred neurotic Woody Allen and musicals over space aliens, were targeting younger demographics. Television was moving towards a younger audience with a plethora of Saturday morning cartoons elbowing Masterpiece Theatre and Dynasty off of the airwaves. For the first time, thanks to the success of Star Wars and its associated toys, the easy media was attacking its easiest target: kids.

It was in this era that the founders of the internet – the late-stage boomers like Gates, Jobs, and Berners-Lee – met the infant Gen Xers. They began to form their ideas about interactivity and used the tools available – screens, keyboards, and mice – to iterate up to our smartphones. A defining image for many of that era was the Magic Mirror. Children around the world watched Romper Room, a children’s show featuring a cheerful teacher and a group of smiling kids. The show itself was like a day at pre-school but at the end, when Miss Jean or Miss Nancy or Miss Rosemary (they had different hosts in different states) bid us all adieu, she would look into her Magic Mirror and enchant us.

“Romper, stomper, bomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play?” the hostess would intone.

The Mirror disappeared into a swirl colors that bled onto the whole screen. When the swirl was finished we were presented with the hostess looking at us through an empty frame. She called to us.

“I see Robert and Sally and Alex and John.” Parents would send in their children’s first names on their birthday but, if your name was in the daily list, you were ecstatic. After all, she saw you.

She knew we were watching. She spoke to us.

Deep stuff, to be sure, but listen: over the past two weeks I’ve seen two people actively “interacting” with Instagram. First there was was a young woman in Oman. She wore a conservative black Abaya and headscarf and she was using an iPhone in a crowded bus. Her interactivity style was simple: swipe down, double tap on something that looked nice, and continue. Tap tap, swipe, tap tap, swipe. Images rolled past of Bollywood stars and Arabic women. Movie posters, makeup ads, fashion, all of it received the same treatment. Tap tap, swipe. Tap tap, swipe. It was a way to pass the time on a boring bus ride but it epitomizes the state of interactivity today. She did not see as much as sip, taking in an undifferentiated stream of content….

Read it all at TechCrunch.Com

Charlie Kaufman’s Writing Advice

If you could follow the path and pick the brain of just one writer, who would it be? This TVWriter™ minion would go with Charlie Kaufman, writer of Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Adaptation over anybody else I can think of.

Here’s why:

Big gracias to BAFTA Guru for putting this on YouTube.


No trouble with these specs. They’re super cool.

by David Perlis

Charlie Chaplin supposedly once entered a  Chaplin look-alike contest—and lost. Badly. Maybe he had a cold that day…

Last weekend I shared a coffee with my friend Jeff Paul, another L.A. writer. When conversation turned to current projects, I mentioned I had put aside my pilots to work on a spec. I’d stopped writing specs two years ago, thinking that fresh material was paramount for today’s market. Hell, I’d also just rather write my own stories than fit a chapter into someone else’s. Y’know?

Nevertheless, 2018 is fast approaching, and that means another year of fellowships and contests that all rely on a solid spec. So, Why not? An opportunity is an opportunity. Jeff sipped his coffee with a nod. “Specs are certainly easier to write than pilots,” he said. I agreed.

Oh, how we eat our words.

Yes, with a spec you know your format. You know your characters. You know your locations, and your commercial breaks, and your recurring jokes, and, yes, you have the benefit of established through-lines and backstory. So how can a spec possibly be as hard a pilot?

A spec needs to both fit a mold and stand out—a fine line that can leave you second-guessing yourself into circles. Is it okay to deviate ever-so-slightly from your show’s tone so you can include your brilliant, Emmy-worthy ending? Or do you play it safe with something 100% form-fitting, yet uninspired?

Ideally, you can manage both, but even the writer’s room gets the benefit of staff meetings and script notes to help meet the visions of Marta Kauffman, David Milch, Vince Gilligan, Ann Biderman… But you’re writing for the staffer at Nickelodeon; the producer you met at Starbucks; to anyone and everyone who says, “Sure, I’ll take a look.” What are they looking for? You get one chance to get it right, and you better be more right than everyone else. Good luck.

Because for all you do know (characters, storylines, act breaks…), what you don’t know is your audience. Are they familiar with every detail of The Good Place, or have they just caught an episode here and there? Are they exhausted with Better Call Saul scripts, or is yours a breath of fresh air? Will they recognize that your on-the-nose dialogue and info-dump-exposition perfectly match your show? Or will they just see on-the-nose dialogue and info-dump exposition?

Despite what everyone else says, I would argue that a spec’s job isn’t to perfectly match the show—it’s to earn you the gig. Others may say that the former leads to the latter, but even Charlie Chaplin can lose his own look-alike contest, and let’s not forget that we’re trying to impress the same brilliant minds who couldn’t decide how they felt about Chuck Ross’s “Everybody Comes to Rick’s.”

I won’t try to pass Game of Thrones drama off as a Big Bang Theory, but I’m willing to tweak my show’s tone to highlight my writing strengths. Then again, my specs haven’t gotten me anywhere, so what do I know. But when the notes come back saying “You need a stronger theme,” you don’t get a chance to rebut: “That’s not the show!”

Ultimately, it’s a crapshoot, and that’s the hard part. So how do you deal? I think you’ve gotta make the hard decisions, write your show, accept the outcome, and move on. Win or no win, you’ll build your portfolio, and learn from the process.

If 2018 isn’t your year, 2019 is just around the corner.

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.