Thursday, March 27, 2008

As Joss said through his Prophet Alex...


If it looks like that progress bar to the right hasn’t moved in a while...well that’s because it hasn’t. After finishing the teaser for my Chuck spec, I realized that the plotting of my outline needed a lot of work. But no matter how long I scribbled at it, or how many yellow legal pads I filled up, it just seemed like newer versions of the same thing. Different, yes. Better, no.

I had a decent hook, a funny B-story, and even a pretty good Act 3 twist (If I may say so myself), but none of that seemed to matter. Each thing was fine if it stayed alone by itself, but they all refused to play nice with each other. As a result, they just stayed as story elements and didn't really add up to anything more.

And then, I remembered the Rule of Joss (or at least, Alex Epstein’s Rule of Joss). Ahem.
...Don't start with the sf&f antagonist. Start with where is the hero emotionally? What is Buffy's real-world emotional problem this week? Now, what is the sf&f antagonist that best catalyzes that emotion or problem?

Of course. I had been looking for the coolest spy villain, or perhaps the best possible set-up for the Act 4 action sequence, but completely forgotten about how that stuff affects Chuck.

So now I know what’s not working, and I’m setting out to fix it. I think, however, that I may commit blasphemy and do it backwards: finding an emotional state for Chuck that would be the most dramatic in this particular situation. I sure hope Joss (and Alex) would approve.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A guy, a middle-aged lady, and a pizza place

So I work at Pizza Hut. Not many people at Pizza Hut know that I write...I'm just that guy who doesn't mind delivering School Lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays. But the other day, during one of the many times when there’s nothing to do, I was working on the outline for my Chuck spec. My manager Betty asked what I was doing.

Now, Pizza Hut isn’t the greatest job, but there are positives. It’s a decent job, money-wise. Some not understand the prestige that comes with driving a white Honda station wagon topped with a Pizza Hut sign, but my reply to those sayers of nay: “Fuck you, it pays better than waiting tables, and any job that lets me sit my ass in my car and listen to NPR all day long is just fine with me.”Also, it’s worth it almost solely because of the characters I meet—whether they’re the overweight men in tiny tank tops ordering the pizzas, or my middle-aged, midget manager Betty who makes them.

Let me tell you about Betty. Betty was born with an irrational, compulsive need to speak. I don’t say this in the typical male “MAN those womenfolk can talk. Am I right? Am I right?” way. With Betty, it doesn’t really matter to her whether you’re listening, or if you even remotely want to hear about what she has to say, she’ll spout sound at you like an old webpage with an embedded MIDI that just won’t turn off. Her subject matter is diverse, including stories from the trenches of her ongoing battle with menopause, the details of her most recent bladder infection, as well as harrowing tales of her 20-year-old sexual exploits.

Anyway, Betty and I get to talking about Television, and I mention my senior project about homeschoolers. I try to say that I thought it was pretty okay, there were just some things about it that didn’t really work for me, and it still needs a lot of work. But she doesn’t hear that, because she’s inexplicably become excited about the idea. “No, I think that could work. You know, you can have the kids be the characters, you know and show them interacting…you can have their parents or their grandparents...you know maybe some kids have grandparents, some kids don’t...(5 minutes later) Yeah, I think that could work."

She went on, never mentioning any details about her newly created characters, or even what they would DO. But completely confident that she was providing some insight into the craft of writing, she went on to talk about all of the TV characters she’s liked through the years: Archie Bunker, Fred G. Sanford (and Son), and Rudy from Survivor. Again, she didn’t mention at all anything they DID that was particularly memorable, but really just that they existed, they sometimes said funny things, and they related to other characters.

I don’t say (blog?) this to make fun of someone not familiar with the craft of writing, just to say (blog?) that it made me realize one of the truths about television: with TV, people don’t remember the plot, or the exciting action sequences, or even the special effect sequences*. Sure, those’ll draw them in, make them watch the show, but what they’ll remember is the Characters.

What do you think people in 10 years will remember about today’s shows? I think even with a show as plot-heavy as Lost, I doubt it will be the slowly-revealed mystery of the Island as much as the infamous Jack-Kate-Sawyer love triangle.** Or with the Office: will people remember or care whether Michael got the corporate job, or will they only remember Jim’s pranks on Dwight...as well as his knowing glances from Pam?

Of course, you have to have the characters do something. If it was just Kate, Jack and Sawyer sitting around on the Island, I for one probably would get bored real quick. But the opposite is true: if there never doing anything but cool plot things all the time, you may enjoy the ride of the show, but in 10 years, will anyone care?

When I leave Virginia Beach, I doubt I’ll remember any specific day of delivering pizza to rotund single men, but I know that I’ll remember Betty. And also every detail from her post-strip-poker threesome story. That image is burned into my mind.

* Except the Galactica jumping into the atmosphere in “Exodus pt. 2” I think I still have goosebumps from that one.
** although, granted, they’ve certainly tried to make it a good deal more complicated than a triangle. It’s at least a quadrilateral now, or maybe a pentagon.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Life, Love, and other Mysteries

Okay, I’m making a pact with blogger. I am going to get out of this one-post-a-month rut I’ve been in for far too long. I’m a writer, so I should write…right? Right.

Despite what you may think from this humble blog, I actually have still been writing, even blogging/journaling fairly regularly. But it’s not exactly the sort of thing I'd want to share with everyone. Or anyone, come to think of it. Yeah, Long story. Not really that interesting, to be honest. Or important, because now, I’m back. To blogger, at least. So what’s happened?

I finished my senior project, which if you didn’t know, was a TV pilot about Homeschoolers. People at school say it’s good, but I’m not really convinced. I think there’s a lot of work still to be done on it. We had a staged reading of the entire thing at the end of January, and I intentionally haven’t looked at it since then. I’ll come back to it eventually, but right now I think I need distance. Besides, there are plenty of other things to occupy my time.

Like applying for internships! It’s that time, finally. The time when I realize that real life is coming, and that it’s coming VERY SOON. I have two, maybe three months left of this life living at home (more on that later), and then I’ll be moving out to Los Angeles, for an internship in the Film/Television industry. Notice how specific that description was, and in particular how many details there are about where I’ll be interning. Exactly. At this point, I have no earthly idea what I'll be doing, and where I'll be doing it. Hence the applying.

My dream internship (and what I’m currently concentrating on) is the Television Academy Summer Internship in Screenwriting. It’s hugely competitive, and I’m not sure I really have a shot, but that’s what dreams are for. In the end, I know I’ll probably end up doing the internship program through Temple University. It’s stable, not competitive at all, and I would guaranteed an internship that lets me graduate. But that isn’t stopping me from trying to get any internship, any internship at all that puts me in a writers room. So, armed with glowing recommendation letters, and the beginnings of a Chuck spec script, I’m out to fight that battle.

Meaning, of course, that I am now speccing a Chuck episode. Taking a page from Josh’s book, I’ve watched and broken down several episodes, and whipped up a pretty quick, but (I think) a pretty sharp outline. I’ve even begun to write it; I’m about 4 pages in so far. More updates on that as it happens. And if there’s any interest, I can post my break-downs of the Chuck episodes for all to see.

There’s more I could say, but it’s not really that interesting. So I’ll just bullet point it.
• I’m living at home this semester, with my mom, dad, siblings, cat and dog. It’s all an attempt to save money (otherwise, believe me. I would not be in this state).
• Also in a money-saving attempt, I have a job. Currently, I am a delivery driver. For Pizza Hut. Yup. I'm that cool.
• I’m currently taking Spanish 3 over the mail (the ONLY thing I need to graduate apart from the internship), and I’m ready to kill myself over it. Not really. But it’s ever so boring.

And that’s me. Good. Now that we’re all caught up, I can blog again.

And I WILL blog again.