To Be a Good Storyteller You Need To Fib A Little Bit

Puppets of Pinnocchio in Istanbul, from wikipedia, photo by maurice07

Puppets of Pinocchio in Istanbul, from wikipedia, photo by maurice07

True Storytelling

Pinocchio may have been ridiculed in the old Italian folk tale, but if he was alive today, he might have a bright future as a fiction writer. Fact may be stranger than fiction, but some of the best storytelling comes from stretching a tale just a wee bit…unless, of course,  your name is Jack Kerouac and  you have a wild-eyed and revolutionary friend like Neal Cassady.

Or you can go for the big one that got away, which is kind of what Carlo Collodi did when he created his serialized children’s story, The Adventures of Pinocchio. Not does the story of Pinnocchio reveal an important moral lesson for children (Yes your lies will catch up with you eventually), but also it may transmit  a more sinister truth to those authors who pine for a bigger audience. And that is sometimes it is the bigger falsification that wins over the most fans. Where would be today without such irrational classic of literature, as Jack and the BeanstalkAlice in Wonderland, The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen, The Wizard of Oz, Gulliver’s Travels or Harry Potter.

A woman scolding

A woman scolding

Little Fibs

Sometime,s it is the little fib that is most effective. In fact, there are a thousand places a struggling writer can ramp up a placid scene with stretching the action a wee bit. One of the first places that comes to mind is the bedroom, where there may be an encounter going on between two consenting adults. A little fib here can go a long ways in enhancing a story. But don’t limit your simple lies to the bedroom, for the sky is the limit with this aspect of storytelling. One of my favorite short stories to illuminate this point is The Three Hermits by Leo Tolstoy. Towards the end of the story, three fisherman pursue a boat, where a pious bishop is a passenger. The scene reveals that the three men are running across the water, “as though it were dry land”. All in all, this final scene of the story uses humor, a touch of fantasy and a biblical metaphor to make a point about faith in Christianity.

fish story

The Whopper

If you want to make a really big impression, why not go for the story, so far flung that nobody will believe it. This may sound like bad advice on the outside, but in reality it is some of our most preposterous tales that have eventually evolved into our most cherished fireside stories. By skewing all relationships to reality, the author can open the door for scathing satire, ridicule and contempt. To the novice this writer, this might be dangerous territory, but when done correctly, this type of treatment can turn a mundane take into a story for the ages.

 

 

The Passing of a Multi-talented Artist

Dateline: On May 28, 2014, the writer, Maya Angelou died at age 86. Over the years she had received many awards for her writing. Perhaps, her most prestigious was the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Barrack Obama in 2011.

Inside the Flame Nebula  Image Credit: Optical: DSS; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech; 

Inside the Flame Nebula 
Image Credit: Optical: DSS; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech;

Many Artists

Today in our media-crazed society there are many artists, both known and unknown. Sometimes there are so many that they seem like stars in the sky. I guess with the exploding population on our planet (it’s now around 7 billion) and the proliferation of Indie artists and authors on the internet, it’s a miracle that anyoneever  gets any mention, at all. Perhaps Maya Angelou was lucky because she came of age, when music was recorded on vinyl LPs and books were made from dead trees. No idea how she would have fared in today’s topsy-turvey world of social networking and self publishing. But nonetheless, here’s a brief  tribute to a spunky lady who had a popular nightclub act, played a major role in the “Roots” TV drama, read poetry at Bill Clinton’s inaugaration, plus penned a series of seven autobiographical novels that brought inall  kinds of awards and recognition.

Miss Calypso was Maya Angelou's first recording. Released in 1957, the LP recording was based on her popular nightclub act.

Miss Calypso was Maya Angelou’s first recording. Released in 1957, the LP recording was based on her popular nightclub act.

Who Was Maya Angelou?

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis. She picked up the nickname in early childhood from her older brother, who couldn’t quite pronounce my sister and so he just used the simple phrase, “Maya”. Then in the her twenties she married a Greek man by the name of Angelos. Although the marriage did not last all that long, the name, with a slight twist did.

My Experience With the Writer

Back in the nineties I read two of Maya’s autobiographical novels. The first was titled All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes: and then I read her classic I Know Why he Caged Bird Sings. Looking back now, I think the Traveling Shoes tale of going back to Africa and coming across a village, where several residents looked like they could be her identical twin, has hag the most lasting impression on me. Anyway you look at it, picking up any one of her most remarkable novels and sitting down and having a good read is well worth the time invested.

Maya Angelou, a year before she died, from wikipedia photo credited to York College ISLGP

Maya Angelou, a year before she died, from wikipedia photo credited to York College ISLGP

“A Black Grandmother In the White House, My Goodness”

Not too long ago Maya spoke these exact words on the Anderson Cooper Show. My only question is whether she was referring to Barrack Obama or Michelle Obama. Both have black grandmothers, though Barrack has one, while Michelle has two. But if she is referring to the Barrack children, their black grandmother could only come from their mother’s side. Is this a put down of Barrack Obama or perhaps just a little bit of sisterhood bonding with the First Lady. I suspect the latter.

In Conclusion

Probably nobody sums up Maya Angelou’s amazing and tumultuous life better than John McWhorter of the New Republic:

“And Angelou’s life has certainly been a full one: from the hardscrabble Depression era South to pimp, prostitute, supper club chanteuse, performer in Porgy and Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, journalist in Egypt and Ghana in the heady days of decolonization, comrade of Malcolm X, and eyewitness to the Watts riots. She knew King and Malcolm, Billie Holiday, and Abbey Lincoln.”

Who could ask for more?

Some Minor Distractions That Might Actually Help Your Writing

Aloha Tahiti, from wikipedia, photo by Silvia-pco

Aloha Tahiti, from wikipedia, photo by Silvia-pco

 

Writing can be a time-consuming and exhausting endeavor, especially if haven’t quite found your muse. Several years ago I found myself in a temporary situation, where my main source of income came from writing content for an American company with a large internet presence. I was touring Canada on my ten-speed bicycle, so money-making options were limited. This forced me to write much more than I really wanted to. And so to keep up with my travel expenses (like food and bicycle repairs) I had to really crank out the words. This was grueling mental work that gave me reason to thoroughly enjoy every spare minute that I could. On the plus side, I got to take in some of Quebec’s finest scenery, while cruising the province’s back roads.

 

Walking in your neighborhood can be very refreshing to your mental processes

Walking in your neighborhood can be very refreshing to your mental processes

Ten Distractions That Might Aid Your Writing

1. Walking – As far as  Iam concerned nothing comes close to walking in recharging the brain cells.  Walking is like meditation, for it’s the time when everything gels. Do this whenever you run into a mental roadblock and chances are that when you finally get back to your W.I.P., the writing will run smooth again.

2. Going to the Movies - For me, going to the movies means sitting in a darkened theater and watching the moving images flicker on a big screen. Watching a movie on a TV or computer screen just ain’t the same. To make things more interesting you can choose an entertaining film that was made from a bestselling book. In this regard,s there are quite a few fine examples from which to select.

3. A Roller Coaster Ride – Don’t travel too far to participate in this adrenaline-producing thrill, but if there is an amusement park nearby, this might be just the right ticket. A ride on a roller coaster is kind of like rebooting your brain; it helps get rid of all superfluous thoughts.

4. Washing the Dishes  – Just getting your house or apartment cleaner or in better working condition, just might wear off on your writing process.

5. Reading – Reading is one of those amazing activities that will strengthen your writing skills, while keeping you entertained. Just sit back, read and watch the wonderful process of osmosis fill your brain with writing tips.

6. Bike Riding – Bike riding combines the meditative benefits of walking with a more vigorous workout activity This alone will stimulate your cardiovascular system. This kind of exercise is needed from time to time just to counterbalance the comatose nature of sitting in the same spot for hours on end.

7. Playing with the Kids – No one can be a better reminder that you are getting to obsessed with your own creative endeavors than your own kids. This is especially true if they are toddlers or young children.

8. Swimming – This is kind of a corollary to #6, whereabouts finding a good exercise regiment might benefit your health; and thus help energize your mental process. Maybe you can ride your bike to the swimming pool, unless of course you are one of those lucky souls, who has one in his or her back yard.

9. Eating Out – Don’t forget to feed your stomach. By going out to eat you may avoid #4, but the stimulation of enjoying a flavorful meal with the company of others, probably outweighs this.

10. Happy Hour - Take a page from Hemingway and go visit a popular watering hole for a few hours in the late afternoon or early evening. You never know who you might run into or what inspirations might fall your way. Just make sure you are finished writing for the day and don’t continue your bar presence to all hours of the night…..for historically, drinking has been the downfall of many a talented author.

Great getaways are seldom conducive to great writing

Great getaways are seldom conducive to great writing

 

In Conclusion

Don’t get carried away with your writing breaks, these ideas weren’t meant as permanent diversions, but merely short breaks to be taken in order to refresh your brain cells. A vacation to Tahiti may be fine and dandy, but in the long run it’s an expensive writing alternative that keeps you away from your work for way too long. Then again if you win the Pulitzer Prize for your Chick-lit novel, a trip to the South Seas may be just the right ticket.

 

The beach is a great place to relax, from Wikipedia, photo by Maria

The local beach is a great place to read and relax, from Wikipedia, photo by Maria

 

 

It Takes More Than Good Writing Skills To Be An Author

The joker as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger

The joker as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger

Bad Morning

I thought I was not having a very good day until I saw the mug shot of Greg Jarrett, the Fox news anchor, who got arrested in the Twin Cities airport. His picture wasn’t so bad, but Huffington Post decided to add a little insult with a  slide show of  Bad Mug Shots. Sad as some of them were, I did manage a robust chuckle, at viewing other peoples’ misery. Maybe Mr. Jarrett should check out some of these mug shots. It might make him feel a little bit better, but I bet he’s got a hell of a hangover this morning and most likely doesn’t feel like doing too much. I guess this whole story is a little bit like reading the newspaper to see if your name is in the obituary.

The Original Nipper from the RCA Victola add, photo from wikipedia

The Original Nipper from the RCA Victola add, photo from wikipedia

Goin’ Audio

The other day I visited one of the more popular writer/bloggers, Jeff Goins. And to my surprise Mr. Goins had transcribed his post to an audio podcast. I clicked on it and about five minutes later I heard a strange voice come trailing out of my computer, describing the three steps to launching a writing career and also extolling the virtues of being a writer.

What this little episode underscores…… is that it just got a whole lot easier to convert your short story or novella to an audio podcast and then market the recording along with your ebook and /or tree book. The company that is spearheading this movement is called ACX. To learn more about creating your own audiobook, you can visit Joanna Penn’s informative post.

Slideshare

Another option for budding and energetic authors is to create a slide show describing and detailing your book. Nowadays online slide shows are routinely employed by large, popular websites such as Huntington Post, Yahoo and CNN. Now there is a startup company (it’s called Slideshare) that can help you put together your own slide show. Fortunately they also have a large website where you can post you series of pictures and hopefully direct visitors to your ebook or whatever. This site is called Slideshare and if you want more info, again go to one of Joanna’s posts to learn more.

very few writers still use a typewriter, from wikipedia

very few writers still use a typewriter, from wikipedia

 

It’s Still All About the Writing

If you’re serious about your writing, who has the time to deal with all alternative ways of promoting and selling your story. Both Slideshare and ACX seem like they could be of great benefit to the indie writer/self-publisher. The only problem is that each venue requires a learning curve and a level of involvement that would exhaust the average writer. The only solution here is to recruit a small circle of talented artisans who can help you get your story out……..Writing just ain’t what it used to be.

Don’t Forget The Small Things In Life

Remembering the small things in life can sweeten your day, photo by author

Remembering the small things in life can sweeten your day, photo by author

Some Simple Reminders For A Better Day

I took this picture several weeks ago while visiting  family back east in the Carolinas. These are actually the very small variety of M & Ms and not the usual sized ones that you buy in the store. They had been left out in a small bowl, for all to enjoy, and thus illuminated by the afternoon sun pouring in from a large picture window. The picture came out much better than expected and that little event in itself  sent my mind wondering and how often our best results our achieved with little effort. With this in mind I came up with a list of unnecessary activities that writers sometimes engage in (especially myself) which can lead to unneeded worrying and fretting.

Some of My Most Nagging Distractions

1. Blogging – Sure when things go well, blogging is great, but all to often I feel like I am paddling upstream with the time and effort invested.

2. TV Sports – Lately, my latest distraction seems to be Intercollegiate Girl’s Softball. Sure enough, the sport is as fascinating as it is different. Just watching the high speed underhand pitching, the adept fielding and the home runs these gals produce can catch my attention for a long time. But lately, just sitting down to watch the game for a few minutes can turn into an hour and a half activity.

3. Surfing the Net – Similar to number one except that I am not enhancing my writing skills. Just whiling away my time looking for that indispensable bit of writing advice or seeing what J Lo is up to nowadays. The first activity just might be more futile than the second.

4. Browsing Bookstores –  I love browsing bookstores. In fact, the bigger the better. That because there is an awesome feeling that comes with having so many titles, catchy covers and unturned pages sitting under one roof. The problem is that I seldom buy books and the ones that I do buy I don’t always finish. Fortunately, there is one hidden side benefit in that the hour or so I do spend in these places give me some modest cardiovascular exercise.

5. Making Lists – This activity is doubly unproductive because it takes time to make a list and I need go look for the list, later on, when I’m ready to use it. Then more often than not the list is outdated, when I finally get around to fulfilling. Come to think of it I think I’ll keep this list at five items so I can stare at the refrigerator and see what I want for dinner.

 

So long for now, think I’ll go watch the sunset.

taos sunset, photo by author

 

 

 

Write Drunk, Edit Sober

 

Hemingway carousing at a bar in Cuba

 Hemingway carousing at a bar in Cuba

Questionable Advice

Recently, I came across this beautiful little piece of writer’s advice on the web. The short catchy phrase is attributed to the legendary, Ernest Hemingway and goes like this: “Write Drunk, Edit Sober“.  I have found this  slogan, mentioned in writing blogs, printed on T-shirts and incorporated into decorative posters. If taken at face value……maybe this is not the best piece of advice one can receive…..but when interpreted to imply that creative writing requires an altered reality from everyday experience…..then maybe there is some truth to the four words.

I pair airplane crashes  1954, Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Mary Welsh , were involved in Africa

I pair airplane crashes 1954, Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Mary Welsh , were involved in Africa

Hemingway and the Bottle

In January 1954, Hemingway and his wife were involved in two seperate small plane crashes, while elephant hunting in Uganda. According to a NY Times report, Hemingway walked out of the jungle with his arm in a bandage, yet he was still able to carry a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin. Throughout much of his life, Hemingway has been associated with alcohol, taverns, high adventure and having a good time, but even if Ernest did have a drinking problem, it did not prevent him from winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

hemingway_lg_0

Hemingway was often photographed with a bottle in hand, a situation, which often lead to many misconceptions about the author’s drinking habits.

Bars Associated With Ernest Hemingway

Though Hemingway traveled the world his favorite watering spots seem to have been Havana, Key West, Madrid and Paris. In Havana, La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio got the Lion’s share of his attention, while in Key West, there are two drinking establishments that claim home to both Mr. Hemingway and the Sloppy Joe sandwich. They are Captain Tony’s Saloon and Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Maybe the best way to resolve this dilemma is visit both, but I do suspect the Sloppy Joe may have originated in Havanna, Cuba and not the Conch Republic.

In Paris, Hemingway’s favorite bars included Harry’s New York Bar, the Dingo Bar, the Ritz Hotel on rue Cambon and the La Closerie de Lilas among many others. And then there is Madrid, a bustling city that Hemingway visited off and on for 40 years. In this Spanish capitol, places with names like Museo Chicote, La Venencia and the (Westin) Palace Hotel got most of Ernest’s patronage.

Drinking and Writing

Although Hemingway did sometimes write while sitting alone in a bar with a drink in hand, the author claims to have never written when inebriated. Instead, Hemingway enjoyed working in the morning before the heat of the day set in.

Origin of Write Drunk, Edit Sober

These four terse words have never been connected with Hemingway. Instead, they are most often traced to the writer, Peter deVries. In his 1964 novel, Reuben, Reuben, the main character, whom is loosely based on Dylan Thomas, says this:

“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation – the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity, restraint, emotion and discipline.”

So there you go with the real nuts and bolts of writing drunk. But next time you see this text in print, maybe you should check out Hunter Thompson to see if he was sober, when he finally sat himself down in front of his typewriter and started pecking. My hunch is that his mind may have in a relatively subdued mood.

A Guide To Screenwriting Blogs

kepler186f_artistconcept_0h600

NASA Illustration of a possible earth-sized planet in another galaxy

 

Striking Paydirt With Screenwriting

Screenwriting can be a lucrative occupation……..that is if you can sell your screenplay to Hollywood or other interested parties. But that’s a big “IF”. First you have to come up with a killer screenplay……..this might mean literally, for if there ain’t some dead bodies or corpses floating around, film producers might not be so interested. That’s not to say other types of films don’t have a chance, but for a breakout screenplay your 120 pages of script must be first rate or better.

 

Something To Consider 

For those writers who choose to go down this perilous path of writing, here is a list of blogs that might help you on your way……..or a more likely scenario……they might provide good reading, while you convert your unsold screenplay to novella or novel.

From Writer’s Digest

In the May/June WD issue, there were three screenwriting blogs included with the 101. They are as follows: MovieBytes, The Script Lab and the blog by John August. Movie Bytes is a good place to go for info on upcoming screenwriting contests. This site also contains mucho info on previously released movies. The Script Lab is another blog singled out by WD. They provide a wide cross-section of useful tips that includes many reviews and trailers.  John August is a commercially successful screewriting who promotes his blog with the slogan, “a ton of useful information”. This is not an understatement.

Some of My Favorites 

Here are the screenwriting blogs that I most commonly visit.

Screenwriting from IowaScott W. Smith really does live in Iowa, where he posts several times a week on various topics related to screenwriting. Just goes to show you don’t have to live in southern California to keep abreast of events in Hollywood.

The Bitter Script Reader – This guy has actually been reading Hollywood scripts for the last seven years. No wonder he’s bitter. To keep his true identity a secret, this irreverent commentator goes by the name of Zuul. His comments are fun to read, but I kind of miss the talking puppet. Maybe Zuul will bring back his animated sidekick soon.

The Black List Blog – The Black List is the digital equivalent to screenwriting agents. Even in this new century, you can still get an agent, but the best route for newbie writers trying to crack the big time is to get your script posted and read at the Black List. That in itself makes this a most interesting website and blog.

Inktip – Inktip is simular to the Black List in that it helps fledgling screewriters get there prospective hit movies out there. Membership is free and do receive a weekly listing on who is looking for what. Still a long shot, but just paying attention to what’s current could be helpful.

Screenwriting Goldmine – A British site that operates in much the same manner as inktips. Sign up and you’ll some info on what British producers are looking for in screenplays. If you can match your script to a producer’s request, you might get lucky.

And then there’s this new site called the Bitch Pack. Go there and judge for yourself.

 

 

 

Advertising changes with the times

Advertising changes with the times, from flickr

Sign of the Times

In recent years one of my most frequently-visited screenwriting blogs has been an irreverent site called “Just Effing Entertain Me”, run by an experienced insider, named Julie Gray. Right now, this particular blog has ceased, only to be replaced by a website promoting her consulting business. In April, Julie just started blogging again from the Middle East. You can read all about the screenwriter in her newfound home at Stories Without Borders.

Welcome To the Digital Age

Like everything else in today’s world, the business of writing a screenplay is changing all the time. Always remember good writing will find its voice…….somewhere, though it might be where you least expect it. So long for now.

Digital devices are everywhere, from Wikipedia, photo by Tomas Castelazo

Digital devices are everywhere, from Wikipedia, photo by Tomas Castelazo

 

What Creative Writers Can Learn from Pink Floyd

Pink_Floyd_-_Division_Bell

This cover for Division Bell was created by Storm Thorgrson. The two heads were intended to symbolize the absence of Waters and Barrett from the band.

A Catchy Title Is Everything

This band began in 1963 as a small group of London architecture students practicing in their school basement, so they could could play at private parties. Eventually the name Pink Floyd was created as a last minute, spur-of-the-moment decision because their chosen band title, The Tea Set, was already being used by another London band. Do you thing this group of musicians would have gone very far with a name like the Tea Set?

Image of Floyd Council, from wikipedia

Image of Floyd Council, from wikipedia

The Title Deriviation Process Is Not All That Important

Syd Barrett, a London art student, and childhood friend of original member, Roger Waters, chose the title based on the first name of two Piedmont blues musians from the US. Though Pink Anderson and Floyd Council never had much name recogniton playing their own music, their names are forever immortalized with the creation with one of world’s most successful and well-known psychedelic, progressive rock bands.

Practice and Perserverence Overrule Talent and Creativity

For both the writer and the musician, practice is most important. Nothing can replace the long hours of  perfecting the scales, riffs and break of contemporary music. Writers go through a similar mental process, as they learn how to master grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to provide a fresh voice to readers. The main difference here is that writers tend to work alone, while most musicians eventually learn to play in accompanyment with other musicians.

Multi-genre Artistic Creations Tend To Reach a Wider Audience

In the early years (the late 60s), Pink Floyd was primarily known as a psychedelic rock band. At the time, psychedelic music was the “in thing” and this British quintet fit the bill very well. As times changed and the band entered a new decade, their music evolved and was often placed under the progressive label. After the release of Dark Side of the Moon was released, a new label was added, “space rock. This occurred despite the fact that the title derives from the dark side of the human mind.

 

pink floyd in concert

Pink Floyd performing in the US, July 1973, photo from wikipedia

Don’t Expect Immediate Success

In 1973 Pink Floyd put out Dark Side of the Moon, which quickly became a bestseller. This groundbreaking release would remain on the charts for 741 weeks, sell 40 million copies and thus become of the most popular rock albums ever. However, it should be noted that this phenomenal success followed seven albums of moderate acclaim and success.

Creative Genius Does Not Equal Mental Stability

Syd Barrett, who is generally recognized as the main creative force behind the original sound of Pink Floyd, left the band in late sixties due to mental health issues.  Excessive use of LSD may have been responsible for his mental condition.

Did You Like This Post?

Then you might like to check out a similar blog by Jeff Goins…….which inspired me to come with my own set of conclusions revolving around how innovative rock musicians can influence artists working in different venues.

Far side of the moon, photographed by Apollo 16

Far side of the moon, photographed by Apollo 16

Is The Great Gatsby the Quinessential “Great American Novel?

Gatsby_1925_jacket
The “Great American Novel”
Many writers have toyed with the idea of writing a great American novel.  Perhaps after a lifetime of  hard work, some bestselling writers may produce one work, which is the epidemy of what they trying to say during their lifetime of literary endeavors. For example, William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest and Anne Rice’s Interviews With A Vampire may be very popular works of fiction, but in all likelihood, these works are generally not classified as A Great American Novel.  Usually, The Great American Novel is a laudable phrase applied to a piece of literature that presents the most accurate and representative portrait of American life during a specific period of time. Many contemporary literary critics look at Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and see in this very short novel, a marvelous recreation of life during the “Roaring Twenties.
427px-Francis_Scott_Fitzgerald_1937_June_4_(1)_(photo_by_Carl_van_Vechten)
The Great Gatsby
During his literary career, F. Scott Fitzgerald authored five novels, ten short story collections and also coined the term, “The Jazz Age”. Undoubtedly his most highly-regarded novel today is The Great Gatsby. This melancholy story from the “Roaring Twenties” was first published in 1925 to moderate commercial success and mediocre literary acclaim. Set in 1922 within the fictional Long Island town of West Egg, this story revolves around a young self-made millionaire, named Jay Gatsby. Next to Gatsby’s sprawling estate, lives the narrator, Nick Carraway. Nick works in nearby New York City selling stocks and bonds, but often attends Gatsby’s lavish alcohol-laden parties, which are the hit of the town during that peculiar period of American history known as “Prohibition”.
But unfortunately, Jay Gatsby’s new found wealth does not bring him happiness. Not surprisingly, Gatsby’s unhappiness derives from a young woman, who he once romanced at the beginning of WWI. Her name is Daisy and at the time Gatsby was madly in love with her and vica versa. But the war is over and Daisy is married to another man. She is also related to the narrator.
TheGreatGatsby2012Poster
 
On Screen
All total The Great Gatsby has the makings of a great “Roaring Twenties” story. The book has fast women, faster cars, bathtub gin, nouveau riche, lavish parties, flappers and a love triangle. All told, this classic story has been made into film five times with a sixth production scheduled for release in early May (2013). However, before you rush out to see the 120 million dollar movie that stars Leornordo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire, you you might want to read this classic American tale. It’s very short (less than 200 pages) and features the use of long, beautifully-crafted, lyrical sentences that still succeed to entertain and amaze the reader. Perhaps it can be said, that Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is the last example of the flowery, descriptive writing that was so prevalent before Hemingway forever changed the playing field with his skilled use of dynamic dialogue and terse prose.

Good Old Fashioned Storyteller

Save the Cat

Blake Snyder uses this provocative image on the cover of his book on screenwriting, called Save the Cat

Can You Judge A Book By Its Cover?

Blake Snyder is a successful screenwriter, who has written a book, called Save the Cat. The cover has an eye-catching image of a cat hanging off the end of the rope. No doubt that the image is provocative, but can the words inside the book live up to the picture on the outside. Even though the manuscript takes a back-to-basics attitude, the information inside should help anyone involved with the strange and bizarre art of screenwriting, improve their craft.

horseheadir_hubble_1225

The Horsehead Nebula in Infrared from Hubble
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STSci/AURA)

Basic Premise

Since its publication in 2005, Save the Cat, is still considered to be a contemporary treatise on screenwriting. Interesting enough, the title comes from the  scenario, where the hero of a movie does something nice……. like save a cat. According to Blake Snyder, the author, every movie should have a “save the cat” moment, though nowadays, most movies fail to employ such a scene.

Glowing Eye Nebula

NGC 6751: The Glowing Eye Nebula
Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing – Donald Waid

Narrow Structure

Save the Cat presents a lot of good ideas like studying genre, reading screenplays and writing a good logline before you begin constructing your script. However the part that impressed me the most, was an explanation how a 120 page feature film script can be broken into three basic acts, just as outlined by Aristotle way back when. In Save the Cat, Snyder strongly suggest that you give extra weight to the second act, thus creating Act I (25 pages), Act II (60 pages) and Act III (25 pages). In turn, this will create a 110 page feature film, which according to the author is an ideal length for a screenplay. Most important are three points of interest, which Snyder has conveniently named the catalyst, the midpoint and the synthesis….and these should respectively at page 12, page 55 and page 85. And this folks….is your formula for writing a screenplay.

Aristotle_Altemps_Inv8575

Ludovisi Collection from the National museum of Rome

Coping With Reality

Screenplays really are strictly structured items though length can vary (slightly) and of course content is very important also. So how does one right a marketable script. That’s still a mystery to me, but Save the Cat does provide a fun read, if nothing more. Also it can make you the hit of a Hollywood party in case you find yourself in that location.